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How to Bake Bread When the Power is OUT!

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"Need to bake bread when the power is out? Here's your answer--a Wonder Bag! Make a Wonder Bag from pillow cases, an old sheet, or any fabric you wish. Then use your favorite bread recipe to make tasty loaves of crustless bread. You will need an off-grid burner of some kind to boil water for 10 minutes and that is all the power required. The rest is just wait time. Be prepared!"




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You can bake bread in a dutch oven over a campfire.   Dig a pit and coals on top is the best way for baking.  <3 cast iron.  0 power required.


Edited by euphrasyne
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Great video, MM.   Basically she is making an old fashioned steamed bread.  Pioneers used to bake 'puddings' in a bag hung in or over boiling water. Same principle. This was probably how 'figgy pudding' was made.  You could easily use her method to 'bake' lots of things, remembering they won't brown. 


Euphrasyne, It's so great to find another campfire/cast iron baking enthusiast.  :wave:  I have baked almost everything in a dutch oven over the coals of a campfire or near the fire in the ground.  I find the ditch or a hole dug near the side of the fire is great to use as an 'oven, especially if the fire has been burning for some time as the ground is already hot.  Most anything you bake in a regular oven can be baked in a campfire 'oven', you just have to adjust distance from the fire and/or the number of coals you use, top and bottom if needed.  Even cakes, puddings, custards, casseroles, breakfasts, and etc.   An advantage of a campfire and the cast iron is that the bread or whatever you are baking will brown.  


I have a commercial insulated cooker I use for many things. It's not very big but is much more efficient as it's sealed better and has Thinsulate as the insulating material.   It works similar to a wonder bag but more convenient. It is also works much like a slow cooker or crock pot does only with less energy input.  I have not tried loaves of bread before but I have baked biscuits in a similar way with boiling water in the bottom pan and the biscuits in the top, more shallow pan, that came with my insulated cooker.   They turn out like the bread, pale and anemic looking but are done after an hour or so.  Another substitute for the wonder bag or insulated/haybox cooker is a cooler.  Even a Styrofoam one works well. The key is to make sure there is more insulation inside and directly up against the pan you are using. A quilt wrapped totally (top bottom and sides) around the pan before installing it into the cooker works but anything that insulates will work.  I've even used shredded paper, dry leaves, or dry grass before.  


Still, these methods all use some form of energy.  Just less energy to save possibly precious fuel.  You might want to experiment with these forms of cooking/baking BEFORE you need them though.  A crises is not the time to learn.  Besides, it's fun. :happy0203:

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Rosered Homestead has another vid about cooking/heating up food with a "wonder bag." I thought it was a follow-up to the bread one, but it was actually published first. The idea of using this method is to expend as little of your fuel supply as possible and letting the residual heat do the rest. The beauty of this method is also that it can be done INSIDE, safely! No need to go out into the elements - cold, wind, rain, etc.


She also discusses food safety in terms of achieving and maintaining proper temps for serving food to avoid gastointestinal issues, etc. I have been wanting/thinking about getting one of those "instant" read thermometers for a while now - looks like I should actually go ahead and buy one!



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Jeepers, any ground whole wheat or grain will give the bread a deeper color but it still won't give it the crust.  It might also take longer to 'bake' the whole grain bread as it is denser. I believe she was using white flour in hers.  :shrug:  It really is interesting and fun to play around with insulated cooking.  


An aside...  She mentioned Hay Box cooking.  In the past hay boxes were used often in the covered wagons on the trail.  The pioneers also used them to take foods to church or community functions where the food had to sit for a while before eating.  And pioneers especially liked using them in the summers when it was too hot to keep a fire going strongly.  I use my insulated cooker in the van when we are traveling if I'm not using my 12 volt crock pot.  Heat the food in the morning and it's ready to eat six or so hours later.   


Be nice to hear if some of you tried it and what you thought.  I haven't looked at this last video yet but be sure to listen to the safety precautions. Most 'cookers' are only good for about six hours of correct temps but it's easy to bring things back to a boil again if something is not quite done and let it go a couple more hours.  

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1 hour ago, Mother said:

In the past hay boxes were used often in the covered wagons on the trail. 

Wartime Farm, a mini-series documentary on WWII in Britain also demonstrated hay boxes. I've always thought that was a brilliant way to cook. I just don't have a dutch oven. Couldn't keep mine when we started traveling around the world. I may try it again but my glass top electric stove probably wouldn't like it. Maybe my campfire ring outside?

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3 hours ago, Mother said:

I haven't looked at this last video yet but be sure to listen to the safety precautions. Most 'cookers' are only good for about six hours of correct temps but it's easy to bring things back to a boil again if something is not quite done and let it go a couple more hours.  


Power went out on Thanksgiving and she had to go to her pantry to make a meal. She got it all started and wrapped up with the intention of getting back to it in about 4 hours. Unfortunately, it was more like 6 hours before she could get back to it. It is at this point that she pulled out the instant thermometer and checked the temp of the food before serving it. She gives temperature perameters to use to help determine whether the food is safe to eat. If it falls below those temps I'm not sure how safe it would be to consume it. You should go ahead and view the vid; just skip ahead to where you see her removing the bags from the pot to see what she had to say. :cook:

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I've been watching her for over a year now. She has a scientific analytical mind that loves to research and experiment. Of all the Youtubers out there, I trust her data the most.


Mother, I was just thinking about the color to make it a little bit more pleasing to the eye and not look so...raw. She was using white flour but said any recipe would work. I imagine red wheat would make it more dense though. 

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MM, I did watch the video.  Very good.  I was sometimes in charge of feeding fifty to one hundred people at the museum where I worked using 19th century methods I took several food safety courses.  It was a challenge to use modern standards of safety compared to the historical way of cooking.  The thermometer became my best friend.  When I use the insulated method of cooking I always check the temperature of anything I cook before even thinking of serving it.  She's spot on there. Yet foods DO have different 'safe' temperatures. Take Yogurt for instance.  You can ferment yogurt at 95 degrees for 24 hours and still have it safe because the ferment itself keeps it that way. The same for fermented pickles or sauerkraut and other fermented foods. 


Bread, because of the yeast is similar and yet different.  BTW, did you know that bread is most normally baked to 200 degrees internal temperature to be considered 'done'?  It is not necessarily unsafe below that temperature just usually a bit doughy.   In a SHTF situation we might be tempted to eat what we have but it pays to know ahead of time what could make us sick and what to do about it.  Thanks for the vids, MM.

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Homesteader.  You really don't need cast iron cookware in an insulated cooker.  It does help hold heat but it's totally unnecessary as it is the insulation that is important to this type of cooking. Most pans will work as long as it's insulated well. 


Cast iron is useful on an open fire but even then it's not necessary if you pay attention to where you are placing a pan.  I use stainless steel, enamel ware, and Cast iron when I cook on an open fire whether it's an outdoor one or in a fireplace. I don't use aluminum but you could.  I use lighter weight cook ware to heat water and liquid type foods directly over the fire and on coals raked to the side of the fire.  I have used it even in ground ovens.  If I am concerned about burning something I use inner pans held off the bottom by trivets or even rocks or I hold the pan off the coals by the same methods.   It's good to practice with all sorts of cook ware in case you are stuck with just one kind in an emergency, like being able to heat a tin can of food over a small fire.  


BTW I use cast iron on my glass top stove and it works fine.  I just have to be careful that I don't slide it around on the burner so as not to scratch the glass.  

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14 hours ago, Midnightmom said:

She gives temperature perameters to use to help determine whether the food is safe to eat. If it falls below those temps I'm not sure how safe it would be to REHEAT IT and consume it. You should go ahead and view the vid; just skip ahead to where you see her removing the bags from the pot to see what she had to say. :cook:

 I made an oopsie in my previous post and left out this important phrase! It was the main point of my response to @Mother's post. :shakinghead: :gaah: :blush:

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We have (hubby made it) a "wonder box" (aka hay box sorta) and they really do work...IF you can get your pot hot enough.  You may not have a stove or ???  I have a Sun Oven and it bakes bread wonderfully. Perhaps the top isn't as brown as some would like but it's bread!  I've also baked in my air fryer...just do NOT put foil or paper over the top of the food.  I use my small corning ware bowls.

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I have been toing with making a wonder bag but I do not have to.  I just like the neat patterns I got off the internet.  But I have a haybox like the video shows already.


Years ago (a good 20 years, lol) I found a pamphlet by the aprochevo n.m. research station on hay box cooking (along with rocket stoves).  One of their full time members had made one in a deep cabinet drawer in her kitchen, using pillows on top and bottom, and quilt padding lengths to wrap around whatever pot size she was using to a minimum of three inches thick.  She used it on days when clouds interfered with her solar ovens effectiveness (she had a solar oven built into her kitchen wall...was I  jealous!).  This researcher said that in one year, between solar cooking and her haybox, she used only one small propane tank (camper size) of gas to cook her meals all year.  She was expert in low fuel cooking.


The pamphlet geve directions on how to make a haybox, as well as how improvise using a polyester or wool quilt to wrap the pot on all sides 3 inches thick.  I tried it, cooking soybeans which had always been stubborn to cook soft no matter what I did.  I presoaked, boiled at a full rolling boil 10 min, then wrapped up the pot.  AFter 6 hours I checked the beans - still hot but not cooked yet - so I re-boiled and re-wrapped another 4 hours.  That was the ONLY time I got soybeans to cook properly soft like navye beans....EVER.   I wrapped a waterless cooker 4 qt cooking pot with a tight cover ($2 at the local thrift shop) in a baby quilt (same source, another $2) as I did not have much extra in the budget for experimenting.  I have since read about people who made hayboxes out of old coolers (adding padding inside to hold the pot and keep the insulating shell from heat damage), and have made ice cream in a haybox :o.  I have dozens of recipes collected from users of various kinds of thermal cookers both commercial and home made.


I still have the pot, and the quilt, and will not part with them because they work so well.  When I cook in amounts less than 4 quarts I put it in a smaller cookpot; I found a set of four two handled covered pots on amazon in graduated sizes.  The nice thing abojut the quilt wrap is the size of the pot is not an issue, although larger pots hold the heat better.  For rice or pasta the cook time is short so the smaller pots work fine.  For longer cooking items like beans, I put the smaller pot inside the big 4 quart one and bring everything to a boil, then wrap.  The larger amount of water holds the heat longer and cooks better.  


For breads, and things you do not want to be damp, you put the dough in a smaller pot, wrapped in a cooking bag inside the larger pot.  Just leave the open mouth of the bag OUTSIDE the big pot so the bread dough does not get wet as it bakes.  Yes, it works.  A roast can also be put in the cooking bag and the mouth left out to create a roast that is not boiled, but cooks in its own juices.   Kind of like a slow cooker, but no electricity.


I LOVE MY HAYBOX....even though it has no hay....Gutenberg Press has several hay box cook books available to download for free.  The one by Martha Mitchell (yes, the author of Gone with the Wind) is the best one giving times and directions for all manner of foods.  Hayboxes were quite popular in the Civil War era, and again during the depression, and for keeping the kitchen cooler during the summer doldrums.  They may well become valuable again if we develop power grid problems.


A good quick read food thermometer will help you keep the water hot enough to avoid problems with bacteria.  A good fun project for a slow Sunday, a girl scout troop, or maybe 4-H cooking group.  Great for camping, and for peace corps volunteers or missionaries in rural stations.

Edited by kappydell
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I LOVE MY HAYBOX....Too.  And mine doesn't have an hay either. :thumbs:  Always fun to find someone with the same interests.:happy0203:


Loved the suggestions and ideas.  Thanks. 

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I ran across my haybox recipe collection.  I must have 150 index cards, but what I use most is the basic wrap cooking times chart at the front:


FOOD                                               BOIL TIME                                                                                       WRAP TIME

anasazi beans, soaked                    10 min                                                                                              3 hours

beef, cut in 1 inch pieces                13-15 min                                                                                         3-4 hours

black or turtle beans, soaked         10 min                                                                                              3 hours

black eye peas, soaked                   15 min                                                                                               3 1/2 hours

canellini beans, soaked                   10 min                                                                                              3 hours

chicken, cut in 8 pieces                  6-8 min                                                                                            2-3 hours

corn, dry sweet                               30 min soaked, 45 min unsoaked overnight                                2 hours or until soft

great northern beans, soaked        5-10 min                                                                                          2 1/2 hours

kidney beans, soaked                      10 min                                                                                              3 hours

lentils                                                10 min if soaked overnight, 30 min if not soaked                        3-4 hours

lima beans, soaked                          10 min                                                                                              2 1/2 hours small beans; 2 hours for large

millet                                                   5 min                                                                                             1 hour

navy beans, soaked overnight          10 min                                                                                            3 hours

pasta                                                   5 min                                                                                             20 min

pink, small beans soaked overnight  15 min                                                                                           3 1/2 hours

pinto beans, soaked overnight         10 min                                                                                            3 hours

peas, split, soaked overnight            10 min                                                                                            2 hours

polenta                                                 1 min                                                                                            1 hour

potatoes, cubed                                 5 min                                                                                             1 hour

potatoes, halved/whole                     10 min                                                                                            1-2 hours

quinoa                                                  5 min                                                                                            1 1/2 hours

red beans, soaked overnight            30 min                                                                                            1 1/2 to 2 hours

roast meat (in a bag set in the water) 20-30 min                                                                                   3-5 hours

rice, brown                                         10-15 min                                                                                       2 hours

rice, white                                            5 min                                                                                             30 min

soybeans, soak overnight in fridge   30 min                                                                                              4 hours  (May take two boil and soak cycles, mine did)

soup, clear                                         10 min                                                                                               2 houirs

  "    , creamy                                        2 min                                                                                           1 hour

  "    , stock                                          10 min                                                                                           2-3 houirs

squash, winter, cubed                        5 min                                                                                             1-2 hours

steamed bread                                   30 min                                                                                               3 hours

stew with meat                                  30 min                                                                                            1 1`/2 - 2 hours

white small beans                              10 min                                                                                             3 hours


To test the efficacy of your wrap: bring a pot half filled with water to a boil, then wrap.  After 4 hours, remove pot, check the water tempewrature.  If it is below 140 degrees If then you need more insulation.  Retest after adding extra insulating wrapping.



3 large onions, sliced

3/43 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

2 tsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dry thyme

2 sliced bell peppers

salt and pepper

2 TB oil

1 1/2 cups pearl barley, soaked overnight

14 oz can of tomatoes, not drained

chopped parsley

Saute onions in oil until soft; add mushrooms and cook 3 min longer.  Add remaining ingredients (if using fresh tomatoes instead of canned add 1 cup wqater).  

Cover pot, bring to boil.  Boil gently 10 minp wrap 1 1/2 - 2 hours.    6 servings



1 medium potato, cubed

1 medium onion, chopped

1 sliced carrot

1 chopped tomato

optional extra vegetables: cooked beans, sweet corn, peas, chopped cabbage

1 quart water

2 cups uncooked pasta or 1 cup uncooked rice

1 stock cube (chicken or beef or what you have)

1 TB oil

salt to taste (I omit, the stock cubes are salty enough for my taste)

In a pot, saute onions in the oil until soft.  Add carrot and potatoes.  Stiur and fry 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.  Add chopped tomato.  Stir in any optional extra vegetables you have.

Stir, then add water, and cover.  Bring to a boil. Add stock cube, and rice or pasta.  Stir once or twice while simmering for 10 mins (20 min if you have raw optional vegetables) then wrap for 2 hours. (Yes you can add cooked leftover bits of meat if you want.)


The first recipes I collected were from Ethiopia where insulated "cooking baskets" are used for thermal cooking.



1/2 lb dry red beans.  

1 pound dry sweet corn

salt to taste

8 nmed potatoes, cubed

10 spinach leaves, chopped

Wash beans and corn and soak overnight.  In the morning, salt the beans and corn and bring to boil in water to cover.  When boiling, cover, simmer 20 min.  Add potatoes.  Cover again, simmer 10 min.  Add spinach leaves chopped coarsely.  Eover and wrap 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Drain well.  Mash together until dense and firm and serve.



2 cups red beans

2 cups dry corn

2 small chopped onions

1 cup water


1 beef stock cube

1 TB oil

2 tsp curry powder (or 1/4 tsp each cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, cloves, and cinnamon)

Wash beans and corn and soak overnight.  In morning, add salt, bring beans and corn to boil in soaking water.  Cover, simmer 30 min;.  In a separate pan, fry onions in oil until soft over low heat.  Add to bean mixture.  Stir in 1 cup water with the stock cube and seasoning.  Mix well, return to boil, then cover and wrap 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until beans are soft.  This is also mashed together to serve (usually with a flatbread or eaten with fingers).





2 strips bacon

1 pound boneless skinless chicken cut into 1 inch pieces

1 c thin sliced celery

1 med potato, cut in 1/2 inch cubes

1 c sliced green onions

8 oz can bamboo shoots

1 1/2 tsp five spice powder

1/2 c water

1 TB dry sherry

1 TB low sodium soy sauce

2 TB cornstarch

1 tsp sugar

Cook bacon until crisp (5 min).  Drain and crumble into cookpot.  Pour off all but 2 tsp drippings and brown chicken on all sides.  Put into the cookpot.  Then add to the cooking pot the celeru, otatoes, green onions, bamboo shoots, 5 spice powder, 1/4 cup water, the sherry and the soy sauce.  Bring to a simmer on med heat and simmer 6 min.  Wrap 2 hours.  In measuring cup, mix cornstarch, remaining water and sugar, and pout into the bot and re-heat until thickened, stirring as needed.  Serve over rice if desired.  (I throw in some cashews, at the end, too for texture.)



1 c white rice

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

2 c chicken broth (cubes OK, just omit salt)

2 TB oil

1 TB butter or margarine

1/4 c diced tomatoes

1/8 tsp diced green peppers

Heat oil and butter in pot to melt together.  Stir fry rice around 3 minutes until tan.  Add onion, garlic powder, and stir fry 5 min longer.  Add broth, bring to a boil without stirring.  Lower heat to simmer, stir in gently, tomatoes and pepper.  Cover.  Simmer 5 minutes then wrap 30 min.  When done fluff rice then cover and let sit another 5 min.

This makes 4 servings but only as a side dish.  We like it with cheese on top.


BREAD  (from Compassion of South Africa for the Wonder Box)

4 c flour

1 tsp yeast

1 tsp sugar

1/4 c warm wqter

1 c warm water

1 tsp salt

Mix yeast, sugar and 1/4 c warm water and set aside.

Mix flour, larger amount of warm water and salt; add yeast blend and knead as desired, or add another 1/4 cup water and stir very well instead. Place in oiled oven baking bag and let rise in wrapped pot.  When double in size, form into a loaf.  Leave in the oiled bag and twist tie the mouth shut, leaving room in bag.  Bring the large pot of water to a rolling boil, and put plastig bag in the pot of water (leave the mouth of the bag out of the boiling water.  BNoil 10 min, then cover and wrap 1 hour to finish cooking.  Be sure the mouth of the bag remains outside the water area, putting the lid on it if needed to hold it outside.  After 1 hour, it should be cooked. Crust will be nice and soft.  


There are some ideas to get you experimenting.  




Edited by kappydell
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On 5/2/2021 at 2:54 PM, kappydell said:

I ran across my haybox recipe collection.  I must have 150 index cards, but what I use most is the basic wrap cooking times chart at the front:



You're the best!!! Thank you!!!   :hug3:

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Has anyone tried making bread in a gas grill? DH just bought me a new Weber and it is amazing. Cast-iron to hold in the heat, too.  It has a small table on either side and even a thermometer in the lid.  :hapydancsmil:  You can tell that my little Weber Smokey Joe is past it's prime.    :24:

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