As a result of COVID-19, people are going old-school and baking their own bread. So much so that America is facing a yeast and flour shortage. This is likely the first time in your life when you could go to the grocery store and not find these two essential items on the shelves. While you can get yeast and flour online, many online merchandisers know you want it, so they have significantly jacked up the prices.

If the current run on yeast and flour has made baking bread difficult, don’t give up. This is not the first time there has been a shortage of these ingredients. As you will see in this article, bread shortages have happened throughout history, forcing people to get creative. And, we have learned from them how to make our own yeast and flour, as well as how to make a variety of different breads using substitute ingredients. Read on so you can get back into the kitchen.

 

Bread shortages throughout history

Our current lack of bread ingredients in the U.S., fortunately, is not preventing us from purchasing loaves of bread at the store. Nor will it likely lead to civil unrest. This may seem like a stretch, but it isn’t. Historians suggest that bread shortages helped stoke the fires that eventually resulted in the French Revolution--and where we get the callous “Let them eat cake!” quote from Marie Antoinette.

Gaunt, hungry women (at right)—several wielding clubs, another a smoking pistol—take to the streets of Richmond, Virginia, on April 2, 1863In the U.S., we experienced our own issues with bread shortages and rioting in the Richmond Bread Riots. The Richmond Riots led by women shouting, “Bread or Blood!” occurred during the Civil War as the result of price gouging for bread making ingredients. The mob of angry housewives eventually used axes to loot shops and storage lockers. Yikes!

During times of war, people have had to ration ingredients that are used to baked bread. And, in some cases, such as WWII, Americans were banned from even purchasing presliced bread and encouraged to eat less bread (specifically white bread). One UK WWII slogan read, “Save the Wheat. Help the Fleet. Eat less Bread.” The U.S. also used similar slogans.

Don’t think this is just a thing of the past. In 2017, Venezuela was embroiled in its own “Bread War,” where rogue bakers were arrested. The Venezuelan president claimed bakers were hoarding flour to make more expensive sweet baked goods rather than baking bread for the people during a time of political upheaval.

 

Why it’s wise to learn to bake bread from scratch

While this is most likely the first time you have needed yeast or flour and couldn’t find them, it may not be the last. As the examples above prove, bread is always in demand, but not always available. Therefore, it is wise to learn how to bake bread from scratch–and this includes knowing how to make yeast and flour when these items are not readily available in our local stores.

Dry yeast in a bottle Here me now–this will not be the last time you cannot get something you need because of a supply and demand issue. Manmade and natural disasters both can disrupt supply chains. If an earthquake or hurricane occurs, companies in those areas may be unable to make ingredients, or supply routes may be temporarily cut off. Even if a disaster-affected area has specific ingredients, stores may be closed for an undetermined amount of time.The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated supply and demand issues. For example, it is extremely difficult to find active yeast in grocery stores. As the demand for yeast grew exponentially, the companies that supply the yeast cannot keep up with the high demand. Likewise, flour mills are working around the clock to try to keep up with the sudden demand.

No matter the cause, if you know how to make bread from scratch, you can take care of your hungry family members. It also doesn’t hurt that baking bread from scratch can save you a pretty penny in the long run.

 

How to make your own yeast

The key ingredient to making bread rise is yeast. For centuries, yeast, a single-celled fungi, has been used to make beer and bread. And, until you need it, you might not even realize how important it is.

To say there is a shortage of yeast right now is not entirely true. Yes, it is missing from our grocery shelves, but wild yeast is everywhere, and we can grow it at home.

dried fruits

Here is a recipe for DIY Yeast from Sudeep Agarwala (a yeast geneticist).

Ingredients:

  1. Flour
  2. Water
  3. Dried Fruit (e.g., grapes, raisins, prunes)

Directions:

  • Place dried fruit into a jar.
  • Add 2-3 tablespoons of water to the jar and stir.
  • Add an equal mass of flour (should be enough to make loose, wet dough).
  • After about 12 hours, you should begin to see bubbles.
  • Once the flour paste loosens (between 24-48 hours), take a tiny bit of the mixture and add to 30-40 ml water, add flour, and repeat.

 

How to make your own flour

It’s pretty difficult to find a recipe for bread that doesn’t include flour–even wartime bread recipes used flour! But with our shelves currently empty of this ingredient, we have to get creative. It’s easier than you think. Get out your blender, food processor, or coffee grinder and grind any grains, seeds, nuts, or beans.

 

Beer bread recipe

Yeast is responsible for beer fermentation, so bakers have found it is a good substitute for baking bread. A classic beer bread recipe is easy for beginners. And, don’t worry about the beer affecting the taste or your sensibilities--most of the alcohol will evaporate during the cooking process.

Here is a recipe from Food Network.

Ingredients:

  1. 3 cups self-rising flour
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 12 ounces beer
  4. 2 tablespoons melted butter

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Butter a loaf pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and beer. Mix well.
  • Pour the sticky mixture into the loaf pan.
  • Bake for 55 minutes.
  • At the last 3 minutes of baking, remove from the oven, brush the top of the loaf with butter and return to the oven.

 

No-yeast bread recipe

If you are looking for a more traditional bread recipe, but are missing yeast, give a simple soda bread recipe a try. It uses baking soda to leaven the bread.

Here is a recipe from Baker Bettie.


Ingredients:

  1. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 1/2 tsp salt
  3. 1 tsp baking soda
  4. 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  5. 1 1/3 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  • Line a 4 or 5 quart dutch oven with parchment paper.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda until combined.
  • Add the pieces of cold butter into the bowl and use a fork to spread the butter throughout the flour mixture.
  • Add the buttermilk in slowly and stir until a soft dough forms.
  • Once you have the desired consistency, transfer the dough into the prepared dutch oven.
  • Use a spatula to shape it.
  • Use a sharp knife to score an X deep into the dough.
  • Put the lid on the dutch oven and put it in the oven.
  • Bake at 450 F for 35 minutes.
  • Remove the lid of the dutch oven and bake for another 10-12 minutes until the top is a deep golden brown.

 

No-flour and no-yeast potato cake

If you want something bread-like that is filling, but can’t find yeast or flour, introduce your family to potato cakes (also called potato rösti).

Here is a recipe for a potato rösti from BBC Food.

Ingredients:

  1. 2 large floury potatoes (such as Idaho potatoes or potatoes that are high in starch and low in moisture)
  2. 2-3 tbsp melted butter
  3. 2-3 tbsp sunflower oil (vegetable oil, canola oil, etc.)
  4. salt and black pepper

Directions:

  • Grate the potatoes coarsely into a clean paper towel.
  • Fold the paper towel around the potato to form a ball.
  • Squeeze the potato ball to remove as much moisture as possible.
  • Season the potato with black pepper, then divide into four equal portions.
  • Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add two tablespoons of the butter and the sunflower oil.
  • Place a metal ring inside the frying pan and carefully fill with the one portion of grated potato.
  • Using the back of a spoon gently push down to make a compact cake.
  • Remove the ring and repeat with the remaining potato.
  • Fry the rösti for 3-4 minutes on both sides or until golden-brown all over.
  • Season with salt, then remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel.

Learn how to make yeast, flour, and bread today, so you don’t have to worry about ingredient shortages should there be a second wave of COVID-19 or disaster strikes in your area. Until next time, stay healthy and strong, friends!

 

In liberty,

Elizabeth Anderson

Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply

 

SOURCES
https://www.history.com/news/bread-french-revolution-marie-antoinette
https://www.history.com/news/bread-or-blood-the-richmond-bread-riots
https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/08/15/wwii-sliced-bread-briefly-banned-usa/
https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/02/23/466956650/save-the-fleet-eat-less-wheat-the-patriotic-history-of-ditching-bread
https://slate.com/business/2020/04/yeast-shortage-supermarkets-coronavirus.html
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/05/think-youre-out-bakers-yeast-think-again/
https://twitter.com/shoelaces3/status/1244252079041974272
https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/pop-culture-news/faced-flour-yeast-shortages-bakers-get-creative-n1180171
https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/beer-bread-recipe-1910242
https://bakerbettie.com/easy-irish-soda-bread-recipe/
https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/potatorosti_81487
https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/04/07/522912791/venezuelas-bread-wars-with-food-scarce-government-accuses-bakers-of-hoarding
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