If you’ve got a few days to make bread this summer, you could try an old Native American way of making bread. The Navajo made bread by letting the natural yeasts in the air penetrate the dough, taking a few days to prepare it. Yeast is a fungal spore that eats off the sugars found in leaves, decaying wood, organic material, and it settles in flour and expels carbon dioxide to create tiny bubbles in dough to make it rise. So they didn’t add yeast. Yeast was a precious commodity. They let nature do it. To make the old style Indian bread you set the dough outside, covered, in the warm sun to rise. This is also one of the ways our pioneers made starter dough. A basic bread recipe with no yeast added should do fine. This method will also work with Amish Friendship Bread by leaving the starter outside in the heat during it’s 10 day cycle. This method works best in the warm growing season when yeasts are more active.
Here are a few recipes for Native American breads. If you have any of your own, I’d love to see them!

Fry Bread

4 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder

Combine all ingredients. Add about 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water and knead until dough is soft but not sticky. Shape dough into balls the size of a small peach. Shape into patties by hand; dough should be about l/2 inch thick. Make a small hole in the center of the round.

Fry one at a time in about l inch of hot lard or shortening in a heavy pan. Brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with honey or jam. Fry bread is a popular Native American bread. This is a basic recipe for it. 

Navajo Fry Bread

1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
vegetable oil

warm water

Mix dry ingredients. Add water to dry ingredients, mix well. Knead dough on a floured board till it becomes elastic. Let dough rest 10 minutes, covered. Roll out dough till it is 1/2 inch thick. Cut into squares or circles. Deep-fry at 370F till golden brown; drain on paper towels. Drizzle with honey and serve.

Pueblo Oven Bread

In the pueblos, this bread is baked in outdoor ovens called hornos. This recipe has been adapted for indoor home ovens.

1 package dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon shortening (coconut oil is a 1:1 substitution)
1/4 cup honey or sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water
5 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Mix well and set aside.

Combine lard, honey and salt in large bowl. Add 1 cup hot water and stir well. When mixture cools to room temperature, mix well with yeast mixture.

Add 4 cups of four, combining well after each cup.

Spread 1 cup of flour on cutting board and place dough upon it. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic (about 15 minutes). Put dough in large bowl, cover with cloth and put in warm place until dough doubles in bulk.

Turn dough onto floured surface again and knead well. Divide dough into two equal parts. Shape each into loaves or rounds.

Place the loaves on well-greased cookie sheet, cover with cloth and allow to double in warm place. Put into preheated 350-degree oven and bake until lightly browned (about 1 hour). Use oven’s middle rack and place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Wild Sage Bread

1 package dry yeast
1 cup cottage cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon melted shortening
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons crushed dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour

Combine sugar, sage, salt, baking soda and flour. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Beat egg and cottage cheese together until smooth. Add melted shortening and yeast.

Add flour mixture slowly to egg mixture, beating well after each addition until a stiff dough is formed.

Cover dough with cloth and put in warm place until double in bulk (about 1 hour). Punch dough down, knead for one minute and place in well-greased pan. Cover and let rise for 40 minutes.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 50 minutes. Brush top with melted shortening and sprinkle with crushed, roasted pine nuts or coarse salt.

Easy Molasses Bread

This bread is made by the quick one-rise method, which does not require any kneading. Adding blackstrap molasses appears to give it a slight sweetness and also makes it more nutritious. Suitable for freezing. Makes 3 large (2-pound) loaves.

butter

13 cups whole wheat flour

1 slightly heaping tablespoon salt

2 packets instant yeast

1 slightly heaping tablespoon molasses

6 1/4 cups water

Grease three large loaf pans generously with butter or margarine. Tip the flour and salt into a large bowl and add the yeast. Mix gently. Dissolve the molasses in a little tepid water taken from 6 1/4 cups. Add this to the flour, then mix in the rest of the water, going carefully at the end in case you don’t need quite all of it. The finished mixture needs to be too wet to leave the sides of the bowl clean; it should feel ‘slippery’ but not completely sloppy. Half fill the pans with the mixture, cover them with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel, and leave to rise.

Preheat oven to 400°F. When the loaves have risen to within 1/2 inch of the tops of the pans, put them in the oven. Bake large loaves for 45 minutes, and small ones for about 35 minutes, or until they are brown and firm to the touch, and sound hollow when tapped. You can crisp the base and sides a bit more by putting the loaves back into the oven for a few minutes after you’ve taken them out of the pans. Cool the bread on a wire rack.

Cherokee Huckleberry Bread

2 cups Self-rising flour
1 Egg
1 cup Sugar
1 stick butter
1 cup Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
2 cups Berries (huckleberries or blueberries)

Cream eggs, butter and sugar together. Add flour, milk, and vanilla. Sprinkle flour on berries to prevent them from going to the bottom. Add berries to mixture. Put in baking pan and bake in over at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes or until done.

 

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