The Joy of Field Rations is a blog about the history and preparation of military field rations in the 20th century. Here you can find historical recipes and instructions on how to authentically reproduce them in a kitchen or campsite.
Friday, July 6, 2012
US Army Field Bread, 1916
Field Bread, US Army,
Field bread had a
dense texture and a thick, tough crust. It would keep fresh longer and was less
prone to damage in handling and transportation than garrison bread. Due to its
larger size and circular shape (which occupied more oven space) and its
subsequent longer baking time, field bread production was not as efficient as
that of garrison bread. Five 2-pound garrison loaves could be baked in a
standard 12 inch by 24 inch baking pan, whereas only two 4-pound field bread
loaves would fit in the same pan.
In 1918, as a matter
of economy US Army units in France were instructed to bake 10-pound (!)
rectangular field bread loaves in the 12 by 24 inch pans. This led to
complaints about the bread crumbling and breaking when cut. HQ AEF (American
Expeditionary Force) blamed the problem on mishandling and dull knives, rather than
the apparent difficulties involved in transporting and handling such a
cumbersome loaf. The sheer size of the loaf would have contributed to its
fragility. Not surprisingly, the 10-pound loaf didn’t survive long after World
was intended for consumption in garrison or in the field where it could be
transported to the troops within one day. Further distances required the
production of field bread. Field bread could be kept for a week, but it was
recommended to be consumed within 48 hours.
Field bread was produced in the field bakery, which was a
part of the division level organizations. This type of field bread was still being
produced in the earlier stages of World War 2, but was eventually replaced by “garrison
field bread” for field use.
In 1916 the recipe
called for cottonseed oil, as cottonseed oil was the major vegetable oil
produced in the United States the time. Also, cottonseed oil does not
deteriorate or change flavor when used at high temperatures. In 1941, wartime
shortages of cottonseed oil forced the utilization of soybean oil. Three years
later, soybean oil production outstripped that of cottonseed oil.
It should be
noted that the 1916 edition of theManual
for Army Bakersthe baking
instructions were intended for the "old" field oven, which was
wood-fired and subject to drastic temperature drops when loading. This
necessitated the higher baking temperature of 450°F and
for 10 minutes longer. When attempting to bake field bread at 450°F in a modern
electric oven, the crust of the field bread was overdone after only about 30
minutes. The baking time and temperature for the US Army's more efficient
"new" field oven are given in later versions ofThe Army Baker, about one
hour and 20 minutes at 325° to 340° F. This is more in line
with what would be expected with a modern oven, and gives excellent results.
Field Bread, US Army,
Yield: one 4-pound loaf.
U.S. Metric Ingredients
48 oz 1360g bread flour
1.5 oz 43 g sugar
0.9 oz 26 g salt
0.25 fl oz (1½ tsp) 7.5 ml cottonseed oil* or lard
24 fl oz 710 ml water
½ tsp 2.5 ml instant dry yeast
Field Bread Just Out of Oven, 1916...
... and, Field Bread Just Out of Oven, 2012
Cut after cooling; note the dense texture.
Procedure(Straight dough mixing method)
1.Mix all ingredients together into a very stiff dough.
2.Knead well until dough is smooth.
3.Let rise for four and one-half hours.
4.Punch down dough.
5.Let rise for one hour.
6.Punch second time.
7.Round up and flatten into a round loaf about 1½ inch
thick. The loaf should be approximately 11 inches in diameter.
8.Place on a greased baking sheet or in a large pan.
15 minute proof in the pan or baking sheet.
before putting in the oven make a round hole in the center of the loaf with the
ends of the thumb and forefinger joined together.
hole is sufficient size to permit the gas to escape and will result in a load
less liable to crush in transportation, less subject to mold, and with a
for about one hour and 20 minutes at 325-340°F.