6 old-fashioned wheat-free bread recipes from back when they had to ration flour

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These wheat-free bread recipes come from 1918, during the height of World War 1, when the country was asked to save wheat for the troops.

In a statement issued in May 1918 by the US Food Administration of California: “So serious is the situation, so vital the need for saving wheat and wheat products, that the government is asking every man and woman in America to stop eating, voluntarily, all foods containing wheat flour and wheat products in any form, and in no case to eat more than one and one half pounds a week.”

Indeed, one national slogan of the era was: “Remember — foods are as important as firearms in war times.”

Save a loaf a week - help win the war

1. Wheatless yeast bread

One cup rolled oats, scalded with one cup of milk
Three medium-sized potatoes, cooked and mashed, and one cup of potato liquid
Two cups of barley flour
Four cups of rye flour
One level tablespoon salt
One and one-half cakes of yeast
Enough rye flour to form into loaves

When scalded rolled oats are cool, add yeast which has been softened in two tablespoons of warm water.

Add potatoes and salt and heat thoroughly. Add remaining liquid and flour. Knead slightly. Place in pan and allow to double in bulk.

Work down, form into loaves, and place in bread pans. When double in bulk, bake one hour in moderate oven. This makes three loaves, one and one-half pounds each. 

– From the Indianapolis Star (Indiana) – May 18, 1918

2. Wheat-free yeast bread recipe

Ingredients: Two cups barley flour, one and one-half cups oat flour, one cup milk, two teaspoons salt, one tablespoon corn syrup, one cake compressed yeast, one-quarter cup lukewarm water.

Soften the yeast in lukewarm water. Scald the milk and add the syrup and salt. When this becomes lukewarm, add one and one-half cups of barley flour and all the oat flour, sifted. Beat the dough, and let it rise until it is light.

Add the remaining cup of barley flour and turn the dough into greased pans. Let it rise for 20 to 30 minutes, until it rounds somewhat over the top. Bake the bread in a slow oven from one to one and one-quarter hours.

– From The Ithaca Journal (New York) – July 11, 1918

Kneading dough - Wheatless recipes (1918)

3. Wheatless bread recipe

1 pound rye
1/2 pound potato flour
1/2 pound barley flour
1/2 pound rice flour
1/2 pound corn flour
1 ounce yeast
1 ounce salt
1 quart water

Mix flour and salt together, add yeast and water, and mix to a stiff dough. Knead on floured board until elastic and light, set to rise until double in bulk. Cut down and form into loaves, set to rise again, and when double in bulk, bake in hot oven.

– From the Hotel Martinique, New York

4. Wheatless war bread (1918)

4 cups oatmeal flour
4 cups rye flour
4 cups rice flour
8 cups mashed potato
7 pints water (lukewarm)
2 yeast cakes
2 cups molasses
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening

Mix and sift all of the flours, and add the mashed potato to which the salt and shortening have been added.

Soak the yeast in one-half cup of lukewarm water till soft. Add the molasses, lukewarm water and yeast to the flour. Work up into a good stiff batter. Raise for six hours.

Mix on the bread board, using some of the flour from above. Mix for about fifteen minutes. Raise in pans for about two hours, or until it doubles its bulk.

Bake in a moderate oven for one hour and fifteen minutes.

This bread should be made fresh every day or two. Potato breads are apt to sour, and never keep as well as wheat breads.

5. Wheat-free nut bread

2-1/2 cups sifted barley flour
2 cups sifted rice flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs (from any type of bread)
1-1/3 cups molasses
1 scant cup milk
1-1/2 cups broken walnut meats
1 teaspoon salt
7 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1/8 cup water

Sift the flours and baking powder and salt together; add the molasses and nut meats. Bake in deep bread tins, in a very slow oven, from two and a half to three hours. The above quantity makes two loaves.

6. Liberty bread (brown bread)

2 cups bread crumbs (from any type of bread*)
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup molasses
2 cups buttermilk
3 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water

Mix the bread crumbs, cornmeal and molasses. Add the buttermilk and salt.

Just before the water starts steaming, stir the soda into the boiling water. Add to the dough and stir until well-mixed.

Pour into greased round Boston bread tin molds. Steam three hours in a closely covered kettle. Let the water come halfway up the molds. Renew the water from time to time as needed.

* Most households have many bread pieces and crusts that are thrown out. Save them, and make this delicious brown bread.

Recipes 4, 5 & 6 are from “Mary Elizabeth’s War Time Recipes” (1918)

Bonus: Near-wheatless bread recipe

Try this on your range: Potatoes, oatmeal flour and barley flour ingredients

Mrs. Frank Creasey of Bisbee was awarded the prize of $25 offered by a member of the food administration staff for Arizona for the best near wheatless recipe for yeast bread. The prize recipe is as follows:

Yeast: Boil one large potato till very soft; strain off the water and keep it hot. Mash potato very fine. Into this put one teaspoonful of salt and one teaspoonful of sugar; beat well. On top of this mixture put one big handful of dry flour, then pour on this the hot potato water; beat this well until it is like hot cake batter; set away to cool. When lukewarm, add one yeast cake (preferably Yeast Foam) which has been soaked in warm water. Stir well and put in a warm place to rise.

Ingredients: 1 quart mashed potatoes, 2 cups oatmeal flour, 1 quart barley flour, 1 cup wheat flour, 1 teaspoonful sugar, 1 tablespoonful salt, 1 teaspoonful Cottolene [shortening]

Method: Start your bread at night by placing the above ingredients in a large mixing pan. Boil well six large potatoes; mash very fine. Save potato water, and when cool pour on the warm mashed potatoes and mix well. Pour yeast mixture into mixing pan, stir well; add mashed potatoes; mix thoroughly by beating three minutes. Do not make this sponge any thicker than cake batter. Set away to rise.

In the morning, knead this up with one quart of wheat flour and one quart of oatmeal flour mixed dry. Knead stiff until the dough does not stick to board or hands. Grease the top and set away to rise. When it has risen to top of pan, knead down again. Mold into loaves. Allow to rise again and bake in moderate oven at least one hour. This makes seven large loaves.

– From the Mohave County Miner (Arizona) – July 13, 1918

MORE: Old-fashioned rice flour recipes: Classic cakes and cookies made without wheat (1918)

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