Learning how to make bark bread will not only provide a sustainable substitute for conventional flour, but will also infuse some vital nutrients into your survival diet. We’ll be talking about pine bark and birch bark the the two types of tree varieties that are most often used to make bark bread… and even bark cookies.
Native Americans and Scandinavians made bark bread for centuries, using the foraged material as both a food and a medicine. Many breeds of tree bark contains iron, vitamin C, calcium, carbohydrates, and fiber. Scots pine was once consumed frequently to prevent scurvy, due to its high vitamin C content. Ponderosa pine bark smells a whole lot like vanilla and also has a pleasing flavor.
Birch bark has sweet flavor that taste somewhat like wintergreen, when harvested fresh from a living tree. The bark from the same tree can taste slightly bitter when harvested from a dead tree. Birch bark contains approximately 600 calories per pound after being processed into flour.
You do not consume the outer layer of the bark, but the interior area that serves as a highway to allow nutrients to flow to both the leaves and roots.
How To Harvest Bark For Flour
1. Use box cutters to cut (or score) a square about 6 inches by 6 inches to make what has been dubbed a “window” into the bark – cutting through the exterior wood-like layer to the inner bark area.
2. Use a draw knife to pry away the outer bark layer – other sharp knives work, a draw knife just tends to work both best and quickest.
3. The second and third layers of bark that are now expose are called the phloem and cambium layers – the part you need to make flour. This portion of the bark can be eaten raw as a nutrient and calorie rich survival food, but it will taste fairly dry and tough. Use a sharp knife to shave off thin bits of bark.
Bark Shaving Tip
When shaving bark from a live tree, never harvest more than ⅓ of the bark’s circumference or risk killing the tree.
Once you have collected a bunch of bark, it is now time to process it. There are three common ways to process tree bark:
• Roasting – Wrap the bark strips around a stick that is suspended or held over an open fire.
• Boiling – Boil the bark in a pot of water for only a few moments.
Then strain the bark shavings and them allow them to air dry for several minutes.
It is not necessary or even recommended, to let the bark shavings dry completely before putting them in the oven to bake.
• Frying – Put a little bit of lard or carrier oil in a skillet and fry up the bark shavings just like you would bacon. You can actually toss a few pinches of salt onto the frying bark and make survival potato chips.
After completing the initial processing, it is time to “bake” the bark. Put the bark onto a baking rack and let them dry for about two days in the sun or over a low fire. You can also bake the process bark in a conventional oven for about a half an hour at 250 degrees.
How To Turn Bark Into Flour
Grind the bark as finely as possible into a flour like consistency. You can put it in a food processor on pulse for about 60 seconds or manually grind with a mortar and pestle or similar manual kitchen tool.
How To Bake With Bark Flour
Bark flour does not raise as much as conventional flour because yeast is not capable of digesting the nutrient contained in it in the same manner as it can wheat flour. Birch bark flour can have difficulty holding together as firmly as conventional wheat flour and should be used as a substitute only for a specific amount of wheat flour and not as a sole alternative.
You can substitute about one-third to one-fourth of the flour a recipe calls for with a bark flour and not sacrifice either taste or consistency of the recipe. The bread, biscuits, or cookies you make with bark flour will have little dark flecks in it and have a color that is slightly darker than wheat bread.
Bark Bread Recipe
• 1 quart of water – lukewarm is recommended
• 3.5 ounce of yeast
• 1 and a ½ quarts of non-bark lour
• 1 quart of wheat or rye flour
• ½ cup of bark flour
1. Combine all of the ingredient and mix thoroughly.
2. Cover the dough lightly with a towel and allow it to rise for one hour.
3. Separate the dough into three loaves or more as desired.
4. Roll out the dough until it is about as deep as pita bread.
5. Back at 425 to 450 for approximately 10 minutes.
For best results, sprinkle the dough just lightly with water before putting it into the over.
Bark Cookies Recipe
• ¼ cup of bark flour
• ¾ cup of wheat or white flour
• ¼ cup cup of sugar
• Up to 3 tablespoons of water – use only enough to make a typical dough consistency.
• ½ cup of softened butter
• 1 pinch of salt
1. Mix the sugar, salt, and both types of flour together in a mixing bowl.
2. Stir in the softened butter until it is completely combined.
3. Knead the dough until it comes together in a loose ball shape.
4. Roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to shape.
5. Bake at 350 degrees or approximately 15 minutes.
You can process bark you have foraged as noted above and keep it in an airtight container until ready to use or powder it into a flour.
Bark flour, when stored properly in an airtight container, can keep just as long (if not longer) than conventional flour.
The consistency and taste of bark flour might take a few times to get used to (especially if you use too much and get a bitter baked good) but the goods made with will help fill an empty belly during a survival situation and push more needed vitamins and nutrients into your body.