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Fry Bread

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This recipe is for a gathering in the southwest. The gathering usually takes place outside and the bread is often made over an open fire with the entire family's help. The men chop the wood to keep the fire going and the women cook. Of course, you could stop with one bowlful if you aren't having the extended family over.

Make the dough:

Start with at least a sack of BlueBird Flour -- either 25 lb. or 50 lb. -- depending on the number of relatives. You will also need a place to store the dough overnight. A clean 5 gallon plastic bucket works well for this. Pour flour into a large bowl until it's about 2/3s full of flour then add a small handful of salt (probably a tablespoon or a little more depending on the size of the bowl) Also add baking powder (a larger handful) mix these dry ingredients together with clean hands. You can also add a couple of handfulls of powdered milk and/or cornmeal, but that is not really necessary. Make a depression in the flour mixture so that the water will have a place. Add warm (more than lukewarm and less than hot) water to the depression. Mix with one hand. Have enough warm water available so that you can keep adding water and mixing to make a soft dough. This is actually the critical step. Don't stop mixing until you have the right consistency. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and still be firm enough to knead in the bowl. Knead the dough for several minutes and then place in the covered bucket to condition. Fill your bowl with flour again and repeat the process until most of the flour is used and/or the bucket is about 2/3s full(the dough will expand as it conditions.) It is important that the bucket is covered because if the dough gets crusty, it is harder to form the rounds.

Let the dough sit at least 20 minutes, preferably overnight.

Form the dough:

While the skillet is heating with at least 1 inch of oil in it, make several round balls of dough with your hand and pat them into biscuit shapes (torts). Keep the torts covered to avoid crusty dough. When the oil is almost hot enough, start to stretch the dough. This is done with floured hands. Stretch the dough from the edges, rotating the dough and stretching. Flip the dough between your hands to flatten it further. When the dough is thin and about the diameter of the skillet, carefully put it in the hot oil and begin stretching another round. Twirl the dough in the skillet when it is first put in to help it form into a perfect circle. Several people can be stretching the dough while another is watching the frying. Turn the frybread with a long fork when the bottom is golden brown. The top side will be puffy. Fry the top side and remove. A paper grocery bag works well to put the bread in after it is fried. Traditionally, one does NOT count the number of pieces of bread before it is to be served because doing so will mean that everyone will not have enough. When placing a piece of bread on a plate to make a Navajo Taco, it is proper to make sure the bubbly side is on top. This bread is served salted rather than with sugar.

Roasted Bread

For those of us not wanting to eat fried foods this bread can be roasted rather than fried. It is actually my favorite way of making the bread. To make it you will need hot coals and a grill over the hot coals. I've tried a barbeque, but it really doesn't work because it is not hot enough. Form the dough as for frybread (above) place the stretched dough directly on the grill and turn over when the bottom is flaked with brown edges to roast the other side. This "tortilla" has no fat in it. Mexican tortillas usually have a high fat content. When I don't have access to an open fire, I do roast them in a castiron skillet that has been coated with a small amount of shortening. I use a paper towel to coat the hot skillet before I put the stretched dough in. A Navajo tortilla is usually a little thicker than the Mexican kind and will stay fresh (or at least edible) for almost a day, if covered. (I put an upside down bowl over the bread after breakfast) If roasted bread is made at breakfast, more can be made at supper and the dogs will get a treat with any leftover breakfast tortillas.

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