Baking Bread!

By: Sharon Katz Cooper  

What better way to spend a blustery March afternoon than in your own warm kitchen with the smell of fresh bread wafting out into the room? Baking bread can be both an educational and a delicious experience for children – and a great way to start a new family tradition. Bread-making goes back thousands of years in human history, and almost every culture has its own special kind of bread.

Bread can also be a healthy and important building block for your family’s diet. Whole grains and wholesome ingredients fill an essential niche in the food pyramid. And the chemistry behind bread-making is fascinating for most children – and their parents! For more information on the science of bread, check out:  www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/bread/bread_science.html

What You Need

• 1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water

• 1/4 cup sugar, divided

• 1 tablespoon active dry yeast

• 3 large eggs

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1/3 cup vegetable or light olive oil

• 1/4 cup honey

• 2 cups all purpose flour

• 3 1/2cups whole wheat flour

• 2 1/2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, optional (available in the baking aisle, improves texture and flavor)

What to Do

1. Place the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the sugar into the water and then sprinkle the yeast on top. Leave the yeast mixture for about ten minutes and watch what happens. You should see it bubbling and frothing. This is called proofing the yeast. The sugar is the food for the yeast. (If it doesn’t froth, your yeast may not be good, and you should start again with new yeast.)

2. Once you have a bowl of frothing yeast, add the eggs, salt, oil, honey and the rest of the sugar. Mix well with a stand mixer, hand mixer, or a wooden spoon. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, mix your flours and the wheat gluten.

4. Then start adding the flour mixture to the liquid mixture, one cup at a time. Use a stand mixer, or a big wooden spoon. As the mixture becomes more dough-like, you’ll want to switch to mixing with your hands. Depending on the humidity of the day and your kitchen, you may not need to use all of the flour.

5. Once you have soft, non-sticky dough, it’s time for kneading! Get out a large wooden cutting board and sprinkle some flour on it. Place your dough ball on the board and cut it into a few manageable pieces. Then knead it with your hands for about 5-10 minutes.

6. Place the dough balls back into your mixing bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until they have doubled in size – about 1 hour.

7. When they are done rising, take a look at them. Ask your children, what happened? Why do they think the dough changed?

8. Ask a child to “punch down” the dough with a clean fist.

9. Again, cut the dough into several pieces and knead with your hands for several minutes.

10. Then shape the dough as you like. You can place it in greased loaf pans, make a free-form shape or divide it into pieces make rolls.

11. Cover and let rise again for about an hour.

12. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes (10-15 minutes for rolls), until golden brown on top. A fully cooked loaf will sound hollow when tapped.

This Helps Develop. . .

Cognitive skills – the mental process of knowing by developing awareness, perception and reasoning.

Going through a series of step-by-step instructions is an important basic science skill and contributes to development of logical reasoning.

Fine motor skills – the use of small muscle movements in the hands that occur in coordination with the eyes.

Using measuring spoons, mixing, and kneading helps to build fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Language – the expressive ability to communicate ideas and needs, and the receptive ability to understand what is said or written.

Encouraging your child to describe her predictions and observations of bread-making helps to build and strengthen description and verbal skills.

Social emotional development involves a child’s feelings of self worth and confidence.

Kids love to create things, and food is central to many children’s daily experiences. By making their own bread, children will gain confidence and become proud of their baking abilities, and have a tasty treat to share. v

This monthly family activity series, “Hands-on-Kids!” is brought to you by a partnership between the Children’s Science Center (CSC) and FAMILY Magazine. CSC is committed to building a place where children can grow in their love of learning that will carry them into adulthood. We invite you to visit the CSC website, www.TheChildrensScienceCenter.org, where you and your children can “Explore, Create, Inspire.” Sharon Katz Cooper is an educator and freelance writer in Fairfax. She is a volunteer with CSC.

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