Since our last New Experience was a bit tortuous for Leah, I needed to make sure our next activity would be something I knew she would enjoy. I want my kids to be just as excited about trying new experiences as I am. Leah is my little foodie, so I decided we would bake our own bread from scratch. Now this may seem like a silly new experience for those of you who enjoy cooking, but this was something way out of my own comfort zone. I love to eat, but cooking is just not my forte. I am fortunate that my kids are still young enough not to know any better. Luke once looked up during breakfast and lovingly announced, “Mom, you make the best Cheerios!” It’s true. I really do make a mean bowl of Cheerios every morning.
So, being an inexperienced baker, I looked through my cookbooks and found a recipe for sandwich bread. Seemed pretty simple. Flour, water, milk, sugar, and yeast. I actually wondered aloud why people don’t bake their own bread more often since it looked so simple. I would have been able to answer my own question had I read the entire recipe before we began. I had no idea exactly how long this New Experience would take us!
First, we proofed the yeast by emptying the little packet into a bowl of warm sugar water. It started to foam after a few minutes, so we knew the yeast was active. I took the opportunity to explain to the kids that yeast is a living organism and it feeds on sugar. Instead of being interested, they looked horrified. Leah did not want to add it to the flour mixture, so Luke did that. We mixed it a bit and then took the dough out to knead.
Kneading was an experience in itself. I don’t know if all bread dough is as sticky as the one we created, but what a mess! The kids had fun moving the dough around, but it stuck all over their hands, the counter, the backs of the chairs they were standing on, and any other surface the kids touched. Since my counters were a disaster and my floor had been carpet bombed with flour, I let the kids watch a TV show while I scrubbed the kitchen. I was STILL cleaning by the time the show was over, so they got to watch another one.
The dough was taking its time to rise, so we went outside to play for a while. When we came in, we had fun punching it down the puffy dough. We were supposed to divide it in half to make two loaves, but since so much dough was left on the counters and washed off our hands, we only had enough dough for one loaf. We waited for it to rise once again and then finally got to bake it.
When it came out of the oven, we had warm bread to eat. At first the kids were a little hesitant to eat it. “Are the little brown things dead?” Luke asked. When I assured him they were, Leah added, “How do you know?” They finally caved and ate some. It was so delicious that we ate it plain- no butter needed. Fresh baked bread might almost be worth the one hour of hands on time, one hour of cleaning, and three hours of waiting around for the dough to rise, and the 45 minutes for it to bake, but I think we’ll stick to store-bought for our sandwiches.
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