Within a week of the holidays, my kids are bored. I read your column and thought, "Great, we'll bake," even though I've never cooked with my kids before. Got any ideas?
Since the cold weather has you stuck inside your house, why not fill it with the smell of baking bread, which is nurturing to both body and spirit?
Not only does fresh bread smell and taste amazing, but there's something about baking bread that gives anyone, including kids, a huge sense of accomplishment. That's partly due to the fact that baking bread doesn't come naturally to everyone.
Here are some steps to ensure a fabulous family bread-baking experience.
• Set aside enough time. You don't want to be rushed. Plan on an hour to prepare the dough, a couple more hours to let it rise (you can do other homebound tasks during that time), as well as approximately 45 minutes to bake the bread.
• Make sure you start out with a very basic recipe that does not involve folding in complicated ingredients or hunting for unusual flours. Save those recipes for the future when you are all experienced bread bakers.
• Clear an area of the kitchen or dining room table (with vinyl cloth covering) where you can work together comfortably.
• Make sure you have all ingredients and measuring equipment, an instant-read thermometer (to measure the temperature of warm water you will use to activate the yeast), bowls, pans--and clean hands.
• If you can find an empty bottle and a balloon, you can make the yeast activation into a kind of science experiment.
• Place some yeast, sugar and warm water in the bottle and fit the empty balloon over the mouth of the bottle. Over the course of an hour or more, the gas released from the yeast with blow up the balloon, illustrating how bread rises when the gas bubbles are trapped in the dough.
• Let everyone help knead. Demonstrate kneading as 3 steps: push down, fold over and turn
(1/4 turn). Repeat. Let each family member take turns doing this a few times until the dough is smooth elastic.
• Make sure everyone who helped make the bread is on hand when you remove it from the oven. When the bread is cool enough to cut, get out the butter and jam and enjoy.