We made bread this week. It was a very enjoyable activity and the result was very tasty. This is a cooking adventure you can easily share with your children. Your child can measure the ingredients, mix the dough and knead and punch down the dough (that was my son’s favourite part!).
I explained a little of the science of breadmaking to my son. The key ingredients in bread are yeast and flour. Yeast is a live, single-celled fungus. It lies dormant until it comes into contact with warm water. It then begins feeding on sugars and releases carbon dioxide.
In the bread recipe we used, we began by activating the yeast with warm water and sugar (shown below) before adding it to the bread dough. This lets you see the yeast start producing gas, as the mixture begins to foam.
When you mix the activated yeast into the dough, the dough rises as the gas produced by the yeast becomes trapped in the dough (because of the gluten fibres in the flour). Kneading the dough helps to stretch the gluten fibres.
And the final product …
This is a very simple explanation of the science of breadmaking (my son is, after all, only 3), to learn more try Bread Science 101 at the Exploratorium. This site has a couple of other experiments you can try to further understand gluten and yeast. There is also this experiment in looking for signs of life, which is great to help older children understand why we know that yeast is alive.
Do you make your own bread? Have you ever made bread with your children?
This post was first published in July 2009.