A few years ago, my father in law and I went to a bread baking class lead by Peter Reinhart. If you remotely like to bake bread and have a chance to attend one of his classes, I highly recommend it. My father in law bought one of his books, The Bread Baker's Apprentice. We borrowed it for this project and decided to make anadama bread (recipe here). It's a wonderful, soft, slightly sweeter sandwich bread. It's darker in color because molasses is used to sweeten the bread.
You need to make a "cornmeal soaker", it's just some cornmeal with water set out overnight, the evening before you prepare the bread dough. Little J is learning how to level flour and similar ingredients. He had plenty of practice with this recipe.
Some tips for baking bread with children
- Read and understand your recipe and then read it with your kids. With this type of recipe, I recommend reading the recipe with older kids, but the preschool crowd won't really understand it.
- Take time to explain some of the vocabulary used in the recipe.
- Assign them tasks that they will be successful with, but also teach them new skills and let them practice.
- Allow them to help with measuring the ingredients. If they are toddler age, you may want to measure the ingredients ahead of time and let them scoop or pour it into the mixing bowl.
- Put a clean plate under where they are measuring. You can keep the mess to a minimum and even recoup some of your ingredients.
- Let them explore the ingredients. My kids wanted to taste the molasses.
- I use a small silicone mat under the mixing bowl to keep it from sliding. Mixing can be difficult enough for kids without the bowl sliding around on them.
- If you're making a long recipe, plan for little breaks. We stopped and did a yeast experiment during one of the bread rises. We also made some strawberry jam to go with our bread. Sometimes we play with the measuring cups and spoons seeing how many spoonfuls of water it will take to fill the cup, etc.
- Have them take turns kneading the bread. My kids loved this part, which was a good thing! It took almost 15 minutes to get the dough to the right consistency. This is a fun activity to build hand strength.
- Enlist their help with clean up, but make it fun. My kids love washing dishes in the sink and running the mini vac (I'll have to remind them of this when they're teenagers).
- Make enjoying their creation a little celebration and allow them to serve mom, dad and each other. It's even better if they can share some with the grandparents or neighbors.
There's nothing quite like the smell of bread baking. By the time our bread got to the oven, a summer evening thunderstorm had started and it just seemed peaceful in the house. We enjoyed toast with strawberry jam the following morning.
The kids were delighted to present their grandparents with a loaf of warm bread and strawberry jam.