Your challenge this week: To make bread by hand
This challenge encourages the following values:
Resourcefulness, Optimism, Patience, Commitment, Serenity.
What you need to complete your challenge this week:
- An oven, that you can use or help your children to use safely
- A recipe. Below, I have provided my very simple white bread recipe which I have both succeeded at, baking a beautiful loaf, and failed at, by producing something that could have cracked my kitchen floor tiles had I dropped it. Succeed or fail just enjoy the experience! Basically, all you need is white bread flour, a sachet of dried yeast, salt and water.
- Maybe a steaming bowl of your favourite soup to enjoy with the bread you made by your own and your children’s fair (and hopefully cleanish) hands.
If all else fails…
You can pick up homemade bread packet mixes in the supermarket but put the bread maker away and get your hands dirty, this is a wonderfully sensory experience, you’ll love it or hate it but be brave and try it.
Food for thought for grown-ups:
So bread, the food most widely consumed across the world, has been consumed for thousands of years, has changed beyond recognition in its processing and is available in an abundance of weird and wonderful flavours and styles. Bread was once an identifying marker of social status, the darker the bread the poorer you were considered to be, white bread was expensive and bought by the social elite. Funny now to think of the reversal, how now the brown bread varieties with grains and flavour are more expensive than their white alternatives. Over the years different countries and cultures have created their own bread styles from flatbreads to baguettes. For some, grains and water mixed and baked can signify the difference between life and death, for others, bread has become a key breakfast, lunch and supper ingredient. Either way bread itself has been a staple food in the homes of people all over the world for as long as history has been recorded. So why make it? why not just buy it for £1 for a sliced loaf? Well, because it is a wonderfully satisfying little science experiment, free of additives and preservatives, that you get to eat at the end plus it makes the whole house smell delicious!
This is my recipe found in one of my many recipe books from years ago. There are literally hundreds of recipes to choose from though so don’t plump for mine if you’d like to make something more interesting…
Get the scales out, a large mixing bowl, a fine woven tea towel (not the fluffy cotton variety) or a very large plastic bag, a measuring jug, a wooden spoon and a clear surface. Mix 1lb and 2oz of white bread flour and put a little aside for dusting and adding, a 7oz sachet of dried yeast and 10g salt in a large bowl. Add 350ml water and stir to a sticky consistency, keep mixing and watch for it to change to a softer slightly less sticky lump (add some of the extra flour now if too sticky). Flour your surface and start kneading. Don’t be forceful with it, massage it, feel it, turn it in your hands and stretch it across your worktop. Again await the change to a soft springy mass. Enjoy the process, shut your eyes, feel the dough, breath and be patient, put some music on, feel the burning in your arms as they tire, find a rhythm, spend 10 minutes living in the moment. Then pop it in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling and pop it in the airing cupboard or somewhere else warm for an hour. Hopefully, in this time it will double in size and you can tip it out and knead it again for 30 seconds or so. Put the dough this time into a well-oiled tin or on an oiled baking tray if you want a round loaf and cover loosely if you can with a tea towel (fine woven one rather than the fluffy cotton variety) and put it back in its warm spot for another 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220c. When the 45 minutes are up pop it in the oven, cook for 30 minutes and enjoy the best smell ever as it fills your kitchen. When the timer goes off take it out, sit your loaf on a cooling rack and do your best to leave it alone for at least an hour! Yeah right I hear you say… enjoy!
And for the children:
Making bread with children is a perfect opportunity to connect with them without the all too common screen distractions. It is an opportunity to talk without the often off-putting eye contact that many children, especially teenagers, hate. Think of walking and talking compared to sitting across a table from someone when you are having a discussion.
That intimate face to face interaction can be intimidating but throw in an activity like cooking where your hands and eyes are busy on a task and the pressure seems reduced. We need to connect more with our children. It is so important. Social media, school environments and peer pressure are all creating a reality for our children that we are often naive to and excluded from. Our children want independence but with that comes secrecy and the hidden reality of the pressures they may really be facing. This challenge provides a safe place to sit and talk whilst being occupied with a physical task. Use this time to connect with your child, they are never too young for deep and meaningful chats, young children will absolutely love your full and undivided attention, they crave it like smarties! Older children, although they may not admit it, will also appreciate your company and your attention. If things get heavy lighten the mood and talk about how easy it is to make bread with just a few ingredients and do they think they’ll prefer it to a shop bought loaf. Talk about how the dough feels in their hands, what the yeast is doing, ask them if they’re looking forward to eating it. This brings me to another valuable value, patience, patience during the kneading process, the rising process, the cooking and the cooling processes and the reward for that patience is huge – and edible! There is nothing tastier than a fresh loaf of bread with some hot soup. Real winter comfort food to enjoy together.
So go for it, really enjoy the fruits of your labour, take your time, use the time to just be present if you are doing it alone or to really connect if you are tackling this challenge with your child. With just a few simple and cheap ingredients you can create a warm and comforting meal accompaniment.