WESTFIELD – Six of the seven public elementary schools held a very special program this week that combined the science of baking and paying it forward. For over 20 years, the King Arthur Flour Bake for Good: Kids Program has traveled all over the country helping kids learn to bake and share their homework with those in need.
On Wednesday, a bread baking demonstration was held at Russell, Highland, Southampton Road and Munger Hill elementary schools. Students were led through the steps by instructor Amy Driscoll, who was assisted by two student helpers at each site. Students were then given all of the supplies to make two loaves of bread over the school vacation, and return on Monday, April 25 with one loaf to donate to area food pantries.
Two of the schools, Abner Gibbs and Franklin Ave, held a self-directed program with video instruction about bread making and the donation but did not have the requisite of a minimum 50 students required for an assembly show.
“The program is for grades 4-5 and free for the schools. King Arthur Flour pays for everything. The schools just need to pay it forward with the bread donation,” said Michelle Coach, the parent volunteer at Russell Elementary who brought the program to Westfield.
“I saw something on Facebook, and started working on this in October,” said Coach, a science professor at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield who likes to bake. “It’s a great thing to bring real science to the schools.”
59 children participated in the Russell Assembly, including fifth-grader Paris Reed and fourth-grader Aidan Layng, who were chosen as the baking assistants. Driscoll took command of the assembly from the start, balancing recipe directions with interactive questions and answers. She started by saying the recipe took 3 ½ hours to bake, and asked whether they should start their project the Sunday before it was due at 9 p.m.
“Yes,” said Layng, before realizing that might not work.
Other topics that Driscoll explored were yeast as a living micro-organism and the environment it needs to be active; the positive role gluten plays in bread-making, and how to knead the dough with the fold, push and turn technique.
The rising of the dough created the biggest reaction among the students. After mixing the yeast and flour, kneading it for five minutes, resting it, and then kneading another five minutes, Driscoll said the dough needed to be covered and rest for an hour and a half.
“Did you bring a book? Homework?” she asked after putting the bowl under the demonstration table. She then took out a rested bowl with dough that had doubled in size, causing many students to open their mouths in wonder. “I always recommend a time machine in the kitchen,” Driscoll said.
Driscoll showed the students how to make a beautiful braided loaf to give as a donation with half of the dough she and her assistants had prepared. With the other half, she took them through the steps of shaping a basic loaf, cinnamon rolls, pretzels, garlic knots and pizza.
While helper Reed used fractions to divide her dough into eight parts for cinnamon rolls, helper Layng and the students in the assembly were shown the technique of how to throw pizza dough. After practicing with air dough, Layng threw his circle in the air and caught it, to applause from his classmates.
Driscoll then asked the students if they had more questions. One student asked if they could donate both loaves, but Driscoll said she would like to see them enjoy one loaf of bread after all their hard work.
“Where do you get the bread?” asked another student.
“You have to make it,” Driscoll responded, without missing a beat.
At the end of the assembly, each student was given a King Arthur Flour canvas bag containing a recipe book, white flour, wheat flour, a pastry cutter, yeast and a plastic bag to bring the donation loaf back in.
An employee owned company based in Norwich, Vermont, King Arthur Flour gives thousands of dollars every year in employee time and direct donations to charities nationwide. For more information about the company, and free recipes, go to www.kingarthurflour.com.
Bake for Good Kids Bread Recipe (Makes 2 loaves or 32 rolls)
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1 packet Red Star Yeast
3 cups King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup cooking oil
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1. In a large bowl, combine warm water, sugar, yeast, and 2 cups whole wheat flour. Let mixture rest. When you see bubbles, stir in 1 more cup whole wheat flour.
2. Stir in salt and cooking oil.
3. Stir in 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour. Dough will get harder and harder to stir. Measure out 1 more cup of all-purpose flour. Estimate and sprinkle about 1/2 cup over sticky dough. Using dough scraper, clean the flour from the sides of the bowl and press into the dough until covered with flour and no longer sticky.
4. Plop dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Knead the dough. To prevent sticking, take a little flour from measure cup and sprinkle it on hands or work surface. Knead for 5 minutes, take a break and let the dough rest. While dough is resting, scrape out the mixing bowl, and smear a little oil around the inside.
5. Knead the dough for a few more minutes. Gather the dough into a ball. It’s ready when you lightly press it with your fingertips and it bounces right back. Put the dough into the oiled bowl. Flip the dough once, and cover dough with plastic wrap and a clean towel. Put the dough in a warm place to rise until double in size, about one and a half hours.
6. Put the dough onto a floured surface and gently deflate. Divide the dough in half; form into two loaves.
7. Grease a cookie sheet; put your shaped dough on it. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a clean towel, and let the dough rise again for 30 minutes.
8. Carefully remove plastic wrap and slash the tops of the loaves with a sharp knife (serrated works best). Bake the loaves about 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
9. Cool the bread on rack. Enjoy!