First Graders learn First Hand about Hand made Bread

Youngsters learn more than baking while baking bread. Nickloaves_1.jpg

Ms. Jue-Leong’s first grade class, Oakland, CA, learned about good bread first hand. First they visited Acme Bakery to see how bread is made. They were shown the process from flour silos depositing flour into the mixers to the crusty baked loaves coming out of the steam oven.

Each child was given a loaf to take home and a mini loaf to eat on the spot, which all did. The following week, at the beginning of the day, Master Baker, Danielle Forestier, in chefs' uniform, came to their classroom and led them in making their own loaves.Eighteen students and two teachers arrived to cleaned off desk tops set up with metric balance scales and a large, easy to read recipe on the blackboard. They were told that the first thing every good cook does is wash his hands, so first thing, they all trooped off down the hall to wash their hands. They returned to weigh the dry yeast, mix the water to its 75° F temperature and sprinkle the yeast on the water to proof. While the yeast proofed they learned about using the scale and a bit about the metric system. Each group of 4 made a 500 g batch of dough, mixing and kneading by hand and putting it to rise for 90 minutes. Though several of the students didn’t want to touch the ‘yucky’ dough, more of them enjoyed the kneading process.

Returning after an hour and a half, they scaled the dough into four pieces, one for each one of them to shape. They marked the bottoms of their loaves with a sticker and their name on it so they could keep track of their own product. The loaves rested again on a floured board protected by a towel from getting drafts.

I am flattining bredAnother hour later, Forestier returned again to help them bake the loaves in the teachers' lunch room. We threw a cup full of water onto the floor of the oven to create a steamy environment like the Acme oven, much to the joy and excitement of the kids. The little oven fit only a few loaves, so some were put in a bit early, others taken out par-baked and then finished after the rest. While the loaves baked the students located France on the world map.

The loaves were baked and cooled just before the end of the school day. Bakers-to-be, maybe not, but these beginning readers used their new reading skills to understand and follow the recipe, they used number knowledge, the scaled and they waited, one of the most difficult skills to master for a young person.

And the last thing every good cook does is clean up the mess. Not fair to leave flour on the floor for the janitor!

Formula for artisan loaves 

(printed in 72 font to post on blackboard)

500 grams bread flour

285 grams water, that is 75° F warmThese are their actual baked loaves, aren't they gorgeous!

4 grams active dry yeast

8 grams salt

  1. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Do not stir!
  2. Put flour on a board in a cone. Make a well in the top. When the yeast begins to get bubbly pour the yeast and the water gradually into the well. Mix the flour and water together while you pour.
  3. Add the salt when the dough is mixed well.
  4. Knead the dough until it is stretchy.
  5. Let rise.
  6. Shape into a loaf and let rise again.
  7. Slash a cut on the top and put it into a very steamy, 425° F oven. Close the door quickly and let bake until nice and brown.
  8. Cool and eat!

  ©:Danielle Forestier, 2002, not to be reprinted without permission

Ingredients needed:

Bread flour (used grocery store, unbleached bread flour)

Active dry yeast

Table salt

Equipment needed:

Thermometer, scales, cups for water, cups for salt, tiles for oven shelves, bread boards for rising dough and loaves, towels to cover loaves, peel to load and remove loaves from oven.

Anyone may use these notes to reproduce the experience for his local school. Please use credit if printed recipes are sent home with kids.