Both of my sons like to bake bread.
I think a big part of this comes from the fact that as I work and bake at home, the boys, still young enough to be in the “I want to be just like dad” phase, see how much I enjoy it and then want to do it as well. They also prefer a softer bread with less crust than what I like to make… And if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.
But baking with children has its challenges, and so, I find myself saying no to their bread making requests much more often than I’d like to admit.
Baking with children is messy.
When baking by myself, I can minimize the cleaning by using as little space as possible, washing the tools as soon as I am done with them, and so on. With children, things never go quite as that smoothly. Even just the fact that instead of one dough bowl there are now three makes it more complicated. And on top of that (at least my) children really don’t know how to sit still.
They are all over the place – and so is the dough…
Baking with children breaks your routine.
I have noticed that whenever I try to bake with my boys while also making my own bread at the same time, my own results suffer. Looking after the young bakers takes so much effort that I forget to time my schedule properly, I often weigh my ingredients sloppily, and so on…
The finely tuned routine I would follow on a normal baking day gets mixed and confused as I try to keep the kitchen in one piece.
Baking with children is frustrating.
My sons, aged six and four, hate following orders.
They want to find their own way, and so, if they have ideas they want to experiment with, the last thing they want to hear is me teaching them about the proper ways of making bread. For someone who loves bread and has spent countless hours reading and writing about bread this can be frustrating.
Why don’t they appreciate my advice!?
Because of the reasons above, my first, natural reaction is to just keep the kids out of the kitchen and as far away from bread making as possible.
Ah, the peace and quiet.
Ah, the joy of only cleaning after yourself.
But if I did that, I would miss on a lot.
It’s fun to make bread with children.
When you let go of your own ideals and actually let the kids run the show, everything changes.
What first felt like a chore becomes an amazing experience: You get to see how a child interacts with dough. You get to chat about bread (and you might even be able to sneak in your tips and tricks in the form of regular chatter rather than a set of instructions). You might even get new, fresh ideas for your own baking that you would have never thought of!
But most importantly, you get to see the excitement of a child doing something real for himself. And that is contagious.
Baking with children is empowering.
Baking bread is a great project for a six-year-old because he or she can handle the entire process from start to finish with very little help from you. Maybe you want to measure the ingredients, and you probably want to handle the oven, but apart from that, there is nothing in bread making that is all that difficult!
And children love bread. So, being able to take something they love and normally see only adults make, and then being able to make it themselves is a hugely empowering feeling.
I can guarantee that after the first attempt, they want to do it again. And again. And again.
Making bread with children is time together.
Finally, and most importantly, when you bake with your children, you get to spend time doing something fun together. Something you both enjoy.
A lot of the time, parents and children have ideas about what they want to do that don’t quite match. We parents might not be drawn into our children’s play quite in the same way as the children do. And a lot of what we do makes a little sense to them.
Bread is a chance to do something fun with the entire family, in a way that is enjoyable for everyone. Sure, you will want to bake your own serious breads in your own time (maybe with some practice you can do it at the same time with the kids too) but bringing the kids in the kitchen is a great way to share the journey with them!
The photo at the beginning of this post shows a bread my older son, Oiva, made earlier this week. He loves toast and thinks my normal sourdough bread is too chewy for his taste (and has a too dark and crisp crust), so he had clear requirements for his bread: he wanted it to be soft and with a thin crust, and he wanted it to have a bouncy sandwich bread look.
So, with this goal in mind, together we planned a recipe. To get the soft crumb, we replaced water with milk and added some butter and a little bit of sugar syrup into the dough. He came up with the idea of making five balls of dough and placing them in the tin to create the looks he was after.
Here’s the final recipe:
- 500g bread or all purpose flour
- 350g warm milk
- 25-50g water (if the dough feels too stiff)
- 3g dried yeast
- 10g salt
- 10g sugar syrup (optional, or you can use sugar too)
- 40g butter
Mix all ingredients except butter in a bowl, mix well, then knead any way you (or your child) like: on the table, in the bowl, in the air, by throwing the dough around… At the end of working the dough, mix in the butter and keep working the dough until the butter is completely incorporated.
Leave to rest until the dough roughly doubles in size.
Divide the dough in five and shape each piece into a ball. Place the balls in a greased baking tin and leave to rest until doubled in size again. If you want more flavor, leave the dough in a cool place. If you are busy, just keep it in room temperature.
Bake at 210°C for 30 minutes
Cool and enjoy.
Notice the pride in your child’s eyes when he or she presents the bread to the family.