I wanted to show my daughter that science was in our everyday life. Oftentimes, we apply the principles of physics, chemistry or biology without even knowing. We can all be scientists and we are by observing and studying carefully what happens around us.
Here is a great example — bread baking. Baking bread is full of teaching moments. Let’s do this edible experiment together and see what kids can learn at each step.
What you need
For the yeast solution:
- 1/3 package active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
For the dough:
- 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 tablespoon salt
- 2/3 tablespoon cooking oil (e.g. canola oil) or butter
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.
- learn how to measure.
- what is yeast? Yeast is a live, single-celled fungus. Active dry yeast is lies dormant (despite the name) until it comes into contact with warm water.
- Stir gently and put aside for 15 mins or until you will see a layer of foam form on the surface.
- once reactivated in warm water, yeast begins feeding on the sugars and releasing carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide forms a layer of small bubbles on the water surface. This is called anaerobic fermentation.
- ask your little one to observe the bubbles.
- Add salt, oil 2 cups of flour.
- Beat until smooth.
- Then stir in enough remaining flour, a little bit at a time, to form a soft dough.
- Turn onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.
- great fine motor exercise and sensory activity! My daughter especially enjoyed this part.
- kneading mangles and knots together proteins inside the flour to form strands of gluten.
- Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top.
- Cover with a wet towel and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- remember yeast is only active in warm water? Yeast needs a warm and moist environment to ferment.
- during fermentation, the released carbon dioxide is trapped by the strands of gluten in the rising bread. This is what causes the bread dough to rise, or expand on the surface, leaving behind air pockets throughout the dough.
- Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide dough into smaller doughs.
- notice when you punch down the dough, its size shrinks. That’s because the strands of gluten are still soft and cannot hold in shape to preserve the space inside when they’re under pressure.
- punching down removes some of the gas bubbles formed during rising and produces a finer grain. It also redistributes the yeast cells, sugar and moisture so they can ferment and rise the dough during the proofing stage.
- Shape each into a loaf, a croissant, a butterfly, an animal, etc. Use your (or your kid’s) imagination. Use a rolling pin if needed.
- opportunity to exercise the creative minds.
- Place the shaped loaves on a greased pan. Cover with a wet towel and let it rise again (proofing), for about 30-45 minutes.
- Bake at 375° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Check occasionally to prevent burning.
- Move the loaves from the pan to wire racks to cool.
- Study the size of the bread loaves.
- carbon dioxide, like most gases, expands when it is heated. In the oven, air pockets inside the bread expand and caused the bread to increase further in size (oven spring). That is why the bread is larger in size than the bread dough that went in.
- Break up a piece and observe the small holes inside.
- the space created by the air pockets’ expansion gives the bread a soft texture.
Not only was it fun, but the experiment was also tasty. My daughter refused to share her two big pieces of bread, which was a very good indication that the baking was a success.