You’ve waited a long time for this: the long, cold winter is teasing its end. Buds are beginning to bloom, and they do look full of promise, don’t they? The idea that the kids can finally go outside feels like a winning lottery ticket after all the feet-wiping, nose-blowing and big jacket bundling you’ve just endured.
You can feel the change coming and you’re there for it. And then, whoosh, just as fast as you can say “Hey, I can easily use up three hours looking for four-leaf clovers” it’s raining. Pouring.
The whole “April showers bring May flowers” is not fixing how baited and switched you feel right now. But you know what will? A multi-step activity with some independence, research, education and baking. And we’ve got you covered. Do you know what day it is today? It’s Breads of the World day! That’s right. We checked.
Step 1: Get those kids together to discuss some bread and geography. There might be an argument. Or six. But, come on, there would be anyway, and these will be educational. “No, Sam, Pita is flat!” beats “I’m not touching you!” any day. Plus, it’s authorized internet use. Bingo!
Step 2: Once they’ve agreed on a country and a type of bread, it’s time to find a recipe. One that they can do mostly themselves, with your supervision. A few fun tips: focaccia has fingerprints, challah, zopf bread or choreg require braiding, and, yes, soft pretzels do not have to come out of a box.
Step 3: While that bread is rising, let these young people use their imaginations. Only step in if they go all Lord of the Flies on you. Otherwise, tell them to make choices about how to fill the time. Reading? Card games? Starting their own food blog or baking business?
Step 4: Just put the oven light on, okay? They want to watch what happens. It’ll be fine. It’s not a cake and it’s not going to collapse on itself. Just avoid third degree burns and you’re good.
Step 5: Cooling can be excruciating! But it is necessary. See Step 3, only shorter.
Step 6: That moment when they taste it. What, it stopped raining? Great. Crumbs outside.
Here’s an excerpt from The Anti-Cookbook in cases your bakers get excited about Zopf bread:
Zopf Bread Recipe
Originally made for an elementary school World Fair Day (my son’s country was Switzerland); our first version from the Internet was unpalatable. Round 2, we experimented and got this one.
Milk, 1 1/3 cups
Yeast, 1 Tbsp.
White flour, 3 1/2 cups
Sea salt, 1 Tbsp.
1 Egg, separated
Melted butter, 2 Tbsp.
- Dissolve 1 tbsp. yeast in 1 1⁄3 cups warm milk.
- Add 1 egg yolk, 2 tbsp. melted butter, 2 cups white flour, and 1 tbsp. sea salt. Stir.
- Add 1 1⁄2 cups more flour, 1⁄2 cup at a time.
- Turn out onto floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.
- Return to bowl, place in warm spot, cover, and let rise (about 2 hours).
- Punch down, divide into 3, and roll each part into cylinders.
- Braid, stretching dough from both ends. Pinch ends together, place on greased cookie sheet, and let rise another 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Brush loaf with wash of egg white and 1 tbsp. water.
- Bake 25 minutes.