William came home from school on Friday, and he was a bit grumpy. He had homework. Baking for Good is a program put out by the King Arthur Flour Company. They watch a video demonstration and each student receives a little bag cloth bag with a package of yeast, a small bag of whole wheat flour, a bag of white flour. a dough scraper and the recipe.
The idea is that he bake two loaves of bread, one to share with his family. The second loaf goes back to school and is collected with the other loaves of bread and given to a local food pantry.
I listened as we walked. I'm a sucker for stuff like this anyway, so I tried to be cheerful. "We've baked bread before. You enjoyed it. This will be fun." I pointed out that it was a long weekend, so we had plenty of time to get around to it. He remained grumpy. If they would have called it anything besides homework, he'd probably have been much better natured about the whole thing.
In any case, he plunked the kit down on the hoosier cabinet when we got home from school. This morning was the day, and so I got him started on it. Since it was his project, I tried to stay out of the way, unless my assistance was required, but we had plans for the afternoon. It was 9 in the morning, so I figured we were leaving plenty of time.
I pulled out my trusty Kitchen Aide mixer. William said, "What are you doing?' I said that the mixer had a dough hook and was a very nice way to blend and knead the bread. I did not add that it was also quicker.
He looked at me. "We didn't use a mixer. We stirred it."
I said, "Yes, you can do it either way. I'll let you choose whether you want to stir it or use the mixer."
He thought about it. "Let's use the mixer."
I was washing dishes from breakfast. He came over with the measuring cup. "I need one cup of warm water."
I said, "What temperature should the water be?"
He said, "The recipe just says warm water."
I looked. He was right. There was no temperature in the recipe.That seems like kind of critical there. At least, I've always thought so. I got the kitchen thermometer and said, "You want the water to be between 110 and 120 degrees. You don't want the water too hot. That will kill the yeast. You don't want it too cold or the yeast will not grow well."
"The lady did not say that." He followed my directions in an irritated way.
He poured the water into the mixing bowl. He added 1/4 cup of sugar. He added the yeast. He explained to me that you would see the yeast start to foam and that's when you went on to the next step.
"That's right," I said, washing dishes.
I could smell that the yeast was working. He poured the whole wheat flour into another bowl.
"What are you doing there?" I asked.
He explained that the flour needed to be stirred before it was measured.
'Huh,' I thought. I don't stir my flour, but hey, it was not my project, and so I kept my thoughts to myself. A circle of flour surrounded the glass bowl when he was done. He carefully measured out one cup and added it to the yeast mix. I happened to be wiping down the counter, and so I reached over and switched the mixer on low.
William freaked. " TURN THE MIXER OFF! I'M NOT DONE! I HAVE TO ADD ANOTHER CUP OF FLOUR!"
I said, "That's fine. You can do that."
He continued on in an agitated way, waving his arms around.
"William, listen. We're just mixing the flour in. We can stir the first cup in and you can add the second cup. I've made a lot of bread in my life. Really, it's fine."
He was sure it was NOT fine, and he continued on. He added the second cup of wheat, and then 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and a tablespoon of salt.
That's twice as much salt as I use, and so I double checked the measurement. That irritated him too. He was right, though, and said, "I TOLD you...."
The mixer churned on as he added his ingredients, and then he added one last cup of wheat flour. He dumped the wheat flour back into the bag. Well...most of it went into the bag. Then he opened the small bag of white flour and dumped it in the bowl. A small cloud raised up around the table as he stirred and stirred the flour. Then he measured out three cups of flour and added each cup to the mixture, raising up small clouds of flour above the counter too. I watched closely, pointing out that the dough was pulling away from the side of the bowl and that was a sign that it's going just right.
We floured the table and turned the dough out on it and he kneaded the dough. I got down his great-grandmother's bread bowl from the cupboard and buttered it. He shaped the kneaded dough into a ball and plopped it in the bowl. He covered it with plastic wrap. I showed him how to set the bowl in warm water to make it raise faster.
We cleaned up the kitchen while we waited for the 30 min rise time to be done.
He plopped the dough out on the the floured table. and began to roll it out.
"This recipe makes two loaves. You need to divide the dough in half."
He debated that hotly. "It does not say that."
I showed him where it did.
"Oh," he said. dividing the dough in half.
He rolled the dough and folded it following the directions. We were making two rustic loaves, by his choice, and I handed him a knife to make the slashes in the top. Turns out I was dead wrong on that according to the lady who gave the talk. You don't make the slashes until after the loaves had raised a second time.
I didn't bother to tell him that it didn't matter. At this point, I was getting worried about our afternoon plans. It was after 11.
He made his loaves and he let them raise, he made his slashes, and he popped the bread in the oven. It was supposed to bake for 30 minutes. Since we were baking two loaves of bread, he was absolutely certain that the timer should be set for an hour. That did matter and so it was argued. I insisted on having my way in the matter. He was dead certain that I was wrong.
30 minutes later, he was pulling a cookie sheet out of the oven with two perfect loaves of bread. He was quite proud of himself. Later, at supper, we sampled our loaf. It tasted as good as it looked. He is excited to take that second loaf to school tomorrow.
Breadmaking is always a soothing, mindful activity for me. It is quite a different thing when you're baking that bread with a 12 year old armed with a recipe, who knows exactly how the lady did it at school.