I started breadmaking with my 20month-old granddaughter and thought that was early enough. However, when her younger sister was 15 months old and we could no longer ignore her cries of, “and me!”, we hoisted her up to the worktop and they’ve both been making bread ever since. They’re now 11 and 9 and have been joined by my grandson, who is now 7 - they all absolutely love making bread. The oldest one rang me the week before her last birthday and asked me to make petit pain au chocolat with her guests at her birthday party. Her friends all made a batch each and went home with several in a party bag instead of the usual guff!
Breadmaking with kids is a simple, painless way into the subject if you’ve never done it before. If you just set out to make a simple playdough (and it is the original playdough!), then shape it and leave it for a bit, you’ll find it’s risen – it may even double in size – then you can bake it. If you’re happy with the results, then the next time you can make some pizza, or whatever.
The ORIGINAL Playdough
(Note: Please try and let your kids do as much as they are able to. Parents in my Family Learning classes invariably say how impressed they are with their kids abilities when given their head!)
1 mug (200g) flour – preferably bread flour, but any wheat flour will do
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional) – or a dessertspoon of sugar1/3 mug (125ml) lukewarm water (I call it bathwater - well it is the same temperature!)
1 teaspoon yeast (any sort)
1. Fill the mug with flour (or weigh 200g) and tip it into a mixing bowl. Add the salt or sugar depending whether you want a savoury or a sweet dough. Measure the water and add the yeast. Stir until all the yeast has dissolved, then add to the flour in the bowl.
2. Holding the bowl with one hand, mix the ingredients together into a soft dough, then knead (flatten and fold) until the dough is smooth. Stop kneading before you get fed up - all kneading does is distribute the ingredients evenly.
3. Shape the dough as below, leave to prove (rise), covered with a dry tea towel, until it’s doubled in size, then bake it at 220C/Gas 7 until it’s coloured underneath (you'll always get colour on top, but you need to see the bottom is done as well). Place on a cooling rack to cool.
Here’s a few ideas as to what you and your child can do with it:
- Teddy bear shapes, made with different sized balls of dough. Use tiny balls for eyes, buttons, etc.
- Caterpillars, with the all the same size balls of dough – except for the head which should be slightly bigger. Put a face and feelers on the head.
- ‘House’ bread; roll out the dough to about pizza-sized then make a house shape – first cut a square (counting the sides as you do it) then a triangle – with each side a bit larger than a side of the square. Place these together on baking parchment then use the trimmings for windows, doors, chimney, etc.
- Banded snake bread; roll the dough out into a long snake and curl it onto your baking tray. Brush with water at 2cm intervals and sprinkle sesame seeds on the wet dough. Brush with water in the gaps and sprinkle with poppy seeds. If using currants for eyes, cut a slit in the dough to take the currants – otherwise they just fall off as the dough rises. Make a 2cm tongue and slit the end.
- Hedgehog rolls. Make a short finger roll and point one end for the nose. Use currants for the eyes (or tiny balls of dough). From behind, snip spikes with a pair of scissors held at about a 30 degree angle.
- Look out for different shaped pastry cutters.
- Make different coloured bread dough:
- Red – grate some cooked beetroot and add it into the mix (use any liquid as part of the liquid for the dough)
- Brown - add a dessertspoon of cocoa powder along with the flour and sugar
- Smiley face mini pizzas, using cherry tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms – or make these out of the dough.
- Make their name out of dough. Roll out an oval of dough (to use as a plaque), put their name on it, then bake and varnish when it’s cold.
- Finally, encourage your child to suggest or make their own shapes.