Sharpen Your Skills in Homemaking 101: Baking Bread

We are going to embark on a series of posts discussing some ideas for the typical skills a Waldorf homeschooling mother needs for the Kindergarten years and beyond.  Many Waldorf schools and Waldorf homeschooling families have a baking day for their families within their weekly rhythms. 

A mother who does work and practical homemaking as a model for her children is very valuable indeed within a Waldorf framework.  From the framework of Waldorf Education, when the child sees the true work that the mother does and can imitate it in play, this strengthens the will of the child.  Doing the same (ACTIVE!) thing at the same time each week is also what strengthens the will.  We work through the will during the Early Years (under 7) as this is what helps to form the physical body for future physical health and lays down the foundation for the rest of the four body….

This post is  not meant to be an exhaustive bread-making tutorial, but a few thoughts regarding this important skill.

First of all, if you can eat wheat, there is something to consider about this much-maligned grain.  Wheat, according to Bread Beckers, is first among the grains for nutritional value including critical B-vitamins when freshly milled and eaten in its entirety, and also of Vitamin E when freshly milled. (You can grind your wheat in a grain mill or in the dry container of a Vita-Mix).    Wheat does have gluten in it, and gluten is the protein of the wheat that you develop by kneading, which then traps and holds the yeast and causes your dough to rise.  Wheat is about the only grain that can make soft, light bread.  Hard wheat has a higher gluten content than soft wheat.  Wheat varieties include hard wheat, soft wheat (red and white), spelt and kamut.  Durum wheat is a pasta-making wheat that semonlina flour comes from.  Grains that have no gluten in them at all can be used in recipes that do not call for yeast. 

Yeast is an important ingredient in bread-making.  It is a living organism that likes a warm, moist environment.  Most of the time I use the yeast in with the water or liquids the recipe calls for and about half the amount of flour to “cool off” the water temperature. It seems to work well for me.   Another factor to consider is that salt is a controller of yeast. 

Sweeteners for bread include honey which you can substitute one to one for any sugar called for in a recipe.  Some folks use Sucanat as well.   Other ingredients sometimes called for in bread recipes include milk, oil or butter or eggs, lecithin (which is from soybeans, so you may  not be able to use if you have soybean allergies in your family), gluten and flax seed.

Bread baking usually takes a bit of time, but well worth the results.  After you grind your wheat, try putting your liquids in a bowl, adding the salt and yeast and part of the flour.  Add the rest of the flour as needed; the dough will be soft when you turn it out onto a floured board.  Kneading times for dough vary; usually about 2 to 5 minutes does the trick.  Then the rising of the dough takes place, which is typically done in a warm place until doubled in size, punched down and shaped as desired.  If time allows, you can do a second rising and then shape the dough.  If you need to slow the rising process, you can also put the dough into the refrigerator overnight.

I feel sometimes making bread dough and shaping it into rolls is an easier place to start for novice bread-bakers.  If your bread dough is not done on the inside, you may need a longer cooking time at a lower temperature.

Bread baking is an excellent way to start a weekly rhythm within your home,

Carrie

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8 thoughts on “Sharpen Your Skills in Homemaking 101: Baking Bread

  1. Carrie, is this something you do in your home, grinding wheat? If so, what mill do you use? I feel fairly strong in using one such as the Family Grain Mill, which is not electric. The folks I know, though, use the Nutramill.
    One consideration was to get a small hand-crank for the “physical” experience, but use the electric for the main work….that just goes against my being, so I can’t belive I even wrote it. :)

    • Yep, we cheat. I use the dry container of a Vita-mix, although now I do have a manual grain mill for making breakfast cereal from oat groats and millet and I *could* grind grain in that as well (We don’t typically bake over the summer here in the hot SouthEastern United States)…It is just for the amount of bread we make in the fall/winter/early spring, it would take a WHOLE lot of physical grinding to make enough flour with the tiny manual grain mill I have for grinding. :) That’s why I stick mainly to breakfast cereals with the manual one. The manual one I have is Italian and is a “Marcato Marga Mulino” and I don’t read Italian so I am not sure what is the brand name and what is not??!!
      I think honestly it depends on how much flour you need, you could always have your kids grind a cup or two in the manual and finish off the rest in a electric mill..I know that is not what you were looking for :) I think also it depends if you are home with a group of kids under age 5 or 6 and that really is the day’s work and experience for school, or if you are like me and have a grades child to teach as well and there is some sense of needing to get a Main Lesson done in the morning as well LOL!
      Don’t know if that helps a bit,
      Carrie :)

  2. Carrie, my daughters are celiac (no gluten allowed!) and we still do plenty of baking ;)

    A little trick for gluten free baking is to use a substitute that is high in protein — it will help the yeast to proof.

    Honestly, though, we mostly do things that don’t need yeast, like biscuits, or pie dough, or (ahem) cookies.

    • Absoltuely, gluten-free does not have to limit your baking, but the yeast-free things definitely seem to come out better in my experience. Please do share some of your favorite resources for gluten-free baking! I know the other moms who are gluten-free will appreciate it! :)

  3. Hi Carrie, I’m wondering when would be a good time to make bread. Ideally I could make it before we go for a morning walk and then the children could make rolls after morning circle when we get back. But I think that will hold up the walk too much and set the whole morning running late. When do you fit it into your day?

    • We usually do start it in the morning, after circle sometimes or before if I have most of the ingredients ready to go….We let it rise two times and typically shape it after lunch if it rising slow, or at break time if it is rising fast… :)

  4. I realize I’m commenting on a very old post, but in case anyone else with very young children finds it difficult to make bread in this traditional way, I have compromised with the 5-Minute Artisan Bread books that are relatively new. They are no knead breads (I do miss kneading bread and when my kids are older and don’t want to eat so much of the raw dough, lol, I will go back to it), very simple to make, but still from scratch, not using a bread machine, etc. I really recommend the newer book that focuses on whole grain recipes.

    • It is fine to comment on older posts – the older posts are actually really active…I like your suggestion, but I would add from the perspective of developing the 12 senses, kneading is an awesome actvity for that…so I would try to do a mix of kneaded and no-knead breads.
      Blessings, and thank you for reading!
      Carrie

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