My mother, along with a bit of help from her 11 carb-loving little apprentices, baked all our bread when we were growing up. It was a time-consuming and labor-intensive task. But the aroma of those freshly baked loaves drifting through our house made it worth every minute that we spent helping her mix, knead, and punch down the dough.
If your kids, like mine, adore freshly baked bread, delight them with this recipe for tender, yeast-raised homemade rolls they can make (with your help) in way less time with far less labor.
Bread baking is not only a fun family activity but also a bit of a science lesson. Your kids will learn that yeast makes dough rise, that dough is ready when it feels right (smooth, not sticky), and that water should feel warm but not hot on your wrist before you add it to the dough. (If the water is too hot, the yeast won’t do its job and your bread won’t rise!)
To make these rolls, all your kids have to do is let the dough rise overnight (or for instant gratification, as little as eight hours), mix and knead the dough, shape the dough into balls, and let you slide the rolls into a Dutch oven or any other pot with a tightly fitting lid for baking.
Keep these tips in mind:
- These rolls are prepared in several steps because the dough needs to rise before you bake it. So, if you have time, make the dough in the morning, let it rise for eight hours, and bake it in the afternoon to enjoy delicious homemade rolls for dinner.
- Bread making is not an exact science. You may need to add a little extra water, a couple of tablespoons at a time if the dough is dry and crumbly. If it’s super sticky, you’ll want to sprinkle it with a few tablespoons of flour and then mix this in thoroughly. In short, you should feel perfectly comfortable not taking the amounts given in this recipe at face value. Always feel free to adjust the amount of flour and water you use during the kneading process.
- Bread baking is also a bit messy. Wear aprons—and expect to find flour on the floor, the table, hands, and faces.
- For variety, stir a little garlic powder and Italian seasoning into the dough for a Mediterranean flavor, or a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg for a sweet-spicy taste.
What Kids Learn
- Dough needs to rest—actually, rise—before you bake it
- Plan to let it rest for at least eight hours—or even overnight.
- Yeast is a living organism that’s too small to see with the naked eye, but it makes bread taste delicious!
What You’ll Need
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1½ cups warm (not hot!) water
What to Do
- Invite your child to measure the flour, salt, and yeast into a large bowl, and stir the mixture with a large spoon. Then, have her pour warm water into the bowl, and then stir the mixture until a soft dough forms.
- Help her cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside for about 8 hours. (When finished, show your child how much the dough has risen!)Teachable Moment: 4 Bread-Making Facts
- Yeast is one of the very few living things that you can buy at the supermarket. It’s a friendly single-cell fungus that’s too small to see with the naked eye.
- Yeast is used in baking to make the dough rise. The yeast you use in bread eats the sugars in the dough and produces air bubbles that make the bread nice and fluffy.
- This process of making air bubbles in dough is called leavening. Baking powder or baking soda can also do this, but yeast gives bread products the taste you know and love.
- Because yeast is a living thing, it is dried out and put to sleep during production. To get your sleepy yeast ready to bake, just mix it in some warm water with a little sugar and wait for the bubbling to begin.
- Place a Dutch oven into your kitchen oven and preheat to 400°F.
- Fun alert! Sprinkle a large work surface with flour. Using a plastic spatula, scrape the very sticky dough onto the floured surface. Let your child flour her hands. Sprinkle the dough with about ¼ cup of flour. Show your child how to knead the dough. When it stops being so sticky, cut the dough into 6 pieces. Have your aspiring baker form each piece of dough into a ball.Teachable Moment: Baking Tips You Need to Know
- Baking is a science, and with patience and attention, you can learn to turn out perfect loaves every time! Depending on the recipe, you may want to use a measuring cup to measure your ingredients or weigh the ingredients on a scale.
- Make sure all your ingredients are fresh! Bread depends on chemical reactions happening just right—so if your flour or yeast is old, it may not work as well as it’s supposed to.
- When kneading dough, give the dough and your hands a little dusting of extra flour. This keeps the dough from sticking to your hands.
- Bread needs a bit of time to rest and rise! While it’s rising, make sure it’s waiting somewhere warm—and keep it damp with a wet cloth over the top!
- Using oven mitts, remove the Dutch oven from the preheated kitchen oven. It will be hot, so be careful! Only adults should be handling this step! Line the Dutch oven with parchment paper. Carefully place the rolls in the Dutch oven in a single layer. Cover, and return it to the oven to bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the Dutch oven and continue to bake the rolls for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until done. To test for doneness, carefully remove one roll from the Dutch oven and slice in half with a serrated knife to see if it’s fully baked.
- Remove the Dutch oven from the kitchen oven. Let the rolls remain in the Dutch oven for about 10 minutes. Then transfer the rolls to a rack to finish cooling. Serve at dinner or for a snack with butter, honey, jam, or peanut butter. When cool, slice and use for sandwiches.