Baking bread at home is easy and fun, and, most importantly it doesn’t have to be messy. Bread in a bag is a unique twist on traditional baking methods that your kids will love to make and eat.
One of my fondest childhood memories involves running to a store with a few coins squeezed in my sweaty fist to buy a loaf of fresh bread. I remember breaking through the crust with my (probably) dirty fingers on the way home, tugging at the soft goodness inside and stuffing it into my mouth. Sometimes the loaf was so fresh that breaking through the crust would release steam that burned my fingers.
When I started homeschooling my children with a Waldorf inspired curriculum, it suggested establishing a regular bread-baking routine. We gave it a try. Our home smelled like a bakery while my kids were learning math and measurements. It quickly became a tradition.
Over the last decade, we’ve tried hundreds of recipes. With four kids now, cello lessons, and swimming practice, life is so busy that we often end up making bread in a machine. But every once in a while, we press that pause button and spend our time making bread by hand again.
Today I want to share one of my kids’ favorite recipes that we call Bread in the Bag. In this recipe, you replace the boring step of mixing ingredients in a bowl with a spoon with mixing ingredients in a bag with your hands. My kids love squeezing the dough through the bag while jumping around the kitchen and giggling!
What you need
Flour – 3 cups + 1 tablespoon for dusting
Sugar – 3 tablespoons
Active dry yeast – 1 ½ teaspoons
Warm water – 1 cup
Dry milk – 3 tablespoons
Oil – 3 tablespoons
Salt – 2 teaspoons
PAM or another oil spray
Plastic bags – one per child
Mini loaves pan or cookie sheet
What to do
- To a gallon bag, add 1 cup flour, the sugar, the yeast, and one cup of warm water. Seal the bag and squeeze the contents with your hands until well blended.
- Let it rest in a warm place for ten minutes or until bubbles appear. Dance while you wait. May we suggest Baby Sharks?
- Open the bag and add 1 cup of flour, the dry milk, oil, and salt. Seal the bag and squeeze the contents with your hands until well blended.
- Add the last cup of flour, seal, and knead the bag until all the dry ingredients are wet.
- Spread some flour on a clean table, kitchen counter, or large cutting board. Divide the dough between your children (if you have more than one) and invite them to knead it. Ideally, you want to keep them going for 5-10 minutes. Sometimes my kids are done after two minutes and no big harm done. The bread gets eaten anyway.
Teach your kids the proper kneading technique: Press – Lift – Fold. First, press the ball of dough. Then lift the top portion and fold it over. Repeat. I tell my kids it’s like pressing magic dust into a fairy cake.
- What final loaf size do you prefer? You have a choice: one big loaf, two small, or, as in my family of four small kids, we prefer 4-6 mini loaves. The mini loaf pan we use has a cavity size 3.8×2.5 and also works well for pound bread. If you don’t have mini loaf pans, no problem. Just shape the dough into ovals, place them apart on a cookie sheet, and bake like that.
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- Place your dough in the desired pan (first spray it with PAM or another oil spray) and let it rise for a half hour under a clean towel or plastic wrap.
- Bake at 375 F until golden brown: 9×13 loaf one hour; 8×4 loaf – 35 minutes. Four or five loaves in mini loaf pans – 20-25 minutes.
To make this recipe gluten free, replace 3 cups of flour with 3 cups gluten-free flour + 3 teaspoons gluten-free thickeners like guar gum or xanthan gum. Today, I used King Arthur’s brand flour and xanthan gum.
The Science of Bread
Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods on Earth, a part of all cultural regions and cuisines. I have just recently learned that the word “Lord” comes from the old Germanic word “loaf” because the original meaning of Lord was “bread keeper.”
The fascinating thing about bread is the science of it. You mix a bit of this and a bit of that. Then you heat the moist mass of dough and, voila, you end up with a delicious loaf of bread. Is it magic? Nope, science, though it probably did seem like magic to our ancestors.
One very important bread ingredient is yeast. It converts sugar in the recipe into carbon dioxide and alcohol (ethanol). Don’t worry, most of the alcohol evaporates during baking. Only about 2% of ethanol remains in baked bread.
Carbon dioxide is what caused the dough to expand on the surface. Multiple air pockets are formed and trapped in place by the strands of gluten. Carbon dioxide is what gives traditional bread its airiness.
There’s no gluten in gluten-free bread, so a replacement is essential. Guar gum, xanthan gum, or arrowroot starch are my staples for gluten replacement in baking. I also like to add psyllium husks to avoid getting dense loaves, a common problem with gluten-free bread.
This recipe is perfect for beginners and experts alike. There’s no way to screw it up, and it’s a fun way to make your home smell like a bakery without breaking out your mixer or bowls.
Let me know in the comments below if your kids enjoyed making their own individual loaves of bread.