Kitchens can give our children a basic fundamental experience of science. It can be fit around the family week and give our children an opportunity to inquire as scientists, to think about their own hunches and theories and have consistent opportunities to roll up their sleeves and find out the answers themselves.
Bread is not only a basic food that serves as a complex group of elements which when combined give us loaves, rolls and flat-breads. Making bread can be a family science activity for sight, smell and taste.
Gluten is important to make bread rise. The stronger the gluten the more gas it holds and that gas is what makes bread rise.
Different flours contain different amounts of protein. A high –protein flour will make dough with strong gluten, this is good for yeast breads. For many baked goods like pastries, pie crusts you need low protein flour for tender dough.
The following is a great activity to introduce children to gluten and to find out why using different flours can lead to different results. (It can also be used as a science fair project.)
For your experiment you will need to pick at least three flours:
Whole wheat flour
Bowls (one for each flour you’ll be using)
Measure 1 cup of each of your flours into separate bowls. Remind your child that their bowls will need to be labeled.
Add about ½ to ¾ cup of water to each bowl, one bowl at a time. Kneed each mixture until it forms a soft rubber ball of dough, let the dough sit for about 10 minutes.
Have your child take each of the dough balls, one dough ball at a time, over to the sink and run cold water over. Have them cup their hands around the ball and squeeze gently to remove starch. Be careful not to let the dough disintegrate, you may want to put the dough in cheesecloth in order to hold it together; for little ones this will give the best results.
Ask your little scientist to record what they notice about the water. (It is turning milky as it washes away the starch in the dough and the dough ball becomes slimy, gummy, strands of gluten.)
When the water becomes clear there’s no more starch in it, almost pure gluten. Have your child make more notes, is it smaller? -More Stretchy?
Now try baking in a 450 oven for 20- 30 minutes. Again ask your child to come up with their own observations: Did they puff up? Harden?
The gluten you extracted is technically edible, however not very palatable. After experimenting you might want to make basic yeast bread that can be enjoyed by all.