Use your loaf: the science of bread making

As part of British Science Week, we went along to the Harehope Quarry Project in Weardale to learn about the science behind our daily bread. The day was aimed at families, and the eco-classroom was packed with people ranging from toddlers to grandparents. The volunteer team at Harehope was joined by Sarah from the Moody Baker at Barnard Castle, and together they took the group through the life of the loaf, from growing and grinding, to making and baking, and finally eating.

Grass Head created at Harehope Quarry

Gary the Grass Head

Outdoors the children planted wheat and created their own ‘grass head’ characters, then moved on to grinding the wheat to make flour. After they selected the best and hardest rocks to use to produce some real flour, they set to work and soon realised what a task it would have been to make enough for a whole loaf.

Grinding wheat and making flour

Grinding wheat and making flour

Back in the classroom, we learned more about activating and feeding the yeast, with some nifty experiments to demonstrate how the carbon dioxide is released.

Experiments with yeast

Experimenting with yeast

We mixed our yeast, sugar and water, and after some warmth from the wood burner, our mixture was frothy and ready to go, and we had a chance to mix and knead our dough. We had some expert tuition and even those of us who had baked bread before learned some fantastic tips and tricks to improve our bread making. It was fascinating to learn why things happen the way they do when you are baking, and to remember that what can seem like a magical process is actually science in action. While we set aside our batches of dough to prove and rise, we tasted different types of bread, and learned about the advantages of real bread over the mass produced versions.

Mixing the dough (we didn't tell him that bowl was empty)

Mixing the dough (we didn’t tell him that bowl was empty)

Back outside, we were fitted with pedometers to find out just how long it takes to burn off the calories in a slice of bread (those of us chasing adventurous toddlers around burned them off slightly quicker than others). It was then time to warm up by the wood fired pizza oven and pile the calories back on with some homemade pizza, before heading home to bake our loaves.

Burning calories

Burning calories

The event went down well with everyone who took part. Even the smallest member of the family was able to get involved, and we all learned something about bread making and had fun while we did it.

The finished article

The finished article

Jill Essam, from the Harehope Quarry Project, said: “We would like to thank the British Science Association for funding this community event and enabling more isolated communities to access British Science Week. The Harehope Quarry Project was delighted to welcome so many people to the event and hope they will come and enjoy future family learning activities.”

Use your loaf: the science of bread making at The Harehope Quarry Project, Frosterley, Saturday 21 March 2015. With thanks to Jill and Tom, and all the volunteers at the project.

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