HIGHGATE — More than 350 students in Franklin County are baking bread for community members in need this week.
On Wednesday, students at Highgate Elementary School and Bellows Free Academy (BFA) in Fairfax took part in King Arthur Flour’s Bake for Good program. King Arthur provides the flour, yeast and some cooking tools to make the bread; students provide the labor.
Every student who participates in a workshop on bread making goes home with four pounds of flour, enough to make two loaves of bread, one to keep and one to share.
In Highgate, the donated loaves will go to Martha’s Kitchen, the St. Albans soup kitchen. In Fairfax, the loaves are going to the food shelf, senior housing, Tim’s House and area churches that donate to the poor.
Amy Driscoll, of King Arthur Flour, which is located in Norwich, gave the students a bread making demonstration, including not only how to make bread, but also cinnamon rolls, soft pretzels, and pizza dough.
Students discussed yeast, what it needs to live and how it makes bread rise. After proofing the yeast by putting it in warm water with sugar, Driscoll showed students the contents of the bowl. “It stinks and it looks dirty,” she said. “Perfect. We’re on the way to great bread.”
Driscoll also staged a “flour intervention” by showing the proper way to measure flour. It should be fluffed first, and then gently shaken into the measuring cup before leveling it with a flat surface. The difference between fluffed and packed flour can be as much as a quarter cup, she said, explaining that too much flour can ruin a loaf of bread.
She also explained the role of salt, oil and gluten in creating the taste and texture of bread.
Demonstrating how to knead bread, Driscoll told the students, “When you become a great baker, which I believe you will, you’ll develop your own rhythm.”
Showing students rising bread, she described how the gluten is acting like a balloon and trapping the carbon dioxide given off by the yeast.
Her student assistant, sixth grader Gabe Unwin, was given the chance to learn to toss pizza dough while Bri Lyford, also in the sixth grade, made cinnamon rolls.
To make cinnamon rolls, the dough was rolled into a rectangle, coated with cinnamon sugar and then rolled into a log. The log was then sliced to create rolls with dental floss. “Dental floss is the secret to a delightful smile and beautiful cinnamon rolls,” said Driscoll.
Paula Yandow, who works at Highgate Elementary, said her daughter Sunni attended a King Arthur workshop while a student at Fairfield Elementary. Inspired, she went to culinary school and became a pastry chef.
King Arthur has been going into schools to teach students to bake for more than 20 years, said Driscoll, although the donation part of the program is a recent addition.
The program has expanded to four instructors around the country who visit 35,000 students in 200 schools.
“It’s a big community service project,” said Highgate Assistant Principal Karen Casavant, as well as a chance to apply math and science knowledge.
In Highgate, 115 fourth, fifth and sixth grade students participated. At BFA, 195 middle school students took part.
Driscoll visited both schools on Wednesday. On Thursday, Amy Billado, of BFA, said 145 loaves of bread had been brought into the school for donation. “The kids really loved it,” she said.