My plan to have the kids bake with me Wednesday before Thanksgiving fell through when my Dad offered to take them down with him to his place the night before. That is an offer I never refuse.
With the kids out of my hair, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work, producing a dozen rolls, a braided loaf, and three pies (two pumpkin, one apple) in the four hours before midnight. It was beautiful.
Baking was relatively easy; it was fun; it was soothing; it was highly satisfying. Still, though, I couldn’t help feeling that, by baking without little hands to help me, I was violating part of the spirit and purpose of the adventure.
So, last night, home from all our Thanksgiving weekend travels, we baked bread again, this time altogether. It was, to put it mildly, a very different kind of experience.
They learned all about “our little friends, the yeast” (though I think my oldest was a little weirded out to learn that there are living “crittters” involved in making bread). They helped stir, and they fought over whose turn it was to stir the dough as I added flour.
Finally, though, we had a lump of dough ready to knead. Only, not quite.
I had overestimated the amount of flour I had in the house and underestimated the amount it would take to complete the recipe. Even with several handfuls of oatmeal thrown in, it looked suspiciously goopy.
I had saved out a handful of flour to dust the dough with as we kneaded it, hoping it would be enough. It wasn’t.
The children thought kneading was heavenly.
I, however, was not so delighted. There was dough everywhere. Between fingers, on the counter, on shirts, on the cupboards . . .
. . . and especially in one young fellow’s mouth.
Finally, I said, “ENOUGH!”
The dough needed to rest, I told them. (I read that in a cookbook once, I think, and it sounded nice.) So we turned the mixing bowl over on our lump of goo and tucked it in for a nap while the girls went off for a good wishy-washy. Meanwhile, my hero Kenneth ran off to the store for some more flour. He put on a Danny Kaye movie to amuse us while he was away.
When he finally got back, the dough had rested quite awhile, and I quietly got to work kneading it into shape. I made sure it was already fairly firm before I let the children have another go.
While I finished up the last of the kneading, the children went across the room to help their Dad put sprinkles on the cut-and-bake cookie dough he’d also somehow picked up while he was out. (What a saint!) It was a great tactical diversion.
With the dough at last set aside to rise and the cookies baking, my dear girl kindly helped me begin the long clean-up process.
She also won the “Little Red Hen” Award for being the only child to come back an hour later to help me shape the dough into rolls.
Finally, after two hours, a lot of mess, and some very frazzled nerves (mine, I’m afraid), we were able to enjoy the fruit of our labors: a baker’s dozen of rolls, and one small loaf.
We were so proud.
We devoured the work of our hands with gusto.
Baking bread with the children was much, much harder, messier, and more stressful than baking without them had been. Still, I’m very glad we did it. They learned a lot, and I have a feeling we’ll all remember the event for a long to come.
I may even find the courage and fortitude to do it again sometime . . . eventually.