Challah! Delicious, moist, eggy. This iconic braided loaf, so important to Jewish tradition and ceremony, also makes a great way to introduce kids to the mysteries and fun of bread-making. From the science of yeast to the importance of rising, our process below covers much of what kids need to know to understand where their next slice is really coming from. Challah’s traditional form wraps together an engaging, crafty moment and an opportunity to learn about this bread’s cultural significance and symbolism.
(This project is adapted from our “I Loaf You” Kitchen Academy box, which aims this recipe directly at kids alongside other bread-focused activities and recipes, stickers, games, and a cool kid’s cooking tool.)
Let’s get baking! The recipe is below. As you proceed, consider three big teachable moments for kids:
When you activate the yeast
The role (and existence!) of these micro-organisms invariably fascinate kids. (Our “It’s Alive!” box teaches all about them.) The handiest explanation: Yeast are organisms that eat sugar and starch, then burp out carbon dioxide. This gas creates little bubbles, which in turn make bread and other baked goods rise. Each yeast packet contains millions of these tiny helpers, and mixing them with warm water “activates” them—waking them up to start feasting on sugar. The thing to watch out for: If you don’t see any bubbles about 10 minutes after you mix the yeast with water, it’s no longer active, and you need to try a new packet.
When you knead the dough
The hands-on fun of folding, stretching, and pressing dough gets kids involved, and also gives you a chance to explain that kneading does two things. First, it creates tiny pockets of air, making the bread lighter. (At this point, you can whip out a slice of sandwich bread or ciabatta and point to all the little holes.) Second, and more importantly, kneading develops gluten, a mixture of two proteins that help give bread its structure and texture. You’re literally changing the dough’s chemical structure! Have your kid assistant poke the dough with her finger. If the indentation springs back to shape, you’ve developed enough gluten.
When the dough rises
As the yeast continue to gobble up starch and sugar, they burp out more CO2. The dough rises, improving its structure. Many recipes (including this one) call for a satisfying punch to the dough to pop large pockets of trapped air. Then let it rise again. Then it’s time to make some challah.