Friday, April 20, 2012

Sourdough and Beyond

Two lucky students went home with new pets today...we have finished our Westward Expansion unit and I offered up a bag of starter to any family interested. Two parents sent in notes saying they'd like to give it a try at home, so at lunchtime I poured a cup of starter into two ziplocs and sent them home at the end of the day along with care and feeding directions and copies of the recipes we made. Colleen took a bagful, and I brought home the rest.

This weekend I am planning on trying out the pancake recipe (with blueberries added!) and then baking sourdough bread until the starter's all used up. Bread freezes well, right?

The school year is zooming to a close, but there's still time for one more theme unit. I am blessed with flexibility in choosing much of the content and how I teach it. I had planned to finish the year off with a science unit that hones in on the issue of sustainability. Aren't I lucky to have found the Nourish curriculum? From its website: Nourish is an educational initiative designed to open a meaningful conversation about food and sustainability, particularly in schools and communities.


First, vacation week. Enjoy the sunshine, wherever you are!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Another sourdough recipe

Don't you love it when things go even more smoothly than you planned?

Last Thursday morning we fed the sourdough starter again. (As easy as it is, I have still almost forgotten to stir it a couple of times. Kind of like how I keep forgetting to give my cat her medicine...)

Then in the afternoon we worked in three groups to mix up batches of pancake batter.

I divided kids based on their research groups for this unit. Last week students selected from three topics for independent research: Gold Rush, weapons and tools, and clothing. Since then, everyone has had time to do online research using links our librarian found for them, and good old analog books. While groups waited for their turn to make pancakes, I met with the research groups in the classroom. They discussed their research and I was pleased to watch them engage in thoughtful conversation about the information they had found.

Back to the batter: Su took one group at a time down to the kitchen to cook up their pancakes on the two cast iron griddles I had borrowed from co-workers. Colleen finished helping groups mix the batter and then joined Su in the kitchen after all the batter was mixed.

Within an hour everyone had made and eaten their pancakes and pancakes were delivered to the adults who had loaned out their griddles. We packed up and had time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. And once again Su and Colleen cleaned up for me! Because we were working in the kitchen, they were able to run the dishes through the Hobart dishwasher. Even still, I appreciated their time; I had been planning to take care of the clean up after school.

This project worked well for several reasons:
1) The recipe took the amount of time I anticipated and created a food product everyone enjoyed. Evidence:
2) I broke the class up into small enough groups that everyone got to be involved in the mixing and cooking.
3) While kids were waiting to cook, I had a meaningful activity planned and they engaged in it and took it seriously.

I also liked that:
  • We got to use the sourdough starter a second way.
  • Kids got to see how a griddle is used, even though we weren't cooking over an open fire.
  • Because I stayed in the classroom, I wasn't tempted to eat a light and fluffy pancake during Passover! I will, however, be trying this recipe sometime soon, now that I am again able to eat leavened foods.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Not Your Usual Pre-Passover Kitchen Experience

Two things I have never done before today:

  • Baked bread with sourdough starter

  • Baked bread in a Dutch oven

Which led to another thing I've never done:

  • Baking bread three nights before Passover starts

Several of our recipes this year have taken on an experimental will-it-work? quality, with my class watching/joining in as things do or don't go as expected. The double-newness of this week's recipe gave me pause, so I decided to try out the recipe and technique at home ahead of time. This afternoon, while I should have been scrubbing all traces of leavened foods from my kitchen or baking a cake with a dozen egg whites and no flour, I used a portion of our class starter to make a test batch of sourdough bread at home.

The dough mixed up fine and rose during dinner. After dinner I followed these instructions for baking bread on the stove top. A double thanks to my husband: first for randomly having a huge cast iron pot in the basement which recently went out on loan to a teacher at his school. She and her class cleaned and oiled it and had it on display as a colonial cooking tool. He brought it home yesterday afternoon a whole lot less dusty than before, all set for kitchen use. Second, he remembered we had a medium sized pot without a handle that had been living in our daughter's play kitchen. This was perfect for baking the bread inside the cast iron pot, since it didn't have any parts that could melt. The third tool in the process was not a tuna fish can, as suggested in the link, but a sardine can, because that was what we had in our recycling bin. (The small can keeps the pot off the direct heat of the cast iron, so the bread is less likely to burn.)

The bread started getting dark on the bottom partway through, before it reached 200 degrees (this temperature indicating it's fully baked) so I took the small pot out, flipped the bread onto a cutting board, and put it back in upside down. When the top-on-the-bottom started getting dark, I turned off the heat and left it for another twenty minutes to finish baking without the direct heat. This worked perfectly.

Right now, the bread is cooling on my countertop and it smells really good. I'm going to have to try a slice tonight, but then I'll bring the rest to school to augment what we bake together. Yum!

Take a long look; as soon as I post this entry, I'm grabbing a knife and cutting into this baby!