Cooking and Recipes

Life Lessons In Baking

When the going gets tough, the not-so-tough start baking.

Sometimes when I’m having one of those booty kickin’ days with my kid, I lay down my aggravations and we bake bread.

On Tuesday of this week, the schools were closed.  By 10am booty kickin’ was well underway, so I suggested we make bread.

I know it sounds crazy that one would open up a canister of flour around someone with under-developed judgment and impulse control and over-developed enthusiasm. And sometimes Sean is a problem too. (Stop it. I can hear you rolling your eyes.)  But in keeping with the many mysteries of the universe, it works.  Somehow.  There is just something therapeutic about baking together and working the dough.

(Disclaimer:  I have one child.)

I have discovered that there are a number of life lessons to be found in the ancient art of baking bread, aside from the obvious lessons of fractions, science and farm-to-market commerce and they are as follows:

All things work together for good in the proper measure.  Too much flour and not enough water and you end up not with delicious bread, but a stone. Too much water and not enough flour and you end up with a very large crusty dumpling.  Life and bread making are both all about balancing the various elements in an effort to create something good and worthwhile.

Baking bread is a process. As in life, an orderly process yields good results.

Know when to work and know when to rest.  The bread maker knows when to work the dough and when to rest and let the yeast work. The same is true in life, sometimes we just need to give it a rest, quit managing.

Life and bread making bread are messy. It just is.  Expect it.

Making bread is work. It’s good for the human spirit to work to eat.

Life and bread making both improve with experience and failure.

Homemade bread doesn’t last more than a day or two.   Live in the present and take joy in your daily bread.

And I’m sure there are many more.

Does Sean get these things about making bread? Probably not just yet. But I’m not just baking bread, I’m planting seeds.

Here is my easy recipe for Focaccia Bread that you can make with your kiddos.


Focaccia Bread

2 to 2.5 cups of bread flour

1 package of yeast

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2/3 cup hot water

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Mix 1 cup of the flour with the yeast and salt in a large bowl.

Into a 2/3 cup of hot water (120 degrees) add the olive oil and then pour into the dry mixture. Stir in as much of the remaining flour it takes to make a soft dough. Knead on a flour dusted surface for about 10 minutes.

Cover with a clean tea towel and let rest for about 10 minutes. (If you have a granite or stone countertop, put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover. Granite tends to stay cold and the dough will do better if it’s warm.)

Punch down the dough and divide the dough into two pieces.  Form each piece into a ball and then press flat into a pizza shape into a well oiled 10-inch round cake pan (or you can put both on a well oiled cookie sheet if you don’t have round pans.)

Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Using your finger tips or the handle of a wooden spoon, make little indentations into the dough.  Brush liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with course salt.  Just before baking you can add just about anything else you want — rosemary, cilantro, garlic, Parmesan, goat cheese, grilled onions and peppers, sun dried tomatoes.

Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. Serve immediately. It’s great dipped in flavored olive oil.

34 thoughts on “Life Lessons In Baking

  1. I don’t bake just bread on my booty kicking days. I make whatever I can find. Usually bad-for-you-but-oh-so-tasty food like the bacon chicken thing I found over on Pioneer Woman. Or brownies. Or both.

    But there is definitely something almost therapeutic about kneading bread.

  2. My daughter Amelia is a bit older than your Sean (almost 10). We have taught her to make bread in our bread machine. She has learned a lot about the importance of measuring and some of the other important lessons you mention as well. Her loaves used to turn out wrong as much as they turned out right. At one point, we wondered if we were asking too much of her. Suddenly, voila. Now she makes perfect loaves of bread on demand with absolutely no assistance. It has been a great chore for her, and a boon to the whole family. Nothing is yummier than homemade bread. Since we have asked her to make whole wheat bread, few things are healthier either.

  3. My sister says that about bread machines too. She says she couldn’t imagine giving up the pleasure of kneading. Unfortunately, my daughter has some motor issues (as do I) so she just doesn’t have the strength or ability to knead. So the bread machine has been great for us. Plus I never need to worry that she’s left the oven on!

  4. ok my process is just as theraputic and messy but not as tasty…
    we make soap
    we bury prizes in it like hotwheels and erasers and then the boys can enjoy both the mess and the bathtime after where they try to use as much soap as possible to get to their grand prize…lol

  5. What a delightful provision for this, a tremendously booty-kicking day for me. Certainly God’s timing is p-e-r-f-e-c-t. Perfect. Perfect.

    Thank. You.

    (and the recipe looks super-tasty also. Bonus!)

  6. And a question for Steff above:

    I checked your website for an email address to ask this, but I couldn’t find one. (However, your boys are beautiful and have fantastic names!)

    How do you make your soap? This sounds like a really, really useful idea to keep in my back pocket until I need it with my son.

    (Sorry for the hijacking, AM, but thanks. And, if she asks, you can give her my email address, but I didn’t want to just post it here.)


    Will forward your message to her and maybe she’ll put up a post about soap making for us if she hasn’t already! ~ AM

  7. sometimes when i am babysitting (which is infrequent because I am just not the babysitter type) i decide to distract myself from the reality that yes, in fact i have agreed to care for more than just my own children, and we bake cookies. we turn on music and dance, and measure, and make a mess. and somehow that helps.
    i have also taken to baking with my son and i think it is a real bonding experience.
    thanks for all the good lessons…
    maybe i am a better babysitter and mother than i thought:)

  8. hello again,
    I havent ever done a post about soap making and with no power currently cant do this, but when I get power back I will post step by steps with pics for everyone.

  9. Sounds like a good way to procrastinate “a pressing matter” as well as teach (and learn!) some very good lessons. You write so beautifully AM, but I’m stuck right now on this pressing matter…you’ve intrigued me 🙂

  10. Some of the most treasured times I have with my girlies (ages 4 and 2) are when we bake or cook together. They love to measure, pour and stir. Whenever we do it I always feel like we’re doing more than just making whatever the recipe is. We’re reaching beyond the task in front of us and into something bigger. Am I giving them a love for cooking, am I teaching them reading, math and science, are they learning to take turns and share? Hopefully all of the above and who knows what else! Great post!

  11. Yummy! I’ll have to see if I can get Michael to help me out making some of that this weekend. He usually likes to help make the pizza dough. Well… he likes to eat the pizza dough, anyway.

    There is definitely a lot of knowing in baking, and learning patience and self-control. All good things for little boys to learn.

  12. I too like to bake bread with my son on booty kicking days. My boy finds it equally as therapeutic.

    It’s funny how something so seemingly simple can turn a day around.


  14. Wow- thanks for the metaphor- what a precious post- and how fun to bake with your little boy! My 13-month old son loves to watch the Kitchen-Aid mixer- actually, he cries if he can’t see it while it’s mixing. 🙂

  15. We do a lot of bread making here too. AND I have three kids. One OR three, it’s work and there will be flour spillage. The end result, though is fabulous. I have a recipe that I will share with you and your readers. The great thing about the recipe is you can shape it into bunnies, letters, little nests with birds in them and they end up being cute and OH so tasty buns! My kids make very personal things for each person in the family and each other. Let’s just say, I have LOTS of booty-kickin’ days!

    1 to 2 TBs. dry yeast
    1 tsp. organic raw honey
    2 C. warm water
    1/3 C. honey
    1/3 cup olive oil
    1 tsp. salt
    6 cups unbleached flour (you can use spelt, oat, whatever you like)

    Mix yeast w/ 1 tsp. honey and 1/2 cup warm water until frothy, set aside. Mix remaining honey, water, oil, and salt in large bowl then mix in yeast mix plus 3 cups of flour. Stir well. Add remaining flour a bit at a time. Knead 10 minutes (and let the kids do the work after they’ve washed their hands;) Place dough in greased bowl and cover with a hand towel. Rise 1 hour. Punch down dough and shape into any fist size or smaller creation. Place on greased sheet and let rise another hour. Bake 20 minutes @ 350.

    This recipe also teaches patience and appreciation of the final product. The rolls will keep for up to a week in an airtight container (I warm ours in the oven for a few minutes and put butter on them)

  16. When I became a nanny, I wanted to start baking. Something about it seemed pioneer-ish to me or something. Oh wait, and then I realized I didn’t know how to do it AT ALL. I work really hard, and I can make a pretty mean vanilla cake, but no bread has made it intact out of my oven YET.

  17. ooh – just the thing for us! We typically bake cookies but since my goal right now is to make a lighter footprint (not carbon – I mean lighter as in less weight) – I can’t wait to try this with my little ones. Thanks AM!

  18. YOU ROCK AM!!! I’m watching a 4 year old for a new friend. She’s taking her 2 year old to the clinic today to have mega testing done to find out why he’s having “huge” seizures. I had already planned on making her dinner for tonight and was digging out the bread machine when I got distracted by the computer and stumbled on your recipe. Sounds much better than bread machine white! Thanks for posting this, I’m hoping it will bless a family who is in more than a little bit of worry today. And, if you can pray for Liam and his doctors I know they’d appreciate it.

  19. Great lessons. Great post. I make pizza dough for homemade pizza almost weekly and I really enjoy it. Haven’t done bread in quite a while. I’ll have to get up to my elbows in flour. I’m as messy as any kid I know. : )

  20. I look forward to making this recipe! Thanks for sharing it. Would you be willing to share your bread recipe too? It’s been a long winter here in the midwest.

  21. What a co-inkie-dink! I made bread just yesterday too! Although your fociccia bread sounds delicious! I’m making a note to try it next!

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