“Eema, can we make some wheat thins?”
“Sure. Google the recipe and get the ingredients together. Let me know if you need any help.”
It started out well. R measured all the ingredients, even doubling the recipe (adding fractions.) I showed her how to pulse the food processor and she set up the pasta roller. For a short time she was in charge of rolling the dough. And then, suddenly, she needed to go swing in the attic.
(Do everyone’s kids need a break every ten minutes? Or is it just mine?)
So there I was, with E’s assistance, rolling out a double batch of cracker dough, cutting it, salting it, turning the pans every four minutes. Where was R? Up in the attic, swinging.
We started this endeavour around 1:00. It’s now 3:00 and I just sat down after almost walking into a wall. The oven is off and the crackers are cooling. The kitchen is still a mess. I told R that she’s on cleanup duty; she shook her head and walked out of the kitchen. The joke’s on her, though. I’m going to go hide the crackers so she can’t find them.
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen this weekend: yesterday N and I decided to try our hand at baking baguettes. We made two batches of dough and spent an hour at the dinner table discussing which one was better.
At one point I said something like, “This one had a very sticky dough, and the oven wasn’t quite as hot so we baked it longer.”
“We could try it again with a different recipe,” commented N. “It’s not as good as the stuff we get at Thobor’s [local French bakery], but I bet we could get close.”
That’s how I started thinking about the amount of math and chemistry involved in baking, not to mention the history of bread. We could do geography, too: different countries have different bread recipes, probably for a variety of cultural and geographic reasons. That would be neat to learn. Yummy, too.
Here’s my plan: I’ve downloaded and printed a whole bunch of articles about the science of baking baguettes, a glossary of bread terms, and some videos on the Maillard reaction. I’ve also got some information on how breads are classified and described. I think we’ll start with the latter: We’ll look at a few different types of bread and see if we can classify and describe them. Then we can decide what characteristics we want in our baguette. We’ll try recipes, maybe two in a day, and write down our description of the results. Then we’ll take a look at our outcome as compared to our goals, make adjustments, and bake again.
It’s easy to see how people slide down the slope to unschooling. What I’m describing doesn’t really sound like school. There’s no math lesson, history class, or writing assignment; still, I think the kids will learn a ton from this. And if they don’t… well, at least we’ll get a great baguette recipe out of it.