Breaking bread with new friends

Published 10:27 am Thursday, June 15, 2023

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Many parents begin looking for summer activities for their children about the time the clock springs forward to Daylight Saving Time. They want to be prepared when school lets out.

Stanly County Cooperative Extension Director Molly Alexi and her team are prepared to help.

Summer Blast activities for area youth ages 5-18 began the first week of summer vacation. The camps are linked with Stanly County 4-H Youth Development and as affordable as possible —from $5 to $65 — and most sessions are at the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center.

Alexi said the camps are very popular and some sessions have waiting lists. Learning new skills and meeting new friends promise adventure and fun for all.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, a group of 5- to 7-year-olds in chef’s aprons sat quietly at tables in the Extension Kitchen, waiting for instructions from Lisa Forrest, extension administrative assistant and baker-in-charge. They came to the Breadmaking Basics class not only to learn about food safety and teamwork — they also came to taste.

But first, each group of bread-makers had to correctly measure and mix flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. The children took turns and great care getting the teaspoon of baking powder just right, but they may have been a bit generous with the half-cup of sugar. Next, they stirred in milk and melted butter. And finally, the farm-fresh golden egg was blended into the batter.

“Do not eat the batter,” cautioned Haley Cowell, extension agent for family and consumer sciences, ever mindful of food and kitchen safety.

Next, each camper dribbled scoops of smooth, cream-colored batter into a greased aluminum loaf pan. Extension intern Abi White placed the small pans on top of sheet pans lined with parchment paper and wrote each bread maker’s name next to their loaf. Into the oven went the pans for 35 minutes.

Bailey Havens assists her brother, Thomas, pour batter into a baking pan. (Photo by JO GREY)

Meanwhile, busy bakers moved on to the next project: butter-making. The only ingredient — store-bought heavy whipping cream — was poured into half-pint jars.

“Screw the lids on tight,” said Forrest, “then each of you shake the jars 30 times.”

There was a whole lot of shaking going on.

Then almost like magic, the thick liquid formed into chunks, “buttermilk,” somebody said.

Then a ball of solid cream separated from the cloudy liquid at the bottom of the jar.

Mollie Dunston shows her ball of butter. (Photo by JO GREY)

Forrest drained off the liquid, dabbed the solid clump with cheesecloth, and what should appear, but the perfect accompaniment to spread on freshly made Dynamite Bread.

A couple of children admitted they didn’t like butter, but others weren’t shy about eating a little bread with their butter.

Before the next bread-baking activity, Cowell instructed the kids about knife safety. Chefs must first grasp the handle of the practice knife firmly, then make a “bear claw” with the other hand to protect their fingers. After the children practiced, they each cut a grand-sized refrigerated biscuit into four (or more) pieces, but who’s counting when practice makes perfect?

The various sized chunks of dough, along with cinnamon and sugar, went into a Bundt pan then into the oven. When the Friendship Bread cooled, “Everyone enjoyed sharing it,” said Alexi.

Jessa Johnson shows her loaf of bread. (Photo by JO GREY)

From hands-on tasks to sharing Friendship Bread, the day’s program engaged children at a crucial age for learning the values of 4-H: Head, Heart, Hands and Health.

More information about what 4-H offers all children is available at: