Over 200 St. John of the Cross fourth, fifth and sixth graders will be spending a few hours this weekend on a unique homework assignment: baking two bread items from raw flour and yeast.
One will stay with their family; the other will be passed along to a local food pantry to help feed someone less fortunate.
“It’s a life skill,” said SJC teacher Antonia Adducci, who organized the event. “I think [kids] don’t realize the hard work that someone had to do to go into the field and plant this and cultivate it.
“You have to bring kids back down to say, [bread] doesn’t come from the store, it doesn’t come from Starbucks, someone has to grow it in the field.”
First, students had to learn the ropes. So Thursday afternoon saw kids crowded into the bleachers of the parish school gym for a presentation by Paula Gray of King Arthur Flour in the creation of bake-able dough.
With fourth-grader Grace Kamholz, fifth-grader Donny Buonavolanto and sixth-grader Tommy Schneider as assistants, Gray performed her own cooking show, complete with a video camera hooked up to a large screen. Her assistants mixed flour, yeast, salt and sugar before kneading and styling the dough, all as other students took mental notes for their own impending projects.
Some dough became a loaf; another was twisted another into a long braided baguette. Leftover dough was ostensibly not wasted, as Kamholz showed how to make cinnamon rolls while Buonavolanto (the son of a restaurateur and grandson of a bread-factory owner) demonstrated the proper tossing of pizza dough.
Gray, a seven-year veteran of the King Arthur "Life Skills Bread Baking Program," says the program’s goals for students are threefold.
“We hope that the students are going to learn the skills and figure out what to do, that they’re going to bring the ingredients home and spend time baking with their family and that they’re going to give back to the community,” she said.
When the students bring their completed loaves (or baguettes, rolls, breadsticks, etc.) back on Monday, they will be donated to either the Catalina Food Pantry or Port Ministries, both in Chicago, to go to hungry individuals and families.
Gray’s volunteers had a blast showing off their baking skills in front of their peers.
“[The presentation] was really fun,” said Schneider. “I actually love baking—it’s something really fun I like to do, and it’ll be fun to just put it in the oven.”
“You can make it however you want, put whatever toppings on it, or make the dough in whatever shape you want,” added Buonavolanto. “You get to make different foods.”
Kamholz said she had a particular favorite part: “I liked making the cinnamon rolls.”