Columbus, Ohio USA
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Baking for Good
Lessons in math, science and caring fresh from the oven
By Karen Edwards
November/December 2016 Issue
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St. Joseph Montessori students Kate Haydel Brown, Paige Gibson,
and McKenna Merriman participated in the Bake for Good for Kids program
offered by King Arthur Flour. Dinner Rolls were donated to a local food pantry.
When administrators at St. Joseph Montessori School in Italian Village learned of a baking program sponsored by King Arthur Flour, they knew it could provide several exemplary lessons for their fourth through eighth grade students. After all, the program, entitled “Bake for Good,” would afford students not only an opportunity to create and donate baked goods to needy families but also provide them with lessons in math, science and reading.
The Bake for Good program, which King Arthur Flour offers every October, is open to everyone who loves to bake. In return for a pledge to make bread, cookies or other baked goods and donate it to the community, King Arthur gives the baker a flour coupon and its own promise to donate the cost of one meal to the Feeding America program. But it also sponsors a special Bake for Good for Kids program, which provides young bakers with a recipe booklet, instructional video, and supply of flour. That’s the program St. Joseph administrators applied for.
When word came that the school had been selected to participate, there wasn’t much discussion over who might head it up. Not when there was a natural choice in-house.
“It’s probably all those cookies and brownies I leave in the break room,” says Roxanne Holonitch with a laugh. Holonitch, the art and technology instructor at the SJMS Middle School, freely admits she loves to bake. Ask her over for a potluck, and, if you’re lucky, she’ll bring over her chocolate éclair cake, made with graham crackers, chocolate ganache and homemade whipped topping.
“Lots of schools apply to the Bake for Good program,” says Holonitch, but not all of them receive the donated flour and other baking supplies from the company. “They want to know it’s someone who will donate the baked goods to a needy group,” she says.
For St. Joseph students, the recipient of their baked goods was to be the Bishop Griffin Food Pantry on Livingston Avenue. “We serve about 100 families every week,” says JoEllen Gohr, who serves as development and communication coordinator at the food pantry. “We were thrilled to learn that the students wanted to donate their baked goods to us,” she says.
Although the students could have made any baked good, ranging from loaves of bread to cookies, Holonitch decided the group should make dinner rolls since it would allow more hands-on participation. “If you’re making a loaf of bread, there isn’t much you can do with the dough except put it in a pan. With small dinner rolls, though, lots of hands are needed to form the rolls so everyone could participate in the baking in some way,” she says.
Initially, the students read the recipe and watched the demonstration video. Then a small group of older students were called into St. Joseph’s recently-renovated kitchen to mix and knead the dough.
McKenna Merriman was one of the eighth-grade students to help with that part of the project. “I really wanted to know what baking bread was like since I’ve never made it before,” says Merriman. She cooks and bakes frequently at home, and especially likes making soup with her father, including a seasonal pumpkin soup. “I liked watching how the yeast activates the bread, causing it to rise, and I enjoyed kneading the dough,” she says.
Eoin O’Carroll, another eighth-grader called in to help with the mixing and kneading, was also enthusiastic about the process. “I’m more of a sports guy and not in the kitchen much, but I was excited to try some baking,” he says. O’Carroll says that since the project, he has made the recipe at home for his family. “It tastes better than some restaurant rolls I’ve had,” he says.
The entire group had a chance to taste miniature versions of the rolls after making them. “We wanted them to be able to taste what they made,” says Holonitch. They were delicious, says Merriman. “We ate them while they were still warm from the oven.”
Even with the small taste test, the group was still able to donate 20 bags containing six rolls each to the food pantry.
Overall, says Holonitch, the Bake for Good project was a success. “The students received practical life experience in measuring correctly, and following a recipe,” she says. Then there’s the scientific element – students were able to observe the chemical swelling nature of yeast as it combines with water and flour – which leads to another lesson. “I learned patience,” says Merriman. Bread, after all, is not to be rushed. It takes time for dough to rise, and dough needs to rest after kneading. Bread dough can also be pretty sticky. It was everyone’s least favorite part of the project – but throw down enough flour, and even that problem can disappear.
Finally, the program offers a principled lesson, one that aligns with St. Joseph’s mission of caring for all of God’s creatures. “The students had a chance to reflect on the project during their religious classes,” says Holonitch. “I hope everyone learned compassion and how to share with people who are less fortunate than they are.”
“I liked the fact that we were making the rolls for other people, and not just family and friends, but for people who need it,” says O’Carroll. He hopes that others who learn about the project know the students did it from their hearts. “We weren’t doing this for a grade or to get attention,” he says. “It’s something we wanted to do for others.”
Did any student leave the project dreaming of a career in a bakery? Not exactly. O’Carroll, whose mother practices law, would still like to pursue a career in law or government. Merriman, meanwhile, dreams of being a writer on Saturday Night Live. “She has a terrific sense of humor,” says Holonitch. Holonitch herself also isn’t ready to give up chalkboards and textbooks for a stint in a bakery – though she’ll no doubt continue to furnish the break room with an array of sweets.
But Holonitch hints there may be more baking ahead for the students. “We have flour left over from the project, so we might use it to bake something else.”
If so, the baking will likely occur around the holiday season, says Holonitch – and no doubt, if it does – food pantry families will be happy to add the students’ fresh, homemade dinner rolls to their Thanksgiving or Christmas tables.
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