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The Science of Bread

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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.


What makes bread rise? Does the water temperature really matter? What about sugar? What's the difference between whole wheat and white flour? What does wheat look like? Find out all this and more in this fun, hands-on lesson or "play date" activity! I created this "lesson" to do as a three hour "play date" with my children and some of their friends. Use this fun lesson with your class, family, after school program, camp, or homeschool group!


Make the Dough

1. Begin by making dough. You'll talk all about it later. It needs lots of time to rise, so start right away! Point out the directions on the back of the packet of yeast.

If you have a small group, you can simply make 3 loaves of bread: 1 regular, 1 with cold water, and 1 with double the sugar.

Dough rising

Dough rising

To make this more scientific, make 7 loaves of bread to examine the effects of yeast, sugar, and water temperature in the bread-making process. Each of those are called variables. Have each child or pair of children work with a parent/teacher to make the below recipe but change one variable:

Child/Group 1: Make bread according to the directions.

Child/Group 2: Leave out the sugar.

Child/Group 3: Double the amount of sugar (use 1 Tbsp.).

Child/Group 4: Use ice water so that it is colder than it should be.

Child/Group 5: Use very hot water so that it is hotter than it should be.

Child/Group 6: Only use 1/4 packet of yeast.

Child/Group 7: Use 1 3/4 packet of yeast by using the extra that Child/Group 6 didn't use.

YOU WILL NEED: 1 5 lb. bag of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of salt, 8 packages of fast-rising yeast, 3 egg whites, 1/4 cup of cornmeal, 7 mixing bowls, 7 measuring cups and spoons, 7 rolling pins, wax paper, 2-3 baking sheets, pastry brushes, pinch of oatmeal (optional)

Baked loaf

Baked loaf

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

1 hour 15 min

-15 min

1 hour



  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 package fast rising yeast
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 egg white
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • sprinkle of cornmeal


  1. 1. In a large bowl combine water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes. (As you wait, have the children look at, smell, and taste the yeast. Talk about how the yeast is "sleeping" and is being woken up by the water. As soon as it "wakes" up, it needs to eat. That's why you added the sugar. Ask the children to hypothesize/predict what might happen if the water is too hot or cold. Ask what might happen if there's not enough food/sugar or too much food/sugar.)
  2. 2. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of flour and the salt. (If doing this in groups, let each child stir for 10 seconds and then pass the bowl to the next person who will stir for 10 seconds.) After all the flour has been combined, add 1 more cup of flour and stir it again.
  3. 3. Turn the dough onto a piece of wax paper with flour on it and let the children knead the dough for 3 minutes.
  4. 4. Cover dough with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 20 minutes. (Set the timer. While waiting, move on to the below activities.)
  5. 5. Help the children to use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle (about 5x7 inches). Roll the dough jellyroll fashion starting at the long side. Pinch the ends.
  6. 6. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle it with cornmeal. The cornmeal will keep the bread from sticking to the pan. Lay the rolled dough onto the baking sheet. (We fit 3-4 on each baking sheet. They will rise, so leave some space between each one.) Be sure to label each roll so that you know which one each one is. Let the dough rise 35-40 minutes. (Set the timer. While waiting, move on to the below activities.)
  7. 7. Use a serrated knife or kitchen shears to make 3 slashes across the top of the bread. Combine the egg white with water and "paint" the top of the bread with the egg wash. This just makes it look glossy and pretty.) Have group 1 place 1 piece of oatmeal on their bread. Group 2 will put 2 pieces of oatmeal on their bread and so on. This will allow for you to identify the bread after it has been baked. Another option would be to bake the bread on parchment paper and write the group number next to each loaf.
  8. 8. Bake in preheated 425°F oven for 20 minutes or until done.
  9. 9. Let cool at least 5 minutes before slicing.
  10. (This recipe is from: .)
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2. Pray. Read and discuss Matthew 13:33.

3. Read about the process of grains to bread. Begin with "Winter Wheat" to show how it takes a long time to grow wheat.

4. Look at a stalk and/or grain of wheat and discuss its parts (germ, bran, endosperm, ear, & chaff).

YOU WILL NEED: a stalk of wheat (can be found at a craft store such as Hobby Lobby or Michael's in the fake floral departments) and/or grains of wheat (can be found in a Whole Food's type of store for people who grind their own flour)

All-purpose flour next to whole wheat flour

All-purpose flour next to whole wheat flour

Whole Wheat vs. White Flour

5. Let children compare a spoonful of whole wheat flour with a handful of white all-purpose flour. Mention how whole wheat flour uses all of the grain. To make white flour you remove of the bran and germ and bran and only use the endosperm. Ask which they think would be healthier and more nutritious. Why?

YOU WILL NEED: a spoonful each of whole wheat and white, all-purpose flour


Yeast Balloons

6. How does yeast make bread rise? Do a yeast experiment. Stir together 1 cup of warm water (about 110F), 2 Tbsp. sugar, and 1 packet yeast. Pour it into into a 2L or plastic water bottle. Put a balloon over the top. Watch what happens. (The balloon will fill up with air.) Mention that when yeast "eat" sugar, they release a gas called carbon dioxide. Not all bread has yeast though. Ask the children if they know of anything else that helps bread to rise. Use a funnel to put 1 Tbsp. of baking powder into a balloon. Pour 1 c. of warm water into a 2L or plastic water bottle. Put the filled balloon over the top of the 2L bottle & let a child shake the baking powder from the balloon into the water. Watch as it blows up quickly. Compare how the leavenings work (fast or slow) and why each would be preferred. (Do not pop the balloons or you'll have a big mess!)

YOU WILL NEED: 2 Tbsp. sugar, 1 packet yeast, measuring glass & spoon, 1 Tbsp. baking powder, 2 balloons, 2 plastic bottles (2L or water bottles), & funnel


Bread Bubbles

7. Pass out a slice of bread to each child and have them examine the holes. If desired, have them use magnifying glasses to examine them even closer. Talk about how the carbon dioxide fills tiny "balloons" in the bread to make it rise. Ask what happens when you put too much air in a balloon. It pops! That's what leaves all those holes in the bread. The yeast's carbon dioxide "balloon" blew up so big, pushing out all that dough. The "balloon" got so big that it "popped," leaving those holes. Let the children each their slice of bread.

YOU WILL NEED: per child: 1 slice of bread and 1 magnifying glass (optional)


Taste the Bread

8. When the bread comes out of the oven, compare how each loaf looks. Now taste each loaf. What can you conclude about yeast and sugar amounts and water temperatures?

YOU WILL NEED: knife, cutting board, cups of water, butter, and jam

Looking for more books?

The Little Red Hen (Little Golden Book) by Diane Muldrow would be a great book to include if you have extra time. It goes through the basic steps of making bread from wheat and is a fun children's classic talking about the importance of working. From Wheat to Bread (Start to Finish, Second Series: Food) by Stacy Taus-Bolstad describes the process of going from wheat to bread. This has photographs rather than illustrations and is more factual than story-like. Bread Comes to Life: A Garden of Wheat and a Loaf to Eat by George Levenson has little text (1-3 simple sentences per page) but does have nice photographs. It would be best for preschool and kindergarten aged children.

Time Lapse Dough Rising

Time Lapse Bread Rising and Baking

Time Lapsed Dough Rising

The Chemistry of Cookies

Fungi by CrashCourse Biology


Over the years I have posted over 40 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 170 lessons. The unit studies include the Human Body, Simple Machines, Earth Science, Medieval Period, American Revolution, Pioneer Life, Countries of the World, and many more! For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies .

Konos Volume I

Konos Volume I

Konos Curriculum

Would you like to teach this way every day?

Konos Curriculum

I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful Christian curriculum and was created by moms with active children!

Konos Home School Mentor

If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!

What's Your Favorite Type of Bread? - Or just leave a note to let me know you dropped by! I love getting feedback from you!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 10, 2012:

@mariacarbonara: Thank you!

mariacarbonara on October 10, 2012:

Love it. Will show this one to my kids too. Thanks!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 09, 2012:

@kelly-mcclymer: Thank you for visiting!

kelly-mcclymer on October 09, 2012:

I always have trouble making bread, but I love it fresh from the oven.

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 08, 2012:

@rawwwwwws lm: Thank you!

rawwwwwws lm on October 07, 2012:

As long as it tastes good :) Carbs are great... and pasta too. Enjoyed this lens so much! Blessed by a Squid Angel!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 07, 2012:

@bushaex: Congratulations! Thank you!

Stephen Bush from Ohio on October 07, 2012:

We have completed homeschooling all three of our children, and food was a constant source of observation and learning opportunities. SquidAngel Blessings.

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 05, 2012:

@siskiyoucowgirl: Thank you so much!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 05, 2012:

@Elyn MacInnis: Yum!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 05, 2012:

@martycarlton lm: Thank you so much!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 05, 2012:

@Elsie Hagley: Thank you!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 05, 2012:

@AcornOakForest: Great! Thank you!

Monica Lobenstein from Western Wisconsin on October 05, 2012:

Great lens! I do a lot of work with kids bringing out the science in everyday activities. I'll be back to use this lesson! Thanks!

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on October 05, 2012:

Thanks for a great lens. I make homemade bread, but I cheat, I use a bread maker. Thanks for sharing. Blessed.

martycarlton lm on October 05, 2012:

What a great way to show a practical application of science

Elyn MacInnis from Shanghai, China on October 05, 2012:

Cinnamon Raisin... love it.

siskiyoucowgirl on October 05, 2012:

Nice lens! I like making and baking my own bread as well. Thanks for sharing!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 05, 2012:

@GramaBarb: Thank you!

GramaBarb from Vancouver on October 05, 2012:

Great lens! Now I'm hungry :)

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 02, 2012:

@TheBLU26: Thank you so much!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 02, 2012:

@Markstuffnmore: Thank you so much! Yes, I love bread too!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 02, 2012:

@iamraincrystal: Thank you so much!

Rosyel Sawali from Manila Philippines on October 02, 2012:

Wow! I'm learning lots just by reading Squidoo lenses like yours! Truly so helpful. Thanks for sharing your lessons ^_^

Markstuffnmore on October 02, 2012:

I love the new fall theme, great lens also, bread is one of my favorite things! Bread goes good with anything or just by itself!

TheBLU26 on October 02, 2012:

I've always been interested in the making of bread! Great lens!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 01, 2012:

@Michael100 LM: Sounds yummy!

Michael100 LM on October 01, 2012:

Home baked organic wholemeal loaves... especially that wonderful aroma!

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