Loaves of Fun: A History of Bread with Activities and Recipes from Around the World

Loaves of Fun: A History of Bread with Activities and Recipes from Around the World


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From the pitas of ancient Mesopotamia to the white breads of the modern bakery, kids can explore the globe with more than 30 exciting recipes and activities about the history of bread.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556523113
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/28/1999
Pages: 112
Product dimensions: 9.50(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range: 7 - 12 Years

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Loaves of Fun

A History of Bread with Activities and Recipes from Around the World

By Elizabeth M. Harbison, John Harbison

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 1997 Elizabeth M. Harbison
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-55652-311-3




1. The kitchen is a pretty safe place, but it's not a place to play. There are certain things you must be very careful of: all utensils, especially knives; electrical appliances and outlets, including mixers and toasters (never, ever put anything metal in a toaster!); cleaning solutions, which are often stored under the kitchen sink; and anything else that looks like it might fall on you, cut you, or shock you.

2. Never use the oven or stove without a grown-up's permission and help. Fires can start before you know it, and it's important to have someone with you who can handle an emergency. You'll need an adult for all the recipes and activities in this book.

3. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher and/or a big, open box of baking soda handy in case there is a fire (baking soda will put the fire out if you pour it on).

Baking Tips

1. The best way to mix bread dough is with your hands. Not only is this the safest way, but it's also the most fun. Use a large bowl. Throw all the ingredients in according to the directions and mix them up with your hands (make sure you wash them first!).

2. Measuring ingredients is also really easy. All you need is a measuring cup and a measuring spoon (or a collection of measuring spoons of different sizes). Before long, you may be able to measure ingredients just by pouring them into your palm or into a cup. You can practice this by measuring an ingredient with a measuring spoon or cup first, then pouring it into your hand (if it's a small amount of dry ingredient, like salt or yeast) or into a coffee cup or glass. Soon you'll learn what a tablespoon of sugar looks like in your hand and you won't have to get out the measuring spoons at all!

3. Never use ingredients that smell or look different than you know they should. Flour can grow rancid and turn brown, milk can curdle, eggs can rot, and weevils (tiny bugs) can burrow into flour and sugar if they're not stored properly.

4. It's a good idea to "proof your yeast before you use it, just to make sure it's alive and active so you don't end up with a big hard pancake instead of a loaf of bread.

To proof yeast, simply stir some sugar into a cup of very warm but not hot water (you should be able to put a finger in it comfortably) and sprinkle a little yeast on top. It doesn't matter how much yeast you use; a pinch will do. Within five minutes, the yeast should start to bubble or foam. If it doesn't, it's not fresh enough to use.

5. All of the recipes in this book call for butter, but you can use margarine if you prefer.

Six slices of bread equals up to one-third of the vitamins and minerals you need in a whole day!

Notes on Kneading

When all the ingredients for bread dough are mixed, you're ready to knead. Kneading is easy, and everyone has their own way of doing it. You can't go wrong. All you have to do is pull the dough apart and then squish it back together again, over and over. Some people like to do this by making the dough into a flat circle and folding it over like a pillowcase again and again. Others prefer to pull it like taffy, stretching it out and then mushing it into a ball before stretching it out again. The idea of kneading is to stretch the protein in the dough. You should knead for at least ten minutes, but don't worry: you can't do too much. Whatever is the most fun is the right way to do it.

It's best to put all of the ingredients together first and save the kneading to go with the last additions of flour. It almost always works out this way because bread dough tends to be sticky until you knead in just the right amount of flour. If the dough is coming off on your fingers when you pull your hand away, you know that you need to work in a little more flour. Add a tablespoon or so at a time until you have a smooth, elastic loaf that is easy to pull and fold but isn't wet.

If your dough gets too tough and you have a difficult time pulling it apart, add a little bit of water (about one teaspoon) and work it into the dough until you have the proper consistency. You might have to add water a couple of times in order to get it just right.

After you've done it a few times, you won't have any trouble at all knowing just what the perfect dough feels like.


Here's a list of all the materials you'll need to make every recipe in this book. This list may look long, but most kitchens already have these things.

Shallow baking pan

Bread knife

Cookie sheet

Dish towel

Drinking glass

Large frying pan or skillet

Medium frying pan

Sharp knife

Loaf pan, 9 × 5 × inches

Set of measuring cups

Set of measuring spoons

Large mixing bowl

Plastic mixing bowl

Pastry brush

Medium plastic bowl with cover

Rolling pin

Large non-aluminum saucepan

Metal spatula

Two-quart saucepan

Long-handled spoon

Wooden stirring spoon

Whisk or fork to beat eggs

Measuring Equivalents

1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons

2 tablespoons = 1 ounce

¼ cup = 4 tablespoons or 12 teaspoons

1 cup = 8 ounces

1 stick of butter = 8 tablespoons

1 pinch = ¼ teaspoon

1 package of yeast = 1 scant tablespoon


73,000 B.C. ASIA

Bread began as a lumpy, oatmeal-like substance. It was a crude mixture of ground grain and water, two things that were readily available in any part of the world at any time of the year.

This mixture wasn't really bread, and wouldn't become so until people started baking it between 4000 and 2000 B.C. But this oatmealy mush is important because it shows that as long as 75,000 years ago, the people of Asia had put together the two most basic ingredients of bread — mushed grain and water. Archaeologists have found flattened stones that were clearly made to crush grain and have been able to date those stone tools back to 73,000 B.C.

* * *

Even though Asia is the cradle of breadmaking technology, people in modern Asia consume very little bread. In China rice cakes (crunchy rounds of puffed rice) are popular, but they aren't really bread in the way we know it.

Also, China and Japan make rice flour (called mochi in Japanese), but it's used primarily to thicken sauces and make desserts. Since rice flour has no gluten, it cannot be used to make raised (leavened) bread unless it's mixed with a high-gluten flour like most wheat flours.

8000 B.C. ASIA

BY 8000 B.C. (about 10,000 years ago) people were mixing crushed grain with water and heating it over a fire, which is a lot like modern oatmeal or porridge. Some ancient grains and seeds, still blackened from fires long ago, that got cooked but never eaten have been found by scientists.

* * *

Another Asian country is India. Modern India also doesn't have a lot of bread, but the two most famous Indian breads have been eaten there since the earliest days of their civilization. A pappadam is a very thin wafer, sort of like a Mexican tortilla, but made from lentil flour. When pappadams are deep-fried, they puff up. They're served either plain or seasoned with pepper. The other famous Indian bread is the chapati, which is an unleavened biscuit made from whole wheat flour and water. It's used mostly for scooping up food from the plate.


In ancient Mesopotamia, an area in Asia between the Tigris River and the lower Euphrates River, people lived in the pockets of the Armenian mountain range. This was the earliest civilization, and tools, remains of small homes, and human bones have been found and dated back 6,000 years.

The Mesopotamians were the first to try growing and eating different kinds of grains mixed with water which they baked or boiled over a fire.


In Switzerland, people known as "lake dwellers" left the remains of a village near Geneva. Archaeologists have found bread among the tools and the remains of dwellings. They've also found grains from several different kinds of wheat. This is important because it is the earliest record of bread in Europe, a place now famous for its many different varieties of bread.


The first cooks were prehistoric people. They didn't have really good hunting, cooking, or food storing methods, and fire was a big discovery. Cooking directly over an open fire was about as advanced as their cooking technology got, but boy, was that fire important!

Prehistoric people would put chunks of meat on a stick and hold it directly in the flames. For bread, they mixed grain and water to make a mush that they cooked on rocks heated in the fire.

As time passed and civilizations became more advanced, people eventually learned to make very basic ovens in which to cook their bread. The early Romans really took this idea seriously, and practically everyone in ancient Rome had an oven of some sort.

After that, ovens didn't change very much until the invention of the electric oven in the early 1900s. Until then, ovens were all boxes (of various sizes and made out of various things) that were heated by fire.

Drop Biscuits

This is a very simple type of bread which could have been made easily in an oven box. Biscuit mix (like Bisquick) makes really good biscuits and is faster and easier than making them from scratch, but if you want real buttery drop biscuits, this is the recipe.


2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
¾ cup milk


1. Heat the oven to 450°F and grease the bottom of a baking pan.

2. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix them with your clean hands until you have a smooth batter with no big lumps of flour.

3. Drop small handfuls of biscuit dough (a little bit bigger than a golf ball) onto the greased baking pan.

4. Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Makes 12 biscuits


Another name for those earliest breads is unleavened bread. Unleavened bread is flat, dense bread that hasn't risen with yeast or soda. Before the discovery of yeast all breads were unleavened. There aren't as many varieties of unleavened bread as there are of yeast, batter, and quick breads, but some unleavened breads are still popular today.

The best-known unleavened bread is matzo, which Jewish people eat every year during Passover.

One of the most ancient unleavened breads — Arabian pita bread — is still popular today. This comes from the Middle East, where it has been eaten for centuries. Today there are many brands of pita bread available, and they're made out of all sorts of different grains, like oatmeal, whole wheat, and rye. You can recognize pita bread pretty easily because it is round and, when you slice it in half, you find a "pocket." This makes sandwich making easy — all you do is drop your sandwich fixings in and voila! Instant sandwich.

Another way people eat pita bread is by cutting it into triangles and toasting them until they're crisp. Then they're eaten plain or are dipped into a sauce like hummus, which is made from chickpeas, lemon juice, sesame paste, salt, and pepper — it's delicious and nutritious!

Pita Bread

Traditional pita was made without any leavener, but I find my pita pockets are just a little bit better and easier to make if I add about a teaspoon of yeast.


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon (almost ½ package) yeast (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg
1 cup water


1. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and make a firm, smooth dough. Let it sit for 1 hour undisturbed.

2. Heat the oven to broil or 550°F. Divide the dough into eight equal balls. Put them on a cookie sheet and press or roll each ball into a very flat disk.

3. Bake for 4-5 minutes in the hot oven or until lightly toasted. Remove quickly when they're ready or else they'll burn.

4. Eat!

Makes 8 pita pockets

* * *

Hummus is a delicious dip for pita bread. People have been eating this combination since the earliest Middle Eastern civilizations.

To make hummus, all you have to do is put 1 cup of drained, canned chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) into a blender or food processor. If you have dried beans, soak them overnight to soften them, then drain them. Add ¼ cup tahini sesame paste (in the international section of your grocery store), ¼ cup olive oil, 3 peeled garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Process this mixture until smooth, then dip torn pita bread in and enjoy!

This is not only delicious, but it's very, very good for you.

1500 B.C. EGYPT

Ancient Egypt is where bread really began to take shape as the yeasty food we enjoy today. The Egyptians made all sorts of improvements to bread making, like harvesting grain, milling it, and — most importantly — adding yeast.

Egyptian drawings found in the tombs of pharaohs actually show pictures of people milling grain and baking bread! Because of this message left by people thousands of years ago, we know that they considered bread a very important part of life.

Early Egyptians figured out that the grain they gathered came from seeds that came from the grasses. They dug up the earth on either side of the Nile River and scat-llf tered the seeds over the wet soil. Their harvests included wheat (which they called emmer) and barley. In order to harvest their grains, the ancient Egyptians made sickles out of sharpened flint and mounted them on wooden sticks. These were the perfect instruments for chopping down the tall grasses.

After cutting they put all the stalks of wheat together and had cattle walk on the grasses to separate the grain from the blade. The grain was the only part they wanted for cooking. Then they scooped up the grain and used special bowls to toss it in the air and catch it again. This is called winnowing, and it removed the hard, inedible outside covering of the grain, called the chaff. It was then time to mill, or grind, the grain down to a powder by mashing it between two hard, flat rocks called millstones.

After the grain was milled, it was transferred to baskets. A scribe counted and recorded the number of baskets before they were transferred to the granary where the grain was stored.

The ancient Egyptian families grew or raised all of the foods they ate on their own property or on the estate they lived on. Once it was prepared, they stored their water and food in large pottery jars and baskets.

In Thebes, Egypt, a basket of bread that was baked 3,500 years ago was found recently. Thanks to the hot, dry climate of Egypt the bread was well preserved and still looked much like it must have when it was first baked those thousands of years ago.

Bread has also been found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. When a pharaoh died he was buried with many things that people thought he would need in the afterlife — things like gold, jewelry, clothing, furniture, pictures, and blankets. The Egyptians also buried bread in the shape of servants with these kings because it was thought that they would need servants in the afterlife, too.

All of this is proof that bread was very, very important to the ancient Egyptians. In fact, they had more than forty different kinds of bread. Part of the reason the ancient Egyptians were able to have so many different kinds of bread is that they were the first to make what we call leavened, or raised, bread. This is the fluffy, chewy bread that we all think of now when we think of bread. Before the Egyptians came along and used yeast in bread, all bread was hard and flat.

No one knows exactly how or why yeast was first used in bread. But there are two interesting stories about it.

The first story is that there was once a baker who hired a very clumsy boy to help him bake breads. This boy was always knocking things over, tripping, and running into things.

One day while the baker was hurrying to make some bread for the pharaoh, the clumsy boy knocked a bottle of ale into the bread dough. Since the baker was in a hurry and didn't have time to mix a whole new dough, he added a little more flour to the dough and mixed it.

Since ale contains yeast, the dough started to expand, like a balloon. The baker watched in amazement for a couple of hours as the bread dough grew larger and larger. When he finally baked it, the resulting loaf was tall and wide and as light as air. The pharaoh loved it, and soon everyone in the land was pouring ale into their bread dough to make the fancy raised bread.

The other story about how leavened bread came about is not about a clumsy baker's assistant but about a lazy baker.

This baker had lots of bread to bake, but halfway through the job he ran out of water. He was so lazy that he couldn't bear the idea of finding his water bucket and going into the town center to fill it, so instead he used the only other liquid he had in the place — his ale.

This wasn't an easy choice for the lazy baker because he really liked to relax with a bit of ale in the afternoons. Finally, though, his laziness won out and he poured the ale into the bread dough.

Then he sat down to rest. After all, making that decision had taken a lot of energy out of him. So he sat, and he fell asleep. When he woke up, he saw that the bread had risen to twice its previous size. He took this as a sign that the gods were rewarding him for his goodness, and he baked the bread.

When he took the bread out of the fire, he saw that it had risen even a little bit more. He was so pleased that he told everyone in his village about the fluffy bread made with ale. Soon everyone was baking their bread with ale instead of water.


Excerpted from Loaves of Fun by Elizabeth M. Harbison, John Harbison. Copyright © 1997 Elizabeth M. Harbison. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Kitchen and Cooking Tips,
Drop Biscuits,
Pita Bread,
Old-Fashioned Sourdough Sponge,
Modern Sourdough Starter,
Sourdough Bread,
Blow Up a Balloon with Yeast,
Challah Braid,
Roman Bread Pudding,
Bread Bowls For Soup,
Corn Bread,
Amish Friendship Bread Starter,
Amish Friendship Bread,
Colonial Third Bread,
Sally Lunn Bread,
Welsh Rabbit,
Hush Puppies,
Cranberry Quick Bread,
Poster Paints,
Squeeze Paints,
Play Dough,
Grow Mold,
White Bread,
French Baguette Pans,
French Bread,
French Toast,
Rosco de Reyes (Mexican New Year's Bread),
Moravian Christmas Bread,
Have an International Breakfast,

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