Bake-A-Bear Bread

Makes about 10 servings or 4 medium-sized bears
This is a simple basic white bread recipe to use, as it eliminates eggs both in the dough and as a wash, which is convenient when working with younger children.
  • 1 pkg. (¼ ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups water, warmed to about 110°
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk, warmed to about 110°
  • 6 tbsp. softened unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 5 cups bread flour, plus up to 1 additional cup for kneading
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • - raisins and/or chocolate chips (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, gently whisk together yeast, water and sugar until dissolved.

Talking Point: This is an opportunity to explain to young cooks that yeast is a living organism and that its waste is what causes the dough to rise.

Add milk, 3 tbsp. butter, salt and 1/2 the flour; combine ingredients using a spatula or wooden spoon. Gradually add more flour until dough forms.

Talking Point: This is an opportunity to discuss the importance of accurate measurements and to consider why ingredients are best measured in advance. Inquire why it is that flour is an imprecise measurement and ask kids how they might decide when enough flour has been added.

Turn the dough out onto a solid surface dusted with flour; knead 6-8 min.

Talking Point: This is an opportunity to demonstrate how to knead and to talk about how the action develops gluten in the dough.

Oil a bowl and coat dough with oil; place dough in bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap; place in a warm spot to rise for 1 hr.

Talking Point: This is an excellent opportunity to clean up and prepare the work area for shaping dough. Individual pieces of parchment paper or small foil pans are ideal and can be labeled with names using permanent marker.

TO SHAPE BEARS: Punch down risen dough and knead gently. Cut into 4 pieces to make 4 bears. Split each piece of dough in half. Using 1 half, make a large oval to form the bear's body. Split the other half into 2 pieces – 1 for the head and 1 for the arms and legs. Take the piece for the head and divide it into 4 pieces – 1 large piece for the head itself and 3 small pieces to form 2 ears and 1 nose. Take the piece for the limbs and separate it into 4 equal-sized log-shaped pieces. Build bears directly on parchment paper-lined baking sheets or disposable foil pans; let rise for about 15 min. In a small microwave-safe dish, melt remaining butter in the microwave; brush bears with melted butter. Bake in a preheated 400° until golden-brown (17-20 min.). Remove bears from oven; allow to cool slightly. Use a small, sharp paring knife to make small slits for the eyes and nose; press raisins and/or chocolate chips into the slits to finish.

Good to Know: You can shape and bake bears using these instructions and another favorite bread dough recipe or use thawed, frozen bread dough.

Recipe courtesy of Jill Colella, kids' cookbook author and editor of Ingredient magazine.