Updated: Jun 22, 2022
Earlier in the year BREAD Encounters had received a request for a bread workshop from Charles Lamica, founder of the 1804 Club in Kettle Falls, WA, a youth program for 12 through 17-year olds focusing on skills used by Lewis & Clark on their expedition around 1804. Charles also happens to be a former Alaskan State Trooper and Wilderness Survival Instructor in charge of rescue operations for the State of Alaska before he retired and he is now passing on his wilderness survival skills to the youth.
Charles and I had started talking about a collaboration beween our two organizations during the COVID lockdown, and so it was exciting to eventually receive the official invite to teach a bread class to his "1804 Kids". He had also previously shared with me his desire to build an outdoor community bread oven, something which I had always been a dream of mine. Prior to my arrival, Charles and a couple of "his" 1804 kids built the base for the oven from downed trees found on his property which is in a remote location completely surrounded by forest. I regret to inform you, that we started but were not able to finish the outdoor clay oven during my stay there due to a series of unfortunate events. Charles, however, is working on completing the project and will soon test his newly found bread baking skills in the type of outdoor oven used in the 1800s.
I had consulted with Charles regarding any specific topics he would like to have included in my workshop with the youth and we devised a lesson plan together.
We had 8 youth attending the class, (some travelling as far as an hour) plus the mom of two of the kids. After introducing myself, the mission of BREAD Encounters, as well as an outline of the sequence of events for the day, we moved on to our first activity, by starting out with "flour art" in the spirit of the BREAD Houses Network bread art therapy. The prompt we had selected for the flour drawing was "What does the 1804 Club mean to you?"
The canvas for the drawings was a table covered with a a dusting of flour which just beckoned to be drawn on. Our usual drawing tools are wheat straws, which unfortunately had not made the trip with me to Washington. However, since these were "wilderness" kids and very resourceful, they just went outside and collected some twigs. After spending a few minutes contemplating their designs, they then proceeded to start their drawings. It always amazes me to see how much everyone, young or old, enjoys drawing in flour! I have had adult men tell me that they hadn't done anything like this since their childhood and how surprised they were at the joy they felt while engaging in this simple activity.
Very detailed flour drawings!
As the facilitator, I always enjoy hearing the stories behind the drawings and getting to experience each person's personality which comes out as they are explaining their flour art. You can learn a lot about a person through this simple activity! One of the girls had drawn a scene with a caption in her own "psycho language" as she called it. She was explaining her drawing to us, and I was just about to move on to the next person when it occurred to me to ask her if she would translate for us what she had written in her special language. I do not remember her exact words but she expressed how she felt accepted and safe in this group and felt that she could trust the people in it. I found out later that it was a very big step for this shy young girl to openly be able to express how she felt, and even more so to do it in front of the group! Once again I realized the wonderful opportunity for "connection" with oneself and others this simple flour art method provides.
After this initial getting-to-know-each-other activity, we started the lecture part of our workshop. Here are the main topics we covered:
4 basic ingredients of bread
review of the long ingredient list on wrapper of store bought bread
different types of flour
nutritional benefits of long versus short dough fermentation
introduction to sourdough
Although our plan had been to knead actual sourdough with the the kids, my dried starter which usually takes just a couple of days to reconstitute, due to the flour was hampered in its valiant effort to become active by flour which seemed to have been low both in quality and protein (this became obvious after we noticed the lack of gluten structure when we tried to make a simple yeast dough). So, instead of sourdough, we taught the kids a simple yeast bread recipe which we were going to knead in the wonderful dough trough inspired by fellow Crumbassador Simon Gray Charles, who is also a wonderful wood craftsman, had fashioned our dough trough from a fallen tree on his property. We had each kid measure out the amount of flour for one loaf and deposit it in the dough trough. One of the kids was assigned to calculate the combined yeast amount for 8 loaves as well as figure out the amount of salt and water according to the recipe.
The kids enjoyed getting their hands into the flour and creating a shaggy mass after incorporating the water bit by bit. Everyone got a turn in mixing and kneading the dough in our awesome hand carved community dough trough. After the kneaded dough had rested for a while, I performed a couple of stretch and folds on our beautiful dough before letting it rest in the trough. Later on we had the kids divide the dough into into 8 fairly equal portions, so that everyone could go home with enough dough to bake one loaf. They had the option of baking their bread later in the day or keeping it in the fridge to bake the following day.
We had erased the 1804 flour drawings earlier in the day, but had left the mound of flour on the table. Much to my surprise, the kids return to it during their free time, resift the flour and create their own activity in the form of a murder mystery story! Two of the kids decided to draw a chess board in flour and then proceeded to play a game of "flour chess". I would say that our flour art was a big success with the kids (and everyone I have had the opportunity to engage in this activity).
We were also able to share our "chicken scratch" experimental loaf with the kids. The day prior I was perusing the bins at the local Red Bridge Farms feed store where Charles holds some of his club meetings and when reading the non-GMO ingredient list, it occurred to me that the items listed might make a good addition to a bread dough: wheat, barley, peas and red lentils. After consulting with the owner Brad, we decided to take some home, wash it, toast it, grind it and pour boiling water over it, before adding it to the dough. Although they kids did not get to taste it, they were fascinated by the idea of it! Charles and I, however, did get to taste it and loved the earthy flavor and extra boost of nutrition it gave to the bread.
We had a few loaves rising in the hearth during our workshop which we baked in Dutch ovens and were able to conclude our workshop with the traditional breaking of bread as a sign of goodwill and friendship.
Jack, the young gentleman on the left, did not have an oven available and so, displaying the resourcefulness becoming an 1804 kid, he decided to bake his bread in a slow cooker!!! Although bread cooked that way will lack a good crust, it certainly is a viable alternative way to bake/cook bread. When I asked if he could send a picture of the crumb, he informed us that the loaf had already been eaten by his siblings! The second beautiful loaf was baked by Aubrey.
We received these pictures of the successful bread bakes the next day whilst I was in the Colville Emergency Room after I breaking a vertebrae in my back (again). But that's a whole other story...
Thank you to the awesome kids of the 1804 Club and Charles Lamica for giving me this wonderful opportunity to share my passion for bread with them.