Sculpting Bread Dough for Seasonal Decor

With seasonal décor flooding the stores, do you ever imagine sculpting your own decorations from bread dough? For ideas on how to accomplish this, the 2018 Kansas Wheat Commission recipe book features over thirty bread sculptures.

The Kansas Wheat staff publish an annual recipe book—a collectors item for many.  I asked why this year’s recipe book features Bread Sculptures for All Seasons. Cindy Falk, Kansas Wheat nutrition educator recalls, “The 2018 annual recipe book inspiration began at the 2017 Kansas State Fair. We had more people stopping just to see the bread sculptures used as exhibit decorations. With all of the interest in the booth, came the idea to hold a Bread Sculpture Contest to coincide with launching a 2018 recipe book on bread sculptures.  We chose to organize the sculptures by seasons, and so anyone could dough sculpt, we developed step-by-step photos with detailed instructions.”

Falk organized the inaugural Kansas State Fair Bread Sculpture contest and registered over thirty entries. An ornate, woven bread basket filled with colorful, painted flowers was awarded the grand champion prize. 

Long before the 2018 fair, Cindy along with her assistant Julene DeRouchey,  sculpted, styled and photographed dozens of creative bread shapes. The results?  We can all now roll up our sleeves and prepare a simple white or whole wheat dough for sculpting anything from bees to fishes…to spiders to witches.  

Each season showcases six to 10 creations to set apart every gathering.  For example, learn how to sculpt centerpieces like a stunning, golden Sunflower, a cluster of rustic Harvest Grapes, and all-time favorite Tom Turkey.    

Check out this beautiful Kansas Sunflower  and Tom Turkey 

Guests will be delighted to find their place at the dinner table with their very own filled mini-cornucopia. They can also enjoy a bountiful bread basket overflowing with rosettes, rose blossoms, and sweetheart cinnamon rolls.

Decorate for any season with an eye-appealing bread sculpture. See the step-by-step instructions at here

Finally, share your sculpting skills with others and turn your holiday creations into a fund raising campaign for a special cause. Together, we can “Bake the World a Better Place.”  

If you’re a culinary or FCS teacher, learning the skill to bake these value-added products helps achieve 20+ Family and Consumer Sciences standards, builds Career and Tech skills, is STEM + Art (STEAM) and applies Baking Food Safety.  

You’ll find Julene and Cindy featured on HBA’s Dough Sculpting 101 DVD.  Download a free lesson




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Fall… How Sweet It Is

The beautiful array of apples coming into the market takes me back to junior high Family & Consumer Sciences home economics classes I taught.  There were a surprising number of students who “didn’t like apples!”  This could not drop off my teacher radar—apples are relatively inexpensive, extremely nutritious treats.  What to do?  (It NEVER works to just say “Eat this, it’s good for you.”)

Using sensory science first, we’d cut and labeled sample slices of about 5-8 varieties.  Tasting one slice of each variety helped the students prove to themselves “an apple is NOT just an apple.”

You’ll love the U.S. Apple Association’s variety chart

Sometimes we’d simply Bake Apples, or make Homemade Applesauce, to see and taste how flavors and textures differed.

Often we’d tackle something a little more grand—apple galettes, apple pie, or apple cake, all were favorites.

My pick for Fall 2018—Apple Custard Pie

If you go “gluten-free,” as the recipe suggests, you’ll need a Gluten-free Pie Crust

Fruit and sugar go hand and hand—it’s a great time to help the students learn facts about sugar while they learn about fruit.  Explore how the “sweet” gets in fruit, and where sugar comes from. Both are the product of photosynthesis. Download infographic here

Brush up on your sugar myths and facts with this Food Insight, August 2018 feature, and Sugar in the Diet consumer facts.

Illustrate with a small apple (a serving) and The Fruit in All Forms, Making Sense of Sugars Infographic to teach sugar and fruit facts

Promote critical thinking— Is the apple’s sugar a “natural” sugar?  How did it get there?  If the apple’s sugar was extracted into a sugar bowl, would your body use it in the same way?  Sugar is not evil. It often comes with nutritious company.

Help the students get a handle on Bite-Sized Tips on Sugar Portion Control 

Round out the eating experience.  After you’ve created a beautiful Apple Custard Pie, help the students portion it sensibly, sit down, turn the tech off, and enjoy eating together, slowly savoring a little of Fall’s beauty and flavor.


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What September Brings to the Table

September offers a bounty of great baking ideas and resources. Three of my favorites this fall include the Whole Grains Council’s Deal of the Day specials for Whole Grains Month.

I may need to speak for myself, but I plan to “get out of my culinary rut,” and try a new whole grain recipe each week.  Access the “how-to” whole grain baking guide and many whole grain recipe videos for home or in foods classrooms or out-of-school programs.

Take time to Instagram and tag what you do with #SPOTWHOLEGRAIN for a chance to win $500.

FREE is always an educator’s dream.  Down load or order these baking food safety  resources from The Partnership for Food Safety Education and

Fall’s bounty has begun! My baking will begin with Whole Grain Carrot Streusel Coffee Cake, Smart Snack, p. 13. I’ll make them as a muffin for a portable breakfast.

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August is for Fair for Baking

Recipes and Resources for State and County Fairs
by Sharon Davis

August is not generally top-of-mind baking season, but even while you read, some of the most amazing baking ever is coming out of home kitchens all over the country for county and state fairs.  This is good on many levels. Parents or adult 4-H and youth leaders are happy to engage young bakers in some major summer mental and eye-hand coordination workouts.

Baking  “mental workouts” often include ingredient or pan substitutions as young bakers explore ribbon-winning recipes.  After all, what actually IS apple pie spice?  What do I do if I don’t have buttermilk or cake flour?  Can I substitute anything for honey?

Young bakers will need to be self-critics re: their products before the products are judged.

The science of cause and effect is a great part of baking. For yeast breads, access What Happened to the Yeast Bread chart for help.

Learn from test kitchen baker successes like cakes and pies

… and breads

Check out the winners from wheat country’s finest… Oklahoma Best of Bread, Wheat Montana, the National Festival of Breads and many more

Take time to for your own little baking challenge.  Visit a fair near you. Buy a fat little spiral notebook to log your baking inspirations, trials and errors, successes, questions and challenges.  You’ll be ready for FALL baking season before you know it.


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Baking Math for Families and Young Children

To help my children with math, I had to find where math had its groove in our life—where it was applied and practical. I didn’t want to pass on my math fears! Because I teach baking, we used simple math concepts, methods, and measurements, and we enjoyed the results. Children often want to help—and help sample the finished product! Find time, at least once a week, to hold baking sessions that can start math conversations and calculations!

Baking math begins with forming a habit called mis en place—everything in order—“ducks in a row”—before you ever put the flour in the bowl. Bake together and build math skills along with these 10 baking habits:

1. Pick an ingredient your children have read about—apples, blueberries, carrots, butter, zucchini. Ask children “What shapes do you see?” Bake waffles, pancakes, bread, and pizza.

2. Choose a recipe with simple ingredients and 1, 2, 3, directions. Recipes at and (Spanish or English) are a great start. Check your library for Cooking Class and Baking Class by Deanna F. Cook—perfect for young bakers.

3. Read the recipe, top to bottom, reading aloud ingredient names, amounts needed, oven temperature, baking time, and steps, beginning to end.

4. Ask, “What ingredient is used in the smallest amount?” “Which is the largest amount?” “Is there more flour than sugar or butter?”

5.Find each ingredient and place it on the counter. Ask your child to help put the ingredients in the order they will be used.

6. Offer children under age 2 the dry measuring cups to use as stacking cups. By age 3, they can hand you “the littlest cup,” (1/4 cup), the “medium-sized cup” (1/2 cup) or, you can ask, “Which cup has a 3 on it (⅓ cup)?” Help children fill the cups and level the measure off. Let them add the ingredients to the mixing bowl.

7. Bake the same-sized cookies, muffins, and loaves. This isn’t just to avoid fights over the biggest cookie! Help 4-year-olds work on hand–eye coordination by scooping batter or dough. Ask them to guess why all the cookies or muffins on one pan need to be equally spaced and the same size. (All will bake the same—if some are big and some small, the big ones might be raw while the little ones could be burnt.)

8. What is a fraction—or part of a cup? Have your 5-year-old measure two ½ cups of flour and transfer flour to the 1 cup measure. Show them that “1 over 2” is ½ cup; if the ½ cup is used twice it will equal 1 cup. This may be done with ¼ (four ¼ cups = 1 cup) or ⅓ (three ⅓ cups = 1 cup).

9. Check the oven—Ask if it is empty. “How many racks are in it?” “We will use the middle rack—which one is that?” Heat the oven to the temperature in the recipe—have your older children match the oven degrees in the recipe to the oven dial or toggle up to the degree number. Ask, “How hot will the oven be?” Compare and contrast the oven’s heat to a hot summer day—the oven is 3 to 4 times hotter! Remind your children: ONLY adults should load and remove pans from a hot oven.

10. Get a simple food scale. Help older children weigh their pancake, muffin, or bread serving to see its net weight. “Is it 1 ounce?” That’s one serving. “Does it weigh more?” “How many bread servings is your pancake?” Weigh the ingredients after measuring them. See if your child can get 1 cup of flour to weigh 4.25 ounces three times in a row!

Above all, wash hands before you begin and after you handle flour and raw batter or dough to reduce the number of bacteria on your hands.

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The Winner of the 2018 Educator Award Has Been Announced

2018 Home Baking Association Educator Award

First Place Selection:

Cheryl Z. Doyle and Louann Moos

Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers
Pennbrook Middle School
North Wales, PA
Entry: The Pennbrook Baking Club
Congratulations to this year’s winners!  The Pennbrook Baking Club is an after school club for middle school students.  Its purpose is for students to practice baking skills, raise money for charity and have fun!  HBA members will meet Cheryl Doyle and Louann Moos at the Home Baking Association Annual Membership Meeting, September 30 – October 2 at the Resort at Squaw Creek, Olympic Valley, California.   
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Bake to Build Learning with Special Needs Children

Summer vacations are coming with teachers and students both glad AND hopeful.  Teachers HOPE their students will USE summer time with their parents, grands, friends and sibs to keep learning.  Students are GLAD to have creative learning opportunities. Baking is uniquely suited both. The Home Baking Association offers many resources to assist, but what about teaching children with special needs?

Veteran Family & Consumer Sciences teacher Connie Nieman shares adaptations to build baking skills and confidence when there are special learning needs.

“My students often shared that their Grandma helped them get excited about baking.  I wanted to teach my granddaughter even though she has ADHD and some special learning needs.  Having worked with many special learning needs, doing this at home with my own grandchild still presented a challenge.  Remember:  It was well worth the challenges. During my research I learned that baking with special learning needs children is so important. It helps them develop eye-hand coordination, hand strength, boosts listening and sequencing skills, helps math skills, plus organization and planning skills.”

I think you will find this guidance helps:

  • Allow more time. No rushing.
  • Pre-teach the child appropriate and safe kitchen behavior –such as washing their hands. Do not just expect them to just know.  Guides to help can be found at
  • Let the child help choose the recipe. It’s more motivating! Do guide them to choose a simple recipe for a baked item you know they’ll enjoy eating.
  • Provide the child with photos of recipes or samples of the baked food. It helps them visualize and makes the baking tasks needed more exciting to “check off” to get to the goal!
  • Use a recipe that has easily read, 1,2,3, directions. Depending on the cognitive and physical abilities of the child some children may do best with picture directions. Visual Recipes by Tabitha Orth, Kid Chefs Bake by Lisa Huff, Baking Class by Deanna F. Cook and Picture Cook by Katie Shelby are good options.
  • Visual receipes is an on-line source where you can also prepare your own picture directions with the child.
  • Pre-read the recipe aloud with all children. When there’s a special learning need, it’s essential! While reading, highlight and illustrate the terms that need to be identified.
  • Work together to number or highlight each step of the recipe with colors to break the recipe into small steps. Too many directions at once will overwhelm.
  • Visually review only the equipment and ingredients necessary for the recipe.
  • Work together to gather each item needed and arrange in order for preparation. It is important to have the least distractors possible, so eliminate items that are not needed in the recipe.
  • Buy equipment that will help make preparation easier. Specialized equipment for children with a special learning needs include plastic knives, non-slip cutting boards, wide handles on spoons and tools, plastic liquid measuring cups, and mixers that are not electric.
  • Accommodations to help child gain independence may include measuring cups and spoons with a color system will help the child eventually memorize the measuring tool size needed to prepare baking recipes.

  • Mark clearly the dials on the oven for the child to easily set to preheat.
  • More clearly mark liquid ingredient cup lines to give children a visual clue for when to quit pouring. Eventually and ideally these will wear off and the student will  cook without them.
  • Demonstrate parts or the entire recipe, but then allow the child to do it too. Be sure to keep the listening time short.
  • Pause between steps when giving directions to allow the child time to carry out the process in his mind. Have the child repeat some of the directions as you show them a skill. You may repeat some of the directions too.  Last, ask the child questions with facts and asking for facts in return during the demonstration
  • Take breaks. Take time to clear the mind or time for movement to “blow off steam.”
  • Divide the process. It is often difficult to focus for a long amount of time. Break up the recipe.

Example: You may only prepare the dry ingredient mixture in the morning and finish the recipe later.  Yeast breads like pizza crust work well—prepare the dough, cover and refrigerate or let it rest. Make the pizza later! Here are tips for postponing baking

  • Often students with special learning needs do not feel they succeed. Provide the child with reinforcement for accomplishments, but DO correct errors. Reward child when they correct the error. Please don’t make eating raw batter or licking mixing tools a reward. Raw flour and eggs could make them sick.

  • Show their success with a Food Skills Check List!

  • Expand the learning, field to kitchen with Celebrate Wheat! Extra wheat, flour and pizza lessons.

One of my favorite recipes is to prepare with my granddaughter is pizza in a bag.  Here is the recipe for your convenience.

Another recipe we love because my granddaughter is a chocolate lover…

Here are several interesting articles you can read for more information:

Program teaches special needs students the art of baking

Cooking with Children with Special Needs

Written by:
Sharon Davis and Connie Nieman


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Bake to Savor those May Celebrations!

With the first brave rhubarb and asparagus pushing up in my garden comes the absolute confidence there will be a bounty of brunches. May has its way of making that happen.  From May Day to Memorial it’s one great opportunity after another to bake something simple, savory or sumptuous to share with mom, graduates, family, neighbors or veterans.

Simple: Biscuits are perfect, especially at the spur-of-the-moment because there are so many ways to go. Buttermilk, cream, rolled, drop, filled, drizzled, mile-high—all, when fresh baked and golden cannot fail.

An Herbed Cheddar Cheese Biscuit is fabulous with omelets, souffles or frittatas, Don’t hesitate to substitute 1 tablespoon fresh snipped chives for the dill – tis the season. Check out drop biscuit options at this site.

Don’t hesitate to go with old favorites like a cinnamon and raisin biscuit.

Sneak in chopped, drained fruit or toasted nuts in lieu of the raisins based on your company.

Then, prepare a glaze or drizzle to compliment.

How to make a glaze is a skill test kitchen pros are happy to share,

HOT TIME-SAVER TIP:  Prepare biscuit dough, cut biscuits and freeze (covered) on a sheet pan. Once frozen, pop individual biscuits into a freezer plastic bag. To bake: Preheat oven to 475°F. Bake frozen biscuits on sheet pan as usual for 8 minutes.  Turn off heat and leave in oven about 5 minutes, until golden. Serve with a freshly made Rhubarb-Strawberry jam.  There’ll be no need to preserve!

Savory includes pan, oven or grill-roasting fresh asparagus to simply top a

Rosemary Olive Oil bread.  Serve with cheeses, shaved meats or deviled eggs and fruit you’re done.

My new savory endeavor may just be a Breakfast Shakshukas, 

I think I’ll try prepping the dough and refrigerating it overnight to ease the schedule.

Sumptious sums up all breads shared from the National Festival of Breads competition.  These bakers pulled out all their skills and the flavor combinations, beautiful shapes and the aromas cannot be rivaled.  With sweet corn season coming soon in the south, tackle a Sweet Corn Blueberry Spiced Swirl Bread or any of the other savory or sweet beauties for your next brunch.

Bon Appetite!

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Bake for Locally Made Benefits

For all the cooks and bakers that have gone before me among family and friends, I doubt even one of them thought about their handiwork being “locally made,” or “earth-friendly.”  The carbon-reducing benefits of the “home chef” were tremendous as they put meals on the table from local food stores, gardens, 25 to 50-pound bags of flour, butter, eggs, a little sugar, salt and yeast.  Their hands-on approach meant a lot less plastic packaging and food transportation costs were involved per serving.  Earth Day was everyday. We can learn from them.

 First step: Choose to cook and bake simple foods to meet food needs.  The National Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Association provides their members caring for children and adults “away from home” fresh, healthy, cost-conservative, simple meal plans! Check out this just-launched micro-site , recipes and more.

CACFP Meal Planning Guide

Second step: Build food skills, one recipe at a time.  Horace said:  “He/She who has begun is half done,” so start here!

You may start with a simple collection of Grilled Cheese specialties or “jiffy” breakfast, lunch or dinner recipes.

 Third step: Think like a “consumer scientist.”  Grab-and-go beverages, meals, and snacks can burn those hard-earned dollars rapidly, mount environmental waste, buzz past any possible family time and defer community get-togethers. Critically think about what you’re doing using the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, model.

My predecessors cooked three meals plus every day.  For our earth, family and communities, why not return “ready-to-eat” foods to the “once-a-week treat” category and “planning to cook or bake” to your daily calendar.  Getting Started 



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Today is Whole Grain Sampling Day

What if there were one day when, everywhere you went, there were opportunities to try delicious whole grain foods?

You’d stop into the cafeteria at your workplace, and you’d be offered a taste of quinoa salad. Your teenager would duck into a quick-serve restaurant, and they’d ask, “Would you like that on a whole grain wrap, instead of the usual bun?” In the park downtown, a food company would be passing out granola bars to joggers. At dinner, as you serve whole grain pasta to your family, your fourth-grader would report about the whole grain pizza in her school lunch.

Check out the Oldways Whole Grains Council video below, to get inspired about Whole Grain Sampling Day.

Check out some of these great whole grain recipes from the Home Baking Association:

Whole Wheat Sticky Bun Pumpkin Muffins

White Whole Wheat Carrot Cake

Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins

White Whole Wheat Muffins

How Can You Celebrate Whole Grain Sampling Day in Your School/Community?

■ Highlight Existing Whole Grain Menu Items! There’s no need to create new menu items – unless of course you want to. Since you’ve already got delicious whole grain dishes on your menu—feature those!

■ Sample Some New Whole Grain Items Whole Grain Sampling Day is a great time to let kids taste some new whole grain items you may be planning to introduce. Especially for elementary kids: provide whole grain stickers to everyone who tries your new whole grain item.

■ Create Educational Games Take a pointer from other schools, and get creative with nutrition games and races that get kids excited about whole grains. We’ve included examples on the following page. We can also supply you with stickers, posters, handouts and more! Brainstorm with us now.

■ Invite Parents to a Tasting Event Kids will get more whole grains at home if you make sure their parents know about the whole grain foods kids love. Plan a tasting event for them, at morning drop-off time, after school, or in the evening.

Learn more about Whole Grain Baking with this very informative resource from the Home Baking Association.

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