The Art and Science of Bread

SRP 2014 Bread

A light dusting of flour and the smell of yeast took over the Cultural Events Center at the Summer Reading Programs “The Art and Science of Bread, for adults and teens in the programs at the Lamar Public Library. After a lecture by Valerie Reifschneider, Lamar Community College chemistry teacher and self-professed baker, participants created their own sourdough bread starter using a recipe from King Arthur’s Flour website.

The event was inspired after library director Debbie Reynolds read Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish, and became fascinated by the idea of artisan bread-making. The topic coincided with this year’s summer reading program theme of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The adults and teens in the summer reading program were invited to attend the program.

Reifschneider presented a Powerpoint explaining the three main components of bread and the different chemical reactions. Her presentation helped to make the complex science of that perfect loaf of bread understandable to the audience. She also presented information about the differences between artisan breads, which use yeast, and cakes and quick breads which use different leavening agents.

The chemical reactions between the three different leavening agents, yeast, baking soda, and baking powder, were all shown visually by adding water to cause the reaction to occur. The visual demonstration made it easy to see how the chemical reaction with yeast takes time.

Reifschneider concluded her talk with a video showing Giorgio Locatelli, a European baker, recreating a 2,000 year old loaf of bread. The loaf of bread was found in 1930 in the ruins of Herculaneum, a Roman town destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Locatelli created a visual replica of the loaf including the string that was wrapped around the loaf before baking so that people could carry the loaf once completed.

After the presentation, the participants were able to create their own bread starter using flour and water mixed in a Mason jar. The jar is left open to the air so that the yeast found naturally in the air can be added to the starter. Everyone left with a set of instructions on how to feed their starter and a bag of flour to do the feeding with. In seven days, the starters should be ready to be added to a bread recipe to create an artisan loaf of bread.

Article by Leigh Forney

Filed Under: communityEducationEntertainmentEventsLamarYouth


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