Budding bakers get expert tips

DOWNEY - West Middle School's 470 sixth grade Foods students on Tuesday were treated to a demonstration on how to make nutritious bread, for them and their families' benefit, as well as for Downey area seniors for whom the school is preparing a "large" Thanksgiving dinner this Nov. 16.Making a first-ever trip here for the purpose was life skills/bread baking program instructor Pam Jensen, who represents Norwich, Vermont-based King Arthur Flour, which was founded in 1790 and claims to be America's oldest flour company. King Arthur Flour further claims that its unbleached flour "never contains any unnecessary chemicals or additives." The visit was arranged by West teacher Kit Clark, who sent a request to King Arthur Flour for a demonstration a year ago. She said the school's goal is teaching students 'Skills for Life' and that her Foods/Life Skills class teaches "the basic principles they will need to become confident in selecting, handling, and preparing food as well as being able to make life-long healthy choices for wellness." Two groups-one was the 8-9 a.m. class, the other the 9-10 a.m. period class-squatted on the cafeteria floor to watch and listen to the demonstration. "Students will also learn," Clark added, "information about nutrition, food production and culinary techniques that will improve their skills in the kitchen." A still more valuable element, she said, is the "importance of subjects such as math, science, economics, English and physical fitness, all of which are incorporated into our learning experiences in class." Indeed, Jensen, who was scheduled to drive next to San Diego for another set of demonstrations there, was happy to oblige. Engaging two 6th grade 'volunteers', one boy and one girl, to assist her, she used humor and set up challenging but 6th-grade-level questions to drive her points across. For instance, after stating that yeast was living matter, she asked, "What food would it want to feed on?" Answer: flour and sugar-which are important ingredients anyway for making bread. The others: water, oil (to keep the bread fresh), and salt (for taste), and so on. Another question: "What produces the 'bubbles' in bread?" Answer: carbon dioxide. A segment on how to knead the dough properly proved very interesting. Jensen said she and two other instructors-one covering the New England area, a second one the Midwest, and she the West Coast-will come to an area only where there's more than one definite school destination. She said the program is available to 4th-7th graders, and it's free of charge. She also said some 2,000 King Arthur recipes are available online (for further information, e-mail paula.gray@kingarthurflour.com). Preparing for next week's Thanksgiving dinner, each WMS Foods student was to take home two bags of flour (King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour), a recipe booklet, and a pastry cutter. They were to bake two loaves of bread, one to keep for themselves and eat at home, the other to donate to a worthwhile cause, in this case WMS' Thanksgiving dinner. Clark also pointed out that WMS has become "very environmentally conscious." She said she's head of the school's recycling program which has just installed a 21-ft. long and 10-ft. high bin, the 'safe house' for all campus cardboard, plastic and paper. "When we fill the bin, we have it emptied for cash that goes directly to West. It's only November and we have already emptied it once, so increased efforts are underway as well as a recycling club on campus where we craft, using only recycled materials. An increased awareness in going green has been created here and we are looking forward to the students really seeing what kind of conscious impact they can have on the environment." She wishes to inform the community that WMS has a community collection day every Friday morning from 7:30-8 a.m. (excepting this Veterans Day). "We collect all plastic CRV, aluminum, paper, magazines, newspaper and even junk mail," she said. -Henry Veneracion, staff writer

********** Published: November 10, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 30