Want an awesome decoration that’s also a healthy appetizer at your next party? How about a special side dish for a Father’s Day dinner that’s also a work of art? Or how about just a really fun rainy day kid’s craft that’s also lunch?
Edible bread sculptures start as play dough and end up as tasty masterpieces. Bread dough is easy enough for a kid to sculpt, but the finished loaf holds detail surprisingly well, making it a satisfying craft for even older artists, who won’t be disappointed with the results.
This bread dragon, served with a cashew and spinach spread, will grace the table at my kiddo’s dragon-themed ninth-birthday party, but our dinners are often served with bread turtles, bread snowmen, bread monsters, and more, all made by the kids just for fun and just as happily eaten–whole wheat bread, consumed without complaint!
Here’s how to make your own edible bread sculptures:
1. Find a favorite recipe. You’ll need a stiff dough to keep the shape of your bread sculptures as they bake; most, but not all, homemade bread recipes will work for this. Five-minute-a-day, or no-knead recipes, however, such as my favorite no-knead baguette that I make when we’re NOT doing sculptures, just haven’t worked for us. If you need a shortcut, I’ve found that both bread dough made in my Kitchen-aid mixer and bread dough made in my bread machine do work.
Here are some homemade bread recipes that WILL work:
- easy whole wheat bread–Let the kids knead this one by hand!
- zucchini bread–This zucchini bread isn’t a sweet quick bread. Instead, it’s a yeast bread with shredded zucchini and crunchy seeds kneaded in; shredded carrots and soaked raisins would also be delicious.
- soft whole wheat sandwich bread recipe–This bread makes good sandwiches, although my kids generally eat the entire batch warm with dinner.
- healthy French bread–This particular French bread has Bob’s Red Mill 10-Grain Cereal as one of the flours, giving it a fun texture for the hands (and the taste buds!).
I bet your favorite homemade bread recipe will work, too, though–try it!
2. Sculpt away! To set up this activity, I preheat the oven, line my largest baking sheet with parchment paper, and set out individual pieces of parchment paper to work on, a dish of plain water, forks and serrated knives as sculpting tools, and extra white whole wheat flour.
The bread dough recipe should have risen for the appropriate time, and be ready to shape into loaves and bake. The kids fight over whose turn it is to punch the dough down, then I divide the dough and hand it out, and everybody gets to work!
If anyone’s dough still seems sticky, they can knead a little more white whole wheat flour into it until it feels workable. Serrated knives work better for separating pieces of dough than just pulling pieces off; to join two pieces of dough, wet both sides to be joined and press them together until they stick.
Different foods can be added to the dough sculptures for extra embellishment. Olives and garlic cloves, grape tomatoes and soaked raisins or craisins can all be pressed into the dough; poppy seeds and sesame seeds can be sprinkled on and gently pressed until they stick.
3. Bake carefully. The only tricky part to making bread sculptures is the fact that you’re going to have to estimate your cooking time. Your original recipe will tell you how many loaves of what size the recipe makes; I like to look at the finished sculptures and estimate how much smaller the smallest one is than the recommended loaf. For instance, is the smallest sculpture the size of half a loaf? A quarter of a loaf? A roll? Make your estimate of cooking time based on that size, and be conservative–you can always bake an underdone bread turtle longer, but a burned bread turtle guarantees a sad kid.
If you’re baking more than one sculpture at a time, they’ll likely be finished at different times. Just keep checking the oven, and slip finished sculptures off the baking sheet with a spatula before returning the sheet to the oven for another few minutes.
You can, of course, bake a special sculpture the day before a party, and store it at room temperature, but one of the really fun things about these bread sculptures is that if you make smaller, individually-sized ones, you don’t have to wait for them to cool and be sliced before serving. My kids like to create bread sculptures as a late-afternoon activity–I bake them while I cook dinner, and then slide them, hot and fresh, onto their plates along with their meal.
We’ve NEVER had leftovers.