Bake a March Lion and a Lamb

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On one level, bread dough is a lot like play dough. Both are soft and pliable, and both can be shaped, pulled, twisted and squished into monsters and animals. But unlike play dough, bread dough fills your house with wonderful smells as it's baking--and produces fresh warm loaves perfect for spreading with butter.

It's no wonder baking bread with kids is always a roaring success, especially when the weather is blustery, like it was one recent afternoon when I invited a group of kids into my kitchen to bake. While I shaped an old-fashioned loaf of wheat bread, the kids got creative with the dough, designing snakes, funny faces and puppies with raisin eyes. But the highlight was when they crafted a March lion and lamb using a garlic press to make the fierce mane and woolly fleece.

As they squeezed out strands of dough, I explained that March comes in with stormy weather, like a lion, and goes out with mild, warm days, like a lamb. If only the weather could be as predictable as our bread craft project.

Preparing the Dough

Ingredients:

1 1/4-oz. pkg. yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp. plus 1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp. salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg (for egg wash)
Poppyseeds
Raisins
Garlic press

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the sugar and let it sit for 5 minutes, or until bubbles begin to form. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the milk and heat until just warm.

Pour this mixture into the yeast mixture along with the remaining sugar and the salt. Next, add both flours, 1 cup at a time, until the dough feels stiff.

TIP: For a lighter loaf, decrease the whole wheat flour to 1 cup or omit it entirely and use just all-purpose flour.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

TIP: Kids love the process of kneading. Ask them to press the dough with their palms, fold it back, and repeat. Explain that kneading develops the gluten in the flour, a protein substance that makes the dough stretch and produces a soft-textured bread.

Making the Lion

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Once the dough has risen, punch it down.

To make the lion, break off a large clump of the dough and shape it into the body.

Place it on a greased baking sheet. Next, use smaller pieces of dough to shape the head, legs (with the hind leg slightly bent), and a long, thin tail.

Place a small ball of dough in a garlic press and squeeze out strands for the mane and tail tuft. Finally, add a raisin eye.

Making the Lamb

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To make the lamb, shape another large clump of dough into an  oval for the body.

Place it on a separate greased baking sheet. Add a small head with two ears, spindly legs and a fluffy tail. Cover the legs and part of the face with poppy seeds.

Finally, squeeze dough through a garlic press for the lamb's wool and pile it all over the lamb's body. Add a raisin eye.

TIP: If you have any dough left over, let the kids shape it into cats, dogs and other furry creatures.

Baking the Bread

Cover the animals with plastic wrap and let them rise until  doubled in bulk. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water to create an egg wash, then use a pastry brush to "paint" it on the lion and lamb, being careful not to flatten the animals' features in the process.

TIP: Double the bread dough recipe and make two loaves of whole wheat bread for sandwiches or toast. Bake the bread in two greased loaf pans for 30 minutes.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Serve warm with butter and jam. Makes 2 to 4 lions or lambs, depending on their size.

Article reprinted with permission of Disney Canada. View original article here.