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Kitchen Science: Bread making and Viruses

As you know, one of my favorite things to do with my daughter is teaching her lessons through cooking and baking, especially when it comes to stressful or hard to explain topics. Right now, with the global pandemic, we are talking a lot about germs and how to protect ourselves from them. One concept that is hard for my four-year-old to grasp is that germs and viruses like COVID-19 can live in the air and in our environment. She does not quite understand how it can be there if we cannot see it. Believe it or not, creating a sourdough starter is a great example and a hands-on illustration of this concept. So instead of scaring her or being frustrated, Zoey and I headed to the kitchen to create a sourdough starter.

You need two simple ingredients for a sourdough starter; warm filtered water and flour. You do not need bread yeast. The reason is that wild yeast grows in our environment and is all around us. And just like viruses and other germs, we cannot see them. But we have proof that they are there because as the sourdough starter becomes more mature, you can see the yeast. The starter will start to look alive and crawl up and down the jar, it will look bubbly and you can see those bubbles moving. Those bubbles are the wild yeast growing and maturing and belching out gas! You can even smell it! If you remove the lid of the sourdough starter, it will smell like sour bread and yeast. In just a few days it is easy to show how yeast, although it is invisible to our eyes, is alive and growing. All it needed was a home to grow and thrive in; much like how we cannot see germs and viruses, but if given a host, they will grow and invade.

Zoey really loved the parallels between giving the yeast a home to grow and mature, and how germs that are also invisible are out there and, if we are not careful, they can make us sick. It is always fun providing a real-world example to teach our children! Watch for our recipe and instructions on how to make your very own sourdough starter.

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