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North Salem Daily Voice serves North Salem, NY

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Life Skills Rise At North Salem Middle School

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Nearly 100 sixth graders gathered in the North Salem Middle School auditorium Wednesday to learn how easy and gratifying it can be to make your own bread. “No boxes, no mixes,” said Gina Ciancia, representative of the King Arthur Flour Company ’s Life Skills Bread Baking Program.

With the assistance of students Julia Shabshis and Mark Ribaudo, Ciancia mixed up the basic ingredients including yeast, water, a little sugar, a heap of flour and a dash of salt, and gave a start to finish demonstration.

“The goal is to get it smooth,” she said, as she kneaded the dough. “In the beginning it’s a big, scraggly, mushy lump. It shrinks as you work it. Kneading is three steps, over and over and over. Fold it in half, nudge it, spin it. For about five minutes.”

Together the expert and her assistants demonstrated how to make a pizza, a pretzel, a french loaf (with slits for the steam to escape), and a braided loaf, all from the same basic dough. “Braiding must always be done by hand. At King Arthur we make 3,000 loaves of bread a day. The braided loaves are always done by hand.”

To a roar of approval, Ciancia showed how to make cinnamon rolls. Roll out the dough, sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar and roll it into a cylinder. Then came a new trick: how to divide it up.

She explained that first a baker should notch it at even intervals. Then, using dental floss, slip the floss under at each notch, pretend you are tying a bow at the top, but pull it tight instead, so that it cuts completely through. “Don’t use mint flavored floss,” she said.

King Arthur provided gift bags, containing two 2-lb. bags of flour, a recipe booklet, some yeast and a dough scraper. “Come back after school to pick it up,” said teacher Ann Sicheri. “Keep it in your back pack. It’s not the kind of thing you want to open on the school bus and throw at each other.”

Interested students were invited to stay after school and participate in a bread baking session. The successful loaves would be donated to the Putnam County Community Action Program soup kitchen.

The bread baking program is a feature of the Home and Career Skills course, part of the Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum. Its goal is to help students meet future responsibilities as family and community members.

Topics include clothing management, family/parenting, financial management, interpersonal relationships, nutrition and wellness, personal environment management and more.

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