Though we usually don’t let the munchkin watch t.v., the other day I let him see a few minutes of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh so I could finish making dinner before my husband got home. I’d forgotten to update the toys in his kitchen drawer and he was feeling a bit cranky, so I asked myself, what’s better: a crying toddler banging on the kitchen gate until dinner’s ready, or a happy toddler watching Winnie the Pooh? I went with happy toddler.
Well, that was all it took for him to fall in love with Pooh Bear. The next day he asked for “Pooh pwese” when we were at Barnes & Noble (they had plush toys on display) and then his dad brought a Winnie the Pooh duplo set home. Now each morning begins with the munchkin giving Pooh a kiss and shouting “Poooohhh!!”
Remember watching this as a kid?
Since Pooh is so popular around here, yesterday I had an idea. Why don’t we make teddy bear bread?At 18-months-old my son thinks kitchen stuff is fascinating and given our success with the dinosaur blueberry pie I thought, what’s the worst that could happen?
While the end result doesn’t look exactly like Pooh we had a lot of fun, the munchkin loved it, and you can tell it’s a bear. Plus, it has honey in it! That’s enough of a Pooh connection if you ask me.
I think I’m on to something here… I see more bread shapes in our future. :)
Making Teddy Bear Bread with a Toddler
Making teddy bear bread is easy – all you’re doing is shaping dough into balls of various sizes, then assembling them into something that looks like a bear.
- Make sure your counter top is clean and you have as much space as possible to work with.
- Take out all your ingredient containers and measuring utensils beforehand. That way you don’t have to go searching for something when your toddler is there waiting to add the next thing.
- Prepare yourself for some sugar on the floor and flour in your hair.
- Remember: the mess is worth it.
For the dough I used my favorite honey-vanilla challah recipe. Except for the eggs, which I added myself, I let the munchkin measure all of the ingredients into our mixing bowl. If your toddler is old enough for a step stool that’s the easiest way to go, but since my guy’s pretty little I held him on my hip.
We added all the ingredients up to that first cup of flour (see recipe below). Then we put the bowl back onto the stand mixer and turned it on, pausing periodically so my son could add more flour by the 1/2 cup. (If you’re making this by hand, just mix the dough with a wooden spoon and let your toddler add ingredients/flour when you’re ready for them.)
When the dough began to form a ball we switched to the mixing hook, then kneaded the dough for about two minutes. We sprinkled flour onto the countertop (my son that this was the best), then turned the dough out onto the counter so he could “finish” kneading it. He would push on the dough with his little hands, then I’d flip it over and he’d do the same thing. It’s not the most effective kneading method but he has fun with it.
After quickly giving the dough a few more kneads myself, we put it into a lightly oiled bowl for the first rise.
Then it was time to shape the dough. Depending on your toddler’s age they’ll need more or less help with this part. My son was able to push the dough into approximate round shapes, then I finished rolling them into balls and we assembled the bear together. We let it rise a second time, then we used raisins for the eyes, nose and belly button. Dried blueberries would work really well too.
Once the munchkin was safely out of the kitchen I put our teddy-bear in the oven and baked as usual. He was so excited when I showed him the finished product – as you can see from the picture above, he couldn’t keep his hands off it while I was trying to snap a quick photo!
This bread is delicious on it’s own or with a bit of fruit butter. Our favorites are apple and pumpkin butter, which are great for dipping. :)
Honey-Vanilla Challah (My Recipe)
Ingredients: Makes 1 Loaf (or Teddy Bear)
- 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup of warm milk (whole is best, low-fat is ok too)
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs + 1 for the glaze
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil + 1 teaspoon for greasing the bowl and another for the glaze
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast and warm milk. Let it rest for about 4-5 minutes so the yeast has time to proof.
Add the sugar, salt, 2 eggs, vanilla, 4 tablespoons of olive oil and then the honey. (Use the same tablespoon measure for the olive oil, then the honey. This way the honey will slide right out of the spoon.) Add 1 cup of flour, then mix with a wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment until the mixture is smooth.
Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Continue mixing the dough until it is too stiff to stir, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface if working by hand. Knead until soft and springy, about 4 minutes. If using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead about 3 minutes until soft and springy. If the dough is sticky, dust with flour 1 tablespoon at a time – just enough to prevent it from sticking. The dough is done when it’s smooth and small air bubbles show under the skin. If you press your thumb into it the impression should bounce back. This is a slightly firm dough, which is exactly what you want for easy braiding later on.
Place the dough in a deep container greased with 1 tsp of olive oil. Turn the dough once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it with non-stick spray. Gently deflate the dough by pressing your fingers into it, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
To make a regular 3-braid challah:
Divide into 3 equal portions, and roll each portion out into a smooth, thick strip about 20 inches long, with the ends slightly thinner than the middle. Lay these ropes side-by-side, not quite touching.
Beginning in the middle and working towards you, braid the lower half of the three ropes. To braid, alternately move the outside ropes over the one in the center – left over, right over, left over -until you come to the end. Now go to the other side of your working space and braid the other half, this time moving the outside ropes under the center one. Braid tightly – you don’t want any gaps. When you finish braiding each side crimp the tapered ends together, then tuck them under.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place the braided dough on your baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.
To make a teddy-bear challah:
To assemble the bear you’ll need to cut the dough using a sharp knife, so divide the dough before working with a toddler.
Cut the dough in half. One half of the dough is going to be the teddy bear’s body. Shape it into a large ball and place it in the center of your lined baking sheet.
Cut the remaining piece of dough in half. One half is going to be the teddy bear’s head. Shape it into a ball and place it just above the body, using a little bit of water to help the two pieces stick together if necessary.
Cut off about 1/3 of the remaining piece of dough, then divide into two small balls (the ears) and one smaller ball (the nose).
The last piece of dough will form the arms and legs. Cut it into four pieces, roll into balls, then attach to the teddy bear’s body. You can make the legs bigger if you want by using more of this portion of dough for the legs.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, cover the bear loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.
With a sharp knife cut small slits where the eyes and belly button will be, then insert your raisins or dried blueberries. Stick a raisin or blueberry on the nose.
To bake the bread:
Whisk together 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of olive oil, this is going to be the glaze for your bread. Gently brush the dough with a thick layer of it. Place the dough in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the bread is a deep golden brown and sounds hollow when you thump it on the bottom. Transfer to a baking rack to cool. Allow to cool completely before slicing – or at least wait until it’s warm, not hot – then enjoy!