Tips for Writing 4-H Exhibit Goals

Iowa County and 4-H Fairs will soon be in full swing. For some families, that means crunch time to get 4-H projects ready for exhibit. Besides the project, members must also complete a 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet for each of their static projects. When the goal sheet is hastily written or not well thought out, the goal sheet can become a detriment rather than a support to the project. The goal sheet is usually written but may be submitted as a video or a voice recording. 4-H members can use a standard form or create their own. Regardless of presentation, the three parts (questions) must be answered.

The three parts of the exhibit goal sheet include the following:

  • exhibit goal – first and perhaps the most important,
  • explanation of steps taken to reach the goal,
  • learning experiences acquired while doing the project, as stated in the goal.

Goal to project mapThe goal is the road map helping one plan how to get where they want to go or directions for arriving at a destination. In the same way one may reach a destination using Google, maps or a navigator tool before starting to drive, the goal should lead to the finished project. Therefore, the goal must be known at the start of the project so that the steps and learning experiences result in the project being evaluated.

So what makes a strong goal?

  • Goals have three parts—ACTION (what one wants to do)—RESULT (what one is going to do)—TIMETABLE (when one plans to do it or have it done).
  • Goals should pass the “control test.”  Does the 4-H member have control over the outcome of the goal, or does someone else have that control?
  • Goals should be appropriate for the age and experience level of the 4-H member.
  • Goals should be S.M.A.R.T. or SENSIBLE – MEASURABLE – ATTAINABLE – REALISTIC – TIMELY. Of the five S.M.A.R.T. parts, MEASURABLE jumps out as the part allowing a 4-H member to evaluate their project and see growth. Measurable is also important to the 4-H judge in evaluating the project.

Here are some examples of goals and their strength.

Action Result Timetable Pass Control Test S.M.A. R. T. Strong Goal
I want to make a poster. None Yes Not Measurable No
I want to learn how to tie 5 knots and display them at the county fair. Yes Yes Yes
I want to earn a blue ribbon on my photo at the fair. No Not Measurable No
I want to sew a pillow for my room before my birthday. Yes Yes Yes
I want to make a favorite family treat None Maybe Not Measurable No
I want to learn how to make strawberry jam when the strawberries are in season. Yes Yes Yes

Learning to set goals is an essential life skill to develop. Goals should change and become more challenging each year to show growth in a project. For more information on strong goals for the 4-H Exhibit Sheet, check out a great video on setting goals. And after a great goal is in place, check out Tips for Completing the 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Safe Frosting for Iowa 4-H Fairs

The most recent edition of Foods for Iowa 4-H Fairs – Quick Reference Guide (Current Year) now includes a tested, homemade buttercream frosting that is safe and acceptable for baked goods exhibited or displayed at Iowa 4-H fairs. Identifying a safe “buttercream frosting” recipe for exhibit has been a source of confusion for 4-H members and their families as well as County Extension Educators and fair judges. Store-bought, commercially prepared frostings that are shelf stable are also acceptable for food product exhibits. 

Food products exhibited at 4-H Fairs must be shelf stable or stable (non-perishable) at room temperature and not require refrigeration to be safe. Due to the various ingredients and quantities that may be incorporated into a homemade frosting, many frostings require refrigeration to be unquestionably safe. Three factors play a role in determining the safety of a frosting: acidity (pH), water activity (Aw), and percent of soluble solids (%Brix).

The acidity (pH) of a frosting is affected by the ingredients used. Traditional frostings made with dairy or eggs tend to increase pH making them more basic than acidic and susceptible to spoilage. Therefore, frosting made with cream cheese, whipped cream, or eggs requires refrigeration to inhibit spoilage and molding despite the fact that frostings are laden with sugar, known for its ability to inhibit microbial growth.  

Water activity (Aw) is the measure of available water in a food product that can support microbial growth and affect the quality and safety of food. This differs from moisture content which refers to water bound to ingredients within the food. The FDA has established that a water activity (Aw) value greater than 0.85 on a scale of 0 (bone dry) – 1.0 (pure water) indicates a high-risk food product capable of facilitating the growth of microorganisms in the product. Sugar may lower the Aw while water or dairy can increase the Aw; fat has no effect on Aw

Percent soluble solids (%Brix) in a frosting is determined by the amount of sugar available to bind up the available water to reduce bacterial growth. As %Brix increases, Aw decreases.

Due to these factors, frostings are considered TCS, foods that require either temperature or time control for food safety. TCS foods may allow pathogens to grow and possibly produce toxins when held at temperatures between 41-135 degrees F. (For additional information see: Food Safety of Frostings and Fillings by K-State Research and Extension.) To be considered a non-TCS food, the percent soluble solids (%Brix) must be above 65% and the Aw value less than 0.85.1

There are numerous recipes for buttercream frosting. It is not a given that all buttercream frostings meet the %Brix and Aw requirements to be a non-TCS food or safe without refrigeration. To determine the safety of a vanilla buttercream frosting for Iowa 4-H exhibits, three members of the AnswerLine team prepared an adapted version of the Simple Buttercream Frosting tested and considered stable at room temperature by K-State Research and Extension. Milk (dairy) was substituted for heavy cream in the K-State recipe. The frostings were prepared at the individual homes of the team members using the same butter and powdered sugar; the percent of milk fat and vanilla extract were the two variables. The three samples were submitted to the Iowa State University Food Quality and Safety Laboratory for analysis of water activity and %Brix with results shown in the table below.

Table 1.  Average water activity and % soluble solids of frostings tested.

SampleWater Activity% Soluble Solids
Sample 1 – Skim milk0.788± 0.00368.60 ± 0.30
Sample 2 – 2% Milk0.812 ± 0.00467.83 ± 0.23
Sample 3 – Whole Milk0.808 ± 0.00667.17 ± 0.35

All three samples met the requirements of a non-TCS food as recommended by K-State Research and Extension exhibiting an average Brix of 67.87% and an Aw value of 0.803.

Frosting ingredients and equipment
Tested Vanilla Buttercream recipe ingredients. Photo credit: Rachel Sweeney

Tested Vanilla Buttercream Recipe
 Required for use with Iowa 4-H Fair Food Product Exhibits.
(All Iowa 4-Hers must reference this blog in their
write-up for full credit if a homemade frosting is used in the exhibit. Any change or addition of ingredients will be unacceptable and will result in disqualification.)

1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
4 cups powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons dairy milk (skim, 2%, or whole)

Beat the butter, salt, and vanilla together until fully combined on medium speed. Reduce speed and add the powdered sugar and milk. Add the milk a teaspoon at a time to achieve the right consistency for the way you want to use the frosting. DO NOT use more than 2 tablespoons of milk.  Slowly increase the speed of the mixer and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. 

What Does This Mean for Iowa 4-H Food Products?

  • It is highly suggested that exhibits be presented without frosting unless the frosting is part of the exhibit goal.

Example 1:  My goal is to bake an angel food cake for exhibit at the fair.
No frosting is needed for this exhibit. Cake recipe should be included with the exhibit.

Example 2*: My goal is to bake and frost a chocolate cake for my Dad’s birthday. I will also exhibit a similar cake and frosting at the fair.
Cake should be frosted with the tested vanilla buttercream frosting or with a commercially prepared frosting to assure that it is not a TCS food. No chocolate, cocoa, or other ingredient should be added to the tested recipe or commercial frosting. Recipe for cake and frosting (if homemade) should be included with the exhibit, along with this blog. 

Example 3*: My goal is to learn to make a cake and a frosting for exhibit at the fair.
Cake should be frosted with the tested vanilla buttercream frosting; no chocolate, cocoa, or other ingredient should be added to the tested recipe. Cake and frosting recipes, along with this blog, should be included with exhibit. 

*For examples 2 and 3, another option is to prepare the product using any frosting desired; before serving, take pictures of the frosted product. Exhibit the product without frosting at the fair and note in the write up that the product is being exhibited without frosting due to food safety concerns. Add pictures of the frosted product to the write up and include the product recipe with the exhibit.

  • Homemade Cream Cheese, German Chocolate or Coconut-Pecan, Ganache, or 7-Minute frostings or fillings are not to be exhibited at the fair. They are potential TCS foods due to the range of water activity (Aw) in various recipes and should be stored in the refrigerator.
  • Decorator frostings of any type may be used when the goal is to decorate a cake. The cake may be food, cardboard, or Styrofoam and will be judged on design, neatness, originality, skill, and technique; the cake will not be tasted or judged on product characteristics. 
  • Fresh or canned fruit, vegetable, or zest should not be used as decoration or garnish on a baked product or decorated cake.
  • When a glaze is desired, it should be made with powdered sugar and water only. No fruit juice or zest should be added.

Plan ahead for a successful fair experience. 4-H members are encouraged to call or email AnswerLine with questions about their food project prior to exhibit. 

Call:  1-800-262-3804 or 515-296-5883, M-F 9-12, 1-4
Relay Iowa (hearing impaired) 1-800-735-2942
Email:  answer@iastate.edu

_________________________________
Food Safety of Frostings and Fillings – MF3544, K-State Research and Extension

By Shannon Coleman, Associate Professor and State Extension Specialist, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University; Terri Boylston, Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University; Marlene Geiger, Beth Marrs, and Rachel Sweeney, Consumer Specialists AnswerLine, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach;  Karen Blakeslee, Extension Associate, Kansas State University Research and Extension.  February 2023.

Updated December 2023, mg.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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May Day

May Day is celebrated on May 1.  It is an old day of celebration dating back to the Roman Republic.  Over its many years, there have been different meanings, festivities, and representations of May Day. Beginning as a day marked with ceremonies, dances, and feasting, it celebrated the rite of spring.  It also marks the half way point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solace.  In addition, it has been known as Workers’ Day or International Workers’ Day, a day commemorating the historic struggles and gains made by workers and labors.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, May Day traditions changed to leaving a gift basket filled with flowers or treats at the front door of a neighbor, friend, or loved one.  The giver would leave a basket or cone of treats, ring the doorbell, shout “‘May Basket!” and run away.  In some communities, hanging a May basket on someone’s door was a chance to express romantic interest.  If the recipient caught the giver, he or she was entitled to a kiss.  It has also been celebrated with dancing and singing around a pole laced with streamers or ribbons.  During my grade school days, we made May Day baskets filled with homemade treats, candy, or dandelions to exchange with school mates.

May basket filled with biscotti
May basket filled with biscotti left on door step – Photo: mrgeiger

Today, May Day is almost forgotten. The sentiment of the day certainly has a place in modern society as a time to share a random act of kindness and celebrate spring and friendship—an opportunity to pay it forward. Baskets don’t necessarily have to be left at a front door.  Treats can be left for co-workers, teachers, children—anyone—anywhere they will find it.

There are numerous ideas for baskets online—paper cones, styrofoam cups, fabric, tin cans, strawberry baskets—anything goes. And, who says baskets have to be filled with flowers, candy or treats?  Don’t limit yourself.  Use imagination and creativity.  Baskets can be filled with anything appropriate for the recipient.  For example, the homeless may appreciate baskets filled with bath products, socks, non-perishable snacks or gift cards. Baskets for others could be filled with small office supplies, seed packets, cooking utensils, hair accessories, or craft supplies. The ideas are endless.  Add a little treat to brighten someone’s day with a piece of candy, a flower, or a pop of color with a piece of tissue paper.  And if making a basket isn’t for you, maybe buy a cup of coffee for a random stranger and wish them a Happy May Day. Get the kids involved; make it family activity or a youth group project (4-H, Scouts, Church).

So make a basket, ring the doorbell, and run! Spread some kindness! You’ll be glad you did! Happy May Day!

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Meet Rachel Sweeney

Rachel Sweeney is the newest member of the AnswerLine team!

Child giving a 4-H presentation
Rachel giving a 4-H baking presentation – Photo: rsweeney

AnswerLine is a new role for Rachel Sweeney, but Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is not. Rachel grew up on a diversified farm outside of Iowa City and was actively involved with Johnson County 4-H as a member of the Graham Champions 4-H Club. At an early age, she realized she could turn her interest in food and nutrition projects into a career, she decided to attend Iowa State University and major in that area graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in dietetics and exercise science. After graduation, she spent a year in Nashville completing a dietetic internship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Rachel’s began her professional career as an ISU Extension and Outreach human sciences specialist in Nutrition and Wellness, serving southeast Iowa for nearly seven years. In this role she led food preservation workshops, food safety trainings, and nutrition trainings for child care providers. After a brief stint as a retail dietitian, she returned to ISU Extension and Outreach as a program coordinator for Iowa 4-H Youth Development’s SWITCH (School Wellness Ingetration Targeting Child Health) program, an innovative school wellness initiative designed to support and enhance school wellness programming. After two years in this role, she got a new job title, MOM, in November of 2021, and a need to balance work and family life. AnswerLine provided the perfect opportunity for her to continue to work and enjoy her young family. One month into the job, Rachel says, “I have really enjoyed my first month on the job answering client’s questions and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow in this role to best serve the citizens of Iowa and Minnesota.”

When Rachel is not answering client questions via phone or email, she is likely with her family, 5-month old son, Thomas, and husband, Jim. She enjoys gardening, cooking and baking, food preservation, traveling, and being outside. As if she isn’t busy enough with work, family, and her many interests, she is also training for the swim portion of a half-Ironman relay-team competition in June! GO Rachel!!!!!

Rachel is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and stays involved with the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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September is National Sewing Month

Assorted sewing supplies
Assorted sewing supplies, hand and machine – Photo: mrgeiger

September is National Sewing Month!  “Sew” it “seams” we should take time to honor the history of sewing and celebrate those who enjoy this art form or craft.  National Sewing Month was first celebrated in 1982 after President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation “in recognition of the importance of home sewing to our Nation.” 

While sewing might imply the use of a sewing machine, it encompasses the many ways of stitching with thread and needle—garments, home décor, embroidery, needlepoint, cross-stitch, quilting, and all other forms of drawing a thread and needle through a medium. Sewing is both a skill and a creative hobby enjoyed by millions of people from all walks of life around the world.

For those looking to embark on their sewing journey or enhance their skills, resources like TopSewingMachineUK offer a wealth of valuable information and guidance. Here, enthusiasts can access helpful articles and reviews to aid them in selecting the right tools and equipment for their sewing endeavors. Whether you’re a novice seeking to learn the basics or an experienced seamstress looking to expand your repertoire, this platform provides the resources you need to delve deeper into the world of sewing and unleash your creativity.

The art of sewing dates back to 25,000 B.C.E. when sewing was used to make clothing and shelter. Early materials consisted mostly of hides from animals and plant leaves. Thin strips of animal hide or long fibers drawn from plants made the first threads with bone and ivory being the first forms of needles.  Thomas Saint is credited with the invention of the sewing machine in 1750 followed by Isaac Singer’s prototype in 1851 that was to become the basis for the mechanization of sewing and the standard for the modern sewing machines we have today.  Prior to the 19th century, sewing was done by hand which allowed for perfecting skills as well as developing techniques for creative and decorative stitching.

Sewing has long been a favorite hobby of mine beginning with creations made with fabric scraps, thread, and needle for my dolls.  After my great-grandmother taught me to use her treadle machine, I turned out creations in mass.  As a 4-H member I enjoyed learning to use my mother’s electric machine and a pattern to fashion clothing for myself.  Each year was a new project with new skills.  That love of creating with fabric and a desire to understand fibers and fabrics led to my eventual college major.  While I never worked in the textile industry as I once envisioned, the skills and knowledge have given me a hobby and creative outlet that I still enjoy today.  And by joining with friends in guilds, I have learned and enjoyed many other forms of stitchery that have furthered by love of thread and needle. 

While we may recognize the skill and creative form of self-expression that sewing provides in the month of September, it is enjoyed all year.  During this month, there is a long list of retailers, bloggers, organizations, and others that promote “sewing” in an attempt to renew interest, share ideas, inspire, and teach.  If one was ever inclined to pick up thread and needle and try some form of sewing, the time to start is now. Creating quilts, clothing and other masterpieces not only develop new skills, but personal satisfaction, too. Sewing is a pleasurable activity to enjoy solo or with friends.  Happy sewing!

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Yeast Bread Baking – A Kitchen Science ‘Drama’

Does anything in the world smell quite so good as a just-baked loaf of bread? If you’ve never made yeast bread before, an adventure awaits!  And prepare yourself for one of the great “dramas” of kitchen science!

Loaf of bread
Loaf of homemade yeast bread on a cutting board with a knife – Photo: mrgeiger

Every ‘drama’ is made up of various parts—cast, script, and various acts.  Bread baking is no exception. The cast of ingredients that go into a loaf of bread are simple—flour, yeast, liquid, sweetener (sugar), salt, and fat. Other ingredients can be added for flavor, texture, and nutritional value.  It is the nature of the ingredients and the way they are combined that create “drama!”

Meet the DRAMA Cast–Ingredients

Flour. In most recipes, the flour used is either all-purpose flour or bread flour.  Both flours, derived from wheat, contain two proteins important to yeast breads—glutenin and gliadin.  When combined with liquid and manipulated, these proteins produced gluten, an elastic web that traps the gas released by the yeast.    All-purpose flours are a blend of hard and soft wheat in proportions to give satisfactory results for most baking, including bread.  Bread flour contains more hard wheat that soft wheat; with slightly more protein that all-purpose flour, bread flour is ideal for hearty breads because it allows for more structure.  Because the blend of hard and soft wheat used in all-purpose or bread flour may vary by manufacturer and flour gains or loses moisture depending on the weather or storage, most yeast bread recipes call for an approximate measure of flour rather than an exact amount.   Other flours or grains can be used in combination with all-purpose or bread flour to create breads with different textures, flavors, and nutrient value.

Want to see gluten and how it works? Science: What is Gluten? Here’s How to See and Feel Gluten by America’s Test Kitchen will answer those questions.

Gluten is formed when flour and water are combined.  Proteins in the flour react with the liquid to form gluten.  Beating and kneading the dough develops the gluten. 

Yeast.  Yeast is a living organism (actually a single-celled fungus).  Yeast ‘drama’ happens when the yeast granules awake in warm water, search out food (sugar), break it down, become active and release carbon dioxide—a gas!  It is the gas, trapped within the elastic web of gluten strands which cause dough to rise. 

Child looking at an inflated balloon on a bottle will with yeast and water
To see yeast work, try this Scientific American experiment: Yeast Alive! Watch Yeast Live and Breathe.

Yeast is particular about temperature to thrive; lukewarm temperatures of 105-115 degrees F are perfect. It works slowly in cooler temperatures and dies when the temperature is too hot.

Yeast is available most commonly in the dry form as active dry or instant/quick-rise/fast-rise granules.  Compressed or cake yeast is less common and requires refrigeration.  Active or compressed yeast must be awakened prior to use in warm water (proofing).  Instant yeast is a modern variety which does not need to be proofed in the same way that active yeast does; it can be blended directly with the other dry ingredients.  However, there is no harm in proofing instant yeast.

Liquid.  Water and milk are the typical liquids used in making yeast bread.  Juice and vegetable water can also be used. The kind of liquid used plays a role in the bread’s outcome:  bread made with water has a crusty top and chewy texture; milk slightly weakens the gluten strands creating a bread with more tenderness and browner crust.   Even the kind of water—hard, soft, chlorinated—will bring about different characteristics.  Yeast is reluctant to dissolve in milk so is best dissolved in water.

An important step in making yeast bread is combining the flour and liquid in just the right proportion to yield a good dough.  Too much liquid weakens the gluten and too little makes the gluten tough so that it does not stretch sufficiently. 

Sweeteners/sugar and Salt.  Sweeteners, such as sugar or honey, and salt add flavor.  Salt also slows yeast growth but is not necessary to make bread.  Sugar furnishes food for the yeast.  Yeast can feed on the natural sugars in the flour by breaking down the carbohydrates but the break down takes time.  Since sugar or another sweetener is a readily available food, it speeds up the growth and rising action.  Sweeteners also add tenderness, moisture, and browning.

Fat.  Fat is an optional ingredient and is not necessary to make bread.  Fat, when used, adds flavor and tenderness and keeps the bread fresher for a longer time.

Eggs.  Eggs are also an optional ingredient and are more commonly used in rolls.  When used, eggs add flavor, color, nutrition, and improve the keeping quality and texture of the finished product.

The Script – A Good Recipe

Every drama needs a good script or in this case, a good recipe.  Like any other adventure in life, it is best to start with the basics and practice, practice, practice until one becomes proficient or skilled enough to branch out.  Bread can be made by hand, mixer, food processor, bread machine or some combination.  The best way to really learn bread is to use the hand method as it allows one to see and feel the ‘drama’ as it takes place which is great preparation for using any machine.

This basic or standard bread recipe makes two loaves and is the perfect starter recipe.

BASIC WHITE BREAD
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons shortening or butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt (optional)
1 package active, instant, or cake yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm (105-115F) water
6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour

Act 1.  The Plot Thickens – Making the Dough

Heat the milk on low heat. Stir in shortening, sugar, and salt and heat until all ingredients are dissolved; do not heat beyond scalding. Cool to lukewarm.

It is important to proof the yeast to ensure the yeast is alive and ready to create carbon dioxide.  To do so, dissolve the yeast in a large warm bowl with ¼ cup lukewarm water and ½ teaspoon sugar.  Stir and allow the mixture to stand for 5-10 minutes.  When the yeast mixture starts to bubble and foam, it is alive and ready for the bread.

Add the lukewarm milk mixture to the dissolved yeast. Stir in 3 cups of the flour; beat until smooth with an electric mixer or wooden spoon. Mix in enough of the remaining flour to cause the dough to form an irregular ball, come away from the sides of bowl and is easy to handle. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes for easier handling. 

Act 2.  Conflict – Kneading

Kneading is the process of working the dough by pushing, pulling and stretching to develop gluten and elasticity.  Kneading will develop muscle in the bread as well as the bread maker!  Prepare to have fun!

Turn the rested dough out on to a lightly floured surface for kneading.  To knead, take the heel of your hand and push the dough forward and stretch it. Then fold it in on itself, give it a quarter turn and repeat. Continue kneading until the bread dough is smooth, elastic, satiny, and air blisters appear just under the surface. The dough should no longer stick to the work surface or your hands. Kneading times vary, but generally it takes about 8-10 minutes of work. Don’t worry about over-kneading by hand—you will be tired long before you overwork the dough.  Shape the dough into a ball and place the dough ball back into the mixing bowl which has been lightly greased; turn the dough once to grease the surface.  Cover the dough with a clean towel or lightly greased plastic wrap for proofing. 

Act 3. Rising Action – Proofing

Proofing is the rest period during which yeast ferments the dough and produces gas or the time when the yeast and gluten do their magic work!  Proofing is best when the dough is set in a warm place (above 75ºF).  It will take about 45 to 60 minutes until the dough doubles its size.

When the bread is doubled in size, punch it down. This means plunging your fist into the center of the dough to press out some of the air inside the dough. Fold the dough over and form into a ball. Allow to rise a second time if possible. (A second rise allows yeast more time to work thereby giving the bread more texture and flavor.)   

Act 4. The Climax – Dough Becomes Loaf

After the first or second punching, divide the dough into two equal portions. Let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes to make the dough easier to handle.  Place the dough on a hard surface and roll or push out the dough to remove the air bubbles and shape each loaf by rolling and pinching.  Seal the edges by pinching the seam and place into two greased 9×5-inch loaf pans; cover and let proof again until doubled. This should take about 60 to 90 minutes.

When the bread has doubled in size, pop it into a 375ºF oven and bake for 30-45 minutes until golden brown and the internal temperature reads 195-210ºF on an instant read thermometer. Remove the baked loaves from the pans as they come out of the oven; cool the loaves on wire racks. Brush the top crust of the hot, baked loaves with butter or margarine, if desired, to keep the crust from becoming tough.

Act 5.  The Review – Enjoying the Results

Admire! Hold the temptation and allow the loaves to cool completely before cutting into them.  Use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to slice the bread. Enjoy!

For visual help with the bread making process, check out Basic White Bread (Hand Kneaded) a YouTube by Kevin Lee Jacobs of Delicious Living. 

If you want to evaluate your bread, consider appearance,
crumb, flavor, and aroma.

APPEARANCECRUMBFLAVOR and AROMA
Symmetrical shapeMoistPleasing
Smooth rounded topFine, uniform grainSlightly sweet
Golden brown colorNo large holesNut-like flavor
Tender crustElastic or springy textureMild yeast overtones
Correct sizeNo dough streaks 
Light in weightCreamy color 
Small, defined break and shred (space
between top and sides)
  
Sliced white homemade bread
White yeast bread with cut slices – Photo: mrgeiger

When you have mastered basic yeast bread, you are ready to try variations using other ingredients and other techniques.  While the outcome may look or taste different, all yeast breads share a common ‘drama’.  The variety is endless and all are delicious rewards for the effort.  Your yeast bread adventure awaits!  Let the ‘drama’ begin!

[Note: this blog is geared toward 4-H youth in response for educational materials to include in a ‘box unit’ on yeast bread encouraging basic skills in the Food and Nutrition area.]

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Tips for Completing the 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet

Blue ribbon food exhibit at the fairThe 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet is part of each static project that 4-H members prepare for the fair.  The goal sheet is usually in written form, but may be submitted as a video or a voice recording.  4-H members can use a standard form or create their own.  Regardless of presentation, the three parts (questions) must be answered. The three parts to the exhibit goal sheet include:

  • exhibit goal – first and perhaps the most important,
  • explanation of steps taken to reach the goal,
  • learning experiences acquired while doing the project as stated in the goal.

A previous blog addressed the “What was your exhibit goal?” question and how to write a great goal.  This blog will be about the remaining two parts (steps and learning) or questions, “What steps did you take to learn or do this?” and “What were the most important things that you learned.”

What steps did you take to learn or do this?

Here is where the 4-H member lays out the path that was taken to get from the goal to the finished project.  It can be communicated step by step or told in story form.  At any rate, it should be thoughtful and thorough so that the reader can follow the procedure and understand what has been done.  Pictures showing the steps or the project in progress are helpful but are NOT REQUIRED.  If the project is a baked product, the recipe must be included and the source identified (cookbook name, magazine, or website).  If the recipe came from a relative or friend, give their name.

What were the most important things that you learned?

Here is where the 4-H member reflects back on their project and shares all that was learned.  The learning might even include something that didn’t go well or that they would do differently another time.  It may be about trial and error or problem solving.  It may include discoveries that were made in the course of completing the project or some research that was done. Here is were the member can also include the identified elements and principles of design if they are required for the project.  Remember, the learning should come from the project goal.

The 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet form is available from the County Extension Offices.  However, the forms do not have to be used as long as the three questions are answered.  Regardless of how it is done, the goal sheet should support the project that is exhibited.  The goal sheet should be typed or neatly written by hand so that it looks as professional as possible.  Be sure to proofread.

For more help in answering these two questions, check out this great video.  A thoughtfully prepared 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet is the final step in putting together a great project for exhibit at the fair.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Collecting Seed and Planting Milkweed for Monarchs

In recent years, we have heard and read much about the declining monarch butterfly population due to eradication of milkweed in agricultural and urban areas.  Milkweed is critical for the survival of monarchs.  It is the only host plant for the monarch caterpillars which feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed.  And besides providing food for caterpillars, the leaves of the milkweed plant are the only place that the female monarchs lay their eggs.  As milkweed plants gradually disappeared from the landscape, the monarch populations gradually declined.  With the decline, there is urging to plant milkweed to support and increase the monarch population.

Milkweed is essential for the survival of monarchs  Monarchs caterpillars rely on milkweed plants as they only eat milkweed. If monarch eggs are laid on plants other than milkweed, the caterpillars cannot survive and ultimately starve to death. Instinctively female monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants to provide food for their young.

Milkweed plantFall is the perfect time to collect and plant milkweed.  The first step is to acquire seed.  Most milkweed species grow particularly well in undisturbed areas, so start by checking out roadsides, pastures, creek and river banks, railroad track beds, bike paths, highway medians, agricultural field margins, vacant land, cultivated gardens, and parks.  In September the seed pods begin to turn brown, split, and open.  The seed pod looks like a spiny, bumpy fruit. Pods on a milkweed plantThey begin light green in color and gradually over the summer turn yellow-green and eventually sage green to sage grey-brown.  As they get to this later stage, they will start to split. Milkweed seed pod beginning to open to release seeds This is the stage that you want for harvesting seeds. When the pod is opened, the seeds inside should be dark brown. If they’re green or light brown, they’re not mature yet and won’t sprout when planted.  Close up of milkweed pods beginning to open on the milkweed plant stalkIf you don’t see the split or aren’t sure about the color, you can gently push on the pod; if it splits easily and the seeds are brown, it is ready; if it won’t pop open easily, leave it for another time.

Remove the entire seed pod from the plant and place it in a paper or organza bag.  Attached to the seeds is the coma, (white, hairy fluff also known as floss, silk, or plume) that is essential to the natural propagation of milkweed in the wild.  Milkweed fluffThe fluff enables the wind to scatter and disperse the seed over a wide area.  Whether the seed is saved to share or use later or planted this fall, the fluff should be removed and it is best to do this before the pod fully opens and explodes.  When the seeds are all compact inside the pod, it is easy to do by carefully removing the spine holding the fluff and running your fingers down it; as you do, the seeds fall out easily.  Check out the Monarch Butterfly Garden website for a great video on how to do this.  If the pod is more mature and already opening with the fluff beginning to take flight, place the pod in a paper bag and shake it vigorously; sometimes it helps to add some coins or washers to the bag to aid this process.

Milkweed needs a period of cold stratification to germinate so that is what makes fall an ideal time to plant milkweed as Mother Nature will do the work during the winter months. November is the best time in the Midwest to plant.  The soil needs to be cold enough that the seeds won’t germinate, but not yet frozen.  The location chosen should be sunny and an area where you can allow the milkweeds to spread naturally over time as they can become invasive in a perfectly manicured yard or flower garden.  A bare patch of moist soil is best.  Poke a shallow hole and drop in a seed or two.  Cover, water, and lightly mulch for winter protection, and wait for spring.  For more tips on planting, see Fall Planting Milkweed Seeds – 10 Simple Steps from the Monarch Butterfly Garden website.  Another method of planting  is by making and throwing out seed balls.  To learn more about this method, see the article by the Iowa DNR.

If you miss the window for fall planting, the seeds can be planted in the spring, too.  For additional information on keeping seeds over the winter and planting in the spring or other times, check out the Michigan State University publication, How to Collect and Grow Milkweeds to Help Monarchs and Other Pollinators.

Saving seed and planting milkweed in a designated area would make a great 4-H or school project for any young person interested in monarch habitat.  The planting area should be chosen carefuly as milkweed grows by underground runners that spread.  And for crafters, there are any number of ways to use the dried pods.Inside of a milkweed pod after seeds have been released.  Pods are great for crafting.  In all cases, please be advised to wear gloves or wash hands frequently when working with milkweed or pods.  Milkweed sap (looks like milk) can be an eye irritant, so take appropriate precautions to avoid this kind of discomfort.

Reviewed and updated 6/2024, mg.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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