December activities: Explore the sweet science of baking with Britannica School

December 4, 2018

Ever wonder about the science behind some of your favorite treats? (IMAGEQUEST: TEK IMAGE / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)

The following activities are created with classrooms of all levels in mind and work best when paired with Britannica School. Contact your library staff to see if your institution already has access or claim your own Britannica School Free Trial.

Flour, butter, sugar, and a dash of chemistry: The science behind baking

The holidays are upon us, and that means encountering sweet treats, delicate pastries, and hearty breads at every turn. Who doesn’t love all those yummy treats! But did you ever stop and think about how basic ingredients transform into your favorite foods?

For instance, flour, water, leavening, and a little salt work together to become something lots of people eat every day: bread. Once everything is mixed and kneaded thoroughly by the baker, it’s time for the leavening agents in the mixture work their magic.

These amazing ingredients contain microorganisms such as yeast. Millions of these little helpers munch away at the dough to produce the gas carbon dioxide, which allows the dough to rise and become lighter. Once the dough is baked, it’s the leavening agents that produce the fluffy texture bread is famous for.

And that’s just the beginning! With this month’s activities, take a look at the science behind baking—while sneaking some biscuits, cookies, cakes, and pie, of course! (We won’t tell.)


Britannica School Resource Packs

Don’t know where to start? We’ve created resource packs to help—articles, images, videos, and more.

Elementary Resources

Secondary Resources


Dive in! Dig deeper with the following interviews and video

LISTEN: Stuff You Missed in History Class Podcast: Anne Burn’s “American Cookie”

Anne shares her vast knowledge of historical baking and how it fits into the cultural history of the U.S. in the form of small, portable treats.

WATCH: Reactions: Why Do Things Taste Sweet?

A liking for sweet things seems natural to people everywhere. In ancient times people satisfied their desire for sweets with honey. Today sugar is the most widely used sweetener.

Whether it’s ice cream, chocolate, candy, cookies, or cake, we like our sweet stuff. But have you ever thought about why you have that sweet tooth? Turns out, as this American Chemical Society “Reactions” video explains—found in the “sugar” entry of Britannica School—it’s all about evolution.

WATCH: Cool Careers: What’s it like to be a professional chef?

Tune in once a month to “Cool Careers,” a brand new Facebook Live interview series from Britannica! This December, meet Nicole Tingwall, a.k.a. the Windy City Dinner Fairy! Nicole is a Chicago pastry chef specializing in custom cakes and cupcakes.


Now what? Make it stick with these original activity guides:

Strategy Card: Make It Stick! (Baking)

Graphic Organizer: Word Chart—Context & Connections


Differentiation Station: How to translate articles in Britannica School


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Try this with your class? How did it go? Tweet us feedback to @BritannicaLearn.

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