Magic Caterpillar Peanut Butter Bread
1 pkg. active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (100° to 110° F.)
¾ cup chunky peanut butter
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3¼ to 3½ cups all-purpose flour
Tubes of colored frosting, candies, gumdrops, licorice, etc.
In a medium size bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and allow to stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, combine milk, peanut butter, sugar and salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until blended smooth. Cool mixture to lukewarm, then pour into yeast. Stir in flour, one cup at a time, mixing each time until flour is thoroughly incorporated. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 5 minutes, adding small amounts of remaining flour as needed to keep dough manageable. Lightly oil the surface of the dough, and place it in a clean bowl. Cover with a dry cloth and allow to rise in a warm place free from drafts for one hour.
Punch dough down and knead briefly to expel larger air bubbles. Lightly grease a 12” x 18” pan. Roll dough into a rope about 24” long, and form into a large “S” shape on the pan. Using a butter knife or dough scraper, chop rope into sections about 3” wide, but do not separate completely. Cover with a towel and let rise 30 minutes (the caterpillar will “magically” grow back together during rising and baking). Bake in a preheated oven at 375° F. for 25 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Allow to cool on the pan for 15 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely. Decorate with frosting, gumdrops or other candy. Poke holes in the side with a toothpick and insert sections of licorice for legs.
Notes --- If you don't think your child is ready for a full bread baking lesson, you can always enlist him or her in the decorating phase of bread. This recipe for Magic Caterpillar Peanut Butter Bread is a fun project for a rainy day when there's nothing to do, or for a birthday party activity that will keep kids entertained and produce some of the treats. I recommend working with a smaller group of kids (five would work but be a bit crowded), or have one or two in the kitchen while others are doing something else.
---Decorating gel does not work as well as frosting as a “glue” for the candy decorations, so make sure you pick up the right tube at the store. Any candies will work to make spots for the caterpillar’s sections, but thin red licorice makes the perfect legs and antennae, unless you know your youngsters prefer the flavor of black licorice.