I bake more in the fall and early winter than I do any other time of year, and I’m guessing it’s the same for you. From Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve, you can bet there is something coming out of my oven every couple of days as I make food for family holidays and gatherings, while simultaneously trying to kick-start my Christmas baking and edible treats for gift giving.
What I love the most is that usually one of the kids wants to join in the fun…especially when I’m cooking up something sweet and sugary. My youngest son is the first to step up to the baking plate, and he’s been like that from the time he was able to walk. Baking with kids requires a little planning though, and I’ve learned a few tricks along the way. Here are five steps to successful baking with kids:
Find the Right Project
If the kids are going to help you with your baking, this might not be the time to try your hand at a fancy, elaborate dish (think crème caramel). Instead, invite them to participate in age-appropriate recipes (cookies, brownies), or better yet, let them choose one of their own favourite recipes.
Before you begin, make sure everyone washes their hands (this is a great lesson to learn early in life) and affixes an apron. Drag out a stool or chair, if needed. Read through the recipe and gather your tools and required ingredients. The little red hand-mixer in the photo is a great child-friendly kitchen tool to keep on hand. I picked mine up at an antique market for a few dollars, and the kids still prefer to use it when they need to mix things together.
I like to assign my boys tasks. One is in charge of measuring; the other takes care of the mixing. When they were little, I did the chopping and slicing, and now that they’re older I can designate that. With two or more bakers in the kitchen, it’s nice to know who is responsible for what.
Clean As You Go
When the baked goods finally hit the oven, no one will want to spend an hour cleaning up. It’s best to clean and clear as you go. Keep a sink of warm, soapy water on hand and wash bowls as they’re used. Put away ingredients when finished with them, and keep the counters wiped and clear.
This is perhaps the most important aspect of baking with kids. When you’re in the kitchen with kids, it’s important to remember to be patient. Most of us have been baking for years, but our kids are just learning. Expect that there will be messes and mix-ups, and laugh about them instead of crying. This is why those chocolate soufflés should wait another day—the odd egg shell might land in the cookie dough (or on the floor) but the chocolate chip cookies will still taste great.
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