Over the summer break, in an effort to enjoy a bonding experience and to keep my son off of the damn Xbox, we established a routine of baking on Wednesdays. It started initially as bread baking but quickly expanded to crackers, donuts, and other baked goods.
Why not baking? First, Joe loves bread and butter as many kids (and adults) do. Getting him to cook things that he likes is easier than say having him scale and gut a whole fish There was no objection from me by adding dessert to the repertoire either. Triglycerides aside, I like desserts and so does my son. So if we are going to be in the kitchen, let it be making things we mutually enjoy.
Baking was also good choice because the assembly of ingredients is easier. Spooning cups of flour and teaspoons of cinnamon requires less interaction with knives than cooking. So too, there was less open flame involved, though we would eventually get there when we took a foray into donut land.
How it worked
Joe drove the bus on the things that we baked. He perused my many cookbooks and selected which recipe he found interesting. Primarily, we baked from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion and Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads. My son’s job was to assemble the ingredients and to portion them. Then, we would go over the recipes, resolve any questions, and start a bakin’.
My son is ten years old and has the attention span commensurate with that age so another thing to watch out for was to putting the ingredients in the correct bowl at the correct time. Baking is more of a science, and I have learned the hard way that this matters. Also, little things such as putting the salt on top of the yeast may kill the yeast’s desire to make the bubbles necessary.
Aside from the concerns of open flames and sharp knives associated with the kitchen, there were other safety issues. One of my family’s nicknames for me is Captain Caution, for good reason. It is the standard operating procedure for me to think of all the things that could go wrong and think of the contingencies should those things occur. I’m a stocky, bald, Jason Bourne without the sex appeal of Matt Damon. I admit to this and try to make sure that Joe’s exuberances were balanced with thoughtful concern for safety. For example, when handling hot pans, we use oven mitts or dry dishtowels. I gently point out that perhaps it would be wiser to unplug the mixer before licking the beater.
A benefit of this process is that I learned to trust my boy more as the weeks passed. He learned a healthy respect for the things that might happen, and I found myself not jumping in (as much) to head off any potential danger. I overcame my fear and need to control things, and he gained more confidence in the kitchen. In fact, on a non-baking project day, Joe asked if he could bake chocolate chip cookies entirely by himself. I allowed this with the exception of turning on the oven.
Anytime I get to interact with my son that doesn’t involve me telling him to brush his teeth or to pick up after himself is generally a good thing. We both love to learn things and it was extra fun to share the discovery with him as opposed to telling him about it. Also, my heart warmed as he delivered a sample for his mom to taste. He beamed at her satisfaction. You can’t manufacture that enthusiasm.
The project was both fun AND educational. We learned about history as we discussed the origins of some older bread recipe names and why some ingredients might have been used instead of others. We learned the science of yeast and why some things needed kneading while others did not; we enjoyed the word play of “needing kneading” too! We engaged actively in math. For example, in Hollywood’s book we had to mathematically adjust the amount of dried yeast because his recipes called for fresh yeast.
Now with school well underway with homework, music lessons, and other extracurricular activities, we’ve talked about switching things from Wednesdays to Saturdays. That hasn’t happened yet. I hope it does because I had a lot of fun.
I think Joe did too.
Here is the list of the things we baked during the summer with the appropriate Facebook posts that accompanied them:
They call it Batch Bread. A very old British recipe from Georgian times. It has sugar and butter in it!
They call it Naan. It’s cooked on cast iron because there is no traditional brick oven as used in India. The dough was sticky which accounts for its less than symmetrical shape. I will say we were going for the rustic look.
So far we’ve done breads from Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads including white bread, naan, and something called Batch Bread.
This week my boy decided that he wanted pizza AND garlic bread made from scratch as part of the project.
The ciabatta is from Hollywood’s book and was used for the garlic bread.
The pizza dough is from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Cookbook.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread. This type of bread is not a yeast bread recipe that Joseph and I have been making heretofore. This is bejeweled with walnuts and chocolate chips and makes a nice addition to breakfast.
As is his wont, Joseph chose to shake things up and bake cheese crackers this week instead of bread. I think next week, he indicated he wants to go back to bread.
Last week, we did cheddar crackers, but it is back to bread this week! Joe and I made an English bread called farl. It is a butter enriched bread also known as “oven bottom,” because it was traditionally baked at the bottom of the oven. Imagine that?! It is from Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads.
While we’ve been doing mostly breads, Joe wanted to make chocolate donuts with chocolate glaze from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.
Today, Joe and I made bagels! Especially timely since our bagel shop down the block closed about a week and a half ago.
We dig into them for breakfast tomorrow but I am already thinking on next time taking a stab at sesame seed bagels and (dare I mention) bialys!
Due to a shift in priorities, baking bread has broadened to baking in general. Today, Joe and I made Chocolate Éclairs! I would have made more pastry cream but otherwise I think it was a success for a first try!
Today, Joe and I made Orange Cranberry Scones. Delightfully light and not too sweet, these will be great for breakfast tomorrow.