“Rules for Little Cooks
Wash your hands.
Put on your apron.
Read your recipe carefully.
Place everything you need on the kitchen table.
Have Mother teach you how to heat the oven.
Measure everything very carefully.
Wash your baking dishes.
Sweep the kitchen and leave it in order.”
So begins the inside cover page of “KITCHEN FUN: A Cook Book for Children” (copyright 1932), a 28-page collection my mom used as a child. From Bran Muffins and Fairy Gingerbread to Cinderella Cake, the baking section caught my eye. Both the “rules” and recipes haven’t changed significantly over the past 88 years and are easy to replicate in any kitchen.
The book got me thinking about how baking something delicious is a wonderful way to entice kids to learn cooking basics as they assist and learn from you. The benefits go beyond the mixing bowl. The memories of being shoulder to shoulder, talking, laughing and preparing something amazing out of basic and sometimes exotic ingredients is what it’s really all about.
I recall the magic of dough rising in a large bowl in front of my eyes in my grandma Ruth’s kitchen as she intuitively made traditional Swedish cardamom bread. The connection between just the two of us lives on in my memory, and the effort we put into the making was justly rewarded when we opened the oven and took it out.
Baking with kids this month is a great way to spend time together when weather keeps you indoors. Thumb through family recipe cards and cookbooks. Or go online for a how-to video that captures your and your child’s imagination, then bake it your own way. Here are more ideas:
Make sugar cookies in heart shapes for Valentine’s Day. Purchasing heart cookie cutters can be the start of a collection of holiday designs you pull from throughout the year.
If you have preschoolers, make a “Jam Thumbprint” recipe, another ideal “first.” Toddlers can stick their thumbs in the dough balls, then fill the indentation with a bit of jam.
Baking powder and baking soda don’t require kneading or the time to let dough rise. Let seasons of the year inspire you and the recipes you choose. Start with lemon bread with poppy seeds this spring, and by fall you’ll be a pro at making pumpkin and cranberry breads.
Watch it rise, punch it down and enjoy the bonus of the taste of aromatic homemade breads. Once your kids get their hands on the “living” dough, they’ll be motivated to bake again and again.