Teach kids to bake by letting them help prepare these treats – Press Enterprise

Ah, the sweet things in life. Baking with children inspires me. It renews enthusiasm and energizes my spirit. It doesn’t seem long ago that I’ve been baking with my daughters and their friends, both at home and in their classrooms. Now these young bakers are my grandchildren, their eager hands and taste buds anxious to get treats into the ovens.

My granddaughter Francoise lives in Oakland. When she comes to visit, she comes with a wish list. She watches baking shows on TV and records dishes that she wants to make. Pretty.

A few things to keep in mind when baking with kids. Be prepared for chaos; You may find that the process becomes more orderly after a few sessions. Use the experience for young bakers to develop tidying skills. And check the height of the work surfaces. Children do better when they are in the standing position. When they were tiny I used them on the open door of my dishwasher. Now, after a serious safety discussion, the youngest is standing on a wide, stable step stool.

Turn on some music. Keep safe. keep it clean Keep it fun.

Snickerdoodle muffins have that sweet, simple flavor that kids love. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Snickerdoodle Muffins

A riff on cookies with sugar and cinnamon, these Snickerdoodle Muffins sing about simple flavors kids love. The recipe, as well as the ones that follow, call for unsalted butter. Pastry chefs and bakers prefer unsalted butter because it is fresher, has an appealing sophisticated flavor and allows for better salt control. I often only have salted butter in the fridge, so I use it and omit the salt in the recipe. Pssst, don’t tell my pastry buddies.

Yield: 12 muffins


Nonstick Cooking Spray Cupcake Liners

3/4 cup plus 2/3 cup granulated sugar, split use

2 cups plus 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, shared use

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, shared use

1 stick plus 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, split use

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Set the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or foil liners. Spray non-stick cooking spray on the liners. Make the crumble. Combine 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a small bowl with a whisk. Add 1/2 stick butter and puree with a spoon to a crumbly mass. Put aside. Place the remaining butter in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave (heat just enough to melt).

2. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; Combine whisk. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream, and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix with a rubber spatula. Stir half of the crumble mixture into the batter.

3. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups and fill them two-thirds full (an ice cream scoop comes in handy for this). Top with the remaining crumble. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes. Remove pan from oven with oven mitts. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on the wire rack.

Source: “The Big, Fun Kids Baking Book” from Food Network Magazine (Kids Hearst Home, $19.99)

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes are a great way for kids to learn how to apply frosting. (Photo by Nick Koon)

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

The chocolate icing used to decorate these mini cupcakes is a ganache. Sounds fancy, but is easy to prepare. Kids love using a piping bag to apply the ganache. Let them practice on a plate or sheet of wax paper before moving on to a cupcake. The movement can be a swirl, a zigzag, or a simple push that creates a modified star shape.

Yield: 24


Mini muffin cases

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup hot brewed coffee or hot water

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 large egg plus 1 yolk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

pinch of salt

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped


1. Set the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line mini muffin pan with liners. In a large bowl, combine finely chopped dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and brown sugar, then stir in hot coffee or water to melt the chocolate. Cool to room temperature.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, salt, and baking soda; mix with a whisk.

3. Beat the whole egg, yolk, oil, buttermilk and vanilla into the chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture and stir until smooth.

4. Scoop a little less than a tablespoon of batter into each mini muffin cup (I use two dinnerware soup spoons, one for scooping and the other for scooping out the batter). Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven with oven mitts. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on the wire rack.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water. Combine heavy cream, corn syrup, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Carefully remove from heat, then add chocolate and whisk until smooth; place in a high-sided bowl. Carefully place in a bowl of ice water (don’t let the water get into the chocolate mass). Let sit for about 15 minutes, stirring with a spoon every few minutes until thick enough to spread or squirt.

6. Spread the frosting on top or place in a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe a strudel onto each cupcake.

Source: “The Big, Fun Kids Baking Book” from Food Network Magazine (Kids Hearst Home, $19.99)

If you have a standalone electric mixer, Nighty Night Cookies are probably one of the easiest treats to bake from scratch. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Big Kid Nighty Night Cookies

If you have a standalone electric mixer, Nighty Night Cookies are probably one of the easiest treats to bake from scratch. They are light as air in which chocolate is hidden. When my daughter was a kid she used to call them “angel kisses”. The recipe uses French meringue, which is the easiest type of meringue to make. This is a way to introduce the stand mixer to kids ages 8 and up; explain that it is very important to keep hands away from the whisk attachment when the engine is running.

Yield: About 20 to 22 biscuits


2 large egg whites

pinch of salt

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3/4 semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla, see Cook’s Notes

Chef’s Notes: I like to keep them bed sheet white, so I leave out the vanilla. It’s your choice.


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Beat the egg whites in an electric stand mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add salt and increase speed to high. When soft peaks form, add 1 tablespoon sugar (away from whisk attachment) and beat for 30 seconds. Repeat adding sugar one tablespoon at a time, then beat for 30 seconds until all of the sugar is added. After all the sugar has been added, beat on high speed for 1 minute. Fold in mini chocolate chips and vanilla, if using. Place tablespoons at a time on the prepared trays. I use two soup spoons – one to scoop and the other to scoop the batter off the spoon.

3. Place in the center of the preheated oven. Turn off the heat and let the cookies “bake” overnight with the oven door closed. OR bake in a 325 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Cool.

Question about cooking? Contact Cathy Thomas at cathythomascooks@gmail.com


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