Teach kids to cook by having them help make these treats – Orange County Register


Ah, the sweets of life. Cooking with children inspires me. It renews enthusiasm and energizes my spirit. Not so long ago, I cooked with my daughters and their friends, at home and in their classrooms. Now these young bakers are my grandchildren, their hands and palates eager to put treats in the ovens.

My granddaughter Françoise lives in Oakland. During her visit, she arrives with a wish list. She watches baking shows on television and keeps a record of the dishes she would like to prepare. Pleasant.

A few things to remember when cooking with kids. Be prepared for a mess; you may find that after a few sessions the process becomes clearer. Use the experience of young bakers to develop cleaning skills. And check the height of work surfaces. Children do best if they are in a standing position. When they were little, I put them to work on the open door of my dishwasher. Now the youngest is standing on a wide, sturdy running board after a serious discussion about safety.

Put on some music. Keep it safe. Keep it clean. Keep it fun.

Snickerdoodle muffins have the sweet, simple flavors kids love. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Snickerdoodle Muffins

A riff on cookies topped with sugar and cinnamon, these Snickerdoodle muffins sing of simple flavors kids love. The recipe, as well as those that follow, call for unsalted butter. Pastry chefs and bakers prefer unsalted butter because it is fresher, has an attractive cultured taste, and the amount of salt can be better controlled. Often I only have salted butter in the fridge, so I use that and omit the salt in the recipe. Hush, don’t tell my pastry chef friends.

Yield: 12 muffins


Nonstick cooking spray, cupcake pans

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

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

1 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided use

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

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Set oven rack to middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners. Spray liners with nonstick cooking spray. 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 of butter and mash with a spoon to make a crumbly mixture. Put aside. Place 1 remaining stick of butter in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave (just hot enough that it barely melts).

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

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

Source: Food Network magazine’s “The Big, Fun Kids Baking Book” (Kids Hearst Home, $19.99)

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

Mini chocolate cakes

The chocolate icing used to adorn these mini cupcakes is a ganache. It looks fancy but it’s easy to prepare. Kids love using a piping bag to pipe ganache. Let them practice on a plate or sheet of waxed paper before moving on to a cupcake. The motion can be a swirl, a zigzag, or a simple squeeze that produces an altered star shape.

Yield: 24


Mini muffin cups

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 of salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 cup heavy whipped cream

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped


1. Set oven rack to middle position. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a mini muffin tin with cases. Put the finely chopped bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder and brown sugar in a large bowl, then mix with hot coffee or water to melt the chocolate. Cool to room temperature.

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

3. Whisk whole egg, egg yolk, oil, buttermilk and vanilla into chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

4. Spoon a little less than a tablespoon of batter into each mini muffin pan (I use two tablespoons of dishware, one to scoop and one to push the batter back). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven with oven mitts. Allow cupcakes to cool 5 minutes in pan, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze: 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; transfer to a high-sided bowl. Gently place in a bowl in the ice water (do not let the water get into the chocolate mixture). Let stand, stirring every few minutes with a spoon, until thick enough to spread or pipe, about 15 minutes.

6. Spread frosting on top or pour into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and swirl on each cupcake.

Source: Food Network magazine’s “The Big, Fun Kids Baking Book” (Kids Hearst Home, $19.99)

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

Big-Kid Nighty-Night Cookies

If you have a stand-alone electric mixer, Nighty-Night Cookies are probably one of the easiest treats you can bake from scratch. They are light as air, with chocolate hidden inside. When my daughter was a child, she called them “angel kisses”. The recipe uses French meringue, the easiest style of meringue to make. It’s a way to introduce the stand mixer to children 8 years or older; explain that it is very important to keep your hands away from the whisk when the engine is running.

Yield: About 20 to 22 cookies


2 large egg whites

Pinch of salt

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3/4 mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla, see cook’s notes

Cook’s Notes: I like to keep the sheets white, so I omit the vanilla. It’s up to you.


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

2. In an electric stand mixer, beat egg whites until fluffy on medium speed. Add salt and increase the speed to high. When soft peaks form, add 1 tbsp sugar (away from whisk) and beat 30 seconds. Repeat, adding sugar one tablespoon at a time and beating after 30 seconds, until all the sugar is added. Once all the sugar is added, beat on high speed for 1 minute. Stir in mini chocolate chips and, if using, vanilla. Drop one tablespoon portions onto prepared sheets. I use two tablespoons – one to scoop and the other to push the dough out of the spoon.

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

Kitchen issue? Contact Cathy Thomas at [email protected]

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