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Child-friendly baking – batches of learning

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Child-friendly baking – batches of learning

Want a fool-proof way to have delicious fun with your kids, while teaching them reading math and science?  Just step into the kitchen.  There’s tons of safe and easy ways to work with kids in the kitchen.  The chefs at Paradiso Restaurant in Oakville, who held a kids cooking class over March Break, show us just how much fun, and –surprise!- how much learning takes place when we include our kids in the kitchen.

What does that say?
Let your kids read the recipe out loud to you.  It’s a terrific way to get oral reading practice. Even the youngest child can pick out familiar words and numbers.
Recipes add tons of math practice
There are lots of opportunities to get your kids involved in hands on math practice while baking.  Ask them to hand you 3 eggs. (Oh- we’ll get to the value of ‘clean-up’ soon)  Count out-loud together while taking turns adding ingredients.  You can even stop half way and prompt a little math discussion. “We added 3 cups of flour, and we need 6 cups.  How many more do we need?”
In fact, that recipe is full of math.  Your kids are not only counting, they are also working with fractions.  While scooping and pouring, point out to the difference between ½ cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour.

Science anyone?
And the whole baking experience is one big science experiment.  There’s nothing like learning about solids changing to liquids like melting a batch of chocolate over a double boiler.  During the Paradiso kids’ cooking class, Chef Franco took this opportunity to explain to the children how steam from a double boiler melts the chocolate with more distributed heat than a pot placed directly on the stove, or in the microwave.
As the children whipped cream for their chocolate mousse recipe Chef Franco explained how the whipping motion incorporated the air to create bubbles in the cream eventually causing the cream to thicken.  This, by the way required the children to ‘use their pipes’ as Chef Ally put it.  No wimpy electric beaters here. 
The children then learned a folding technique, wrapping the lighter whipped cream into the heavier chocolate batter.  The children could see first hand how this changed the texture of their ingredients. (Chef Ally also pointed out that after all that whipping, folding and scraping; a good chef always does a taste test to check their progress.) 

Room for Creativity
Baking is not just a science, it’s also an art, and experimenting is part of the fun.  While adding the semi sweet chocolate chips to their brownie recipe one of the kids said, “I like white chocolate.” Before we knew it the group had jumped off the written recipe path, adding white chocolate chips and then cookie chunks to the batter.  Their original recipe was complete when Chef Franco suggested they add a little olive oil to keep the brownies moist.
And when all of this yummy baking was ready to eat the children didn’t just plunk it on their plate.  Chef Franco told the group, “People eat first with their eyes and their mind before they eat with their mouth.”  The children had a blast creating a perfect presentation with their plate of brownie and chocolate mouse, sprinkling icing sugar and squirting dabs of fruit sauce on their plates.

Baking- it’s a social thing!
There are lots of valuable social lessons to be learned in the kitchen.  The young Paradiso chefs-in-training learned a lot about teamwork, as they shared the load in reading the recipe, pouring ingredients, stirring the batter and wiping down the counter.  The kids also discussed any suggestions before altering a recipe, and compromised on what and how much of an extra ingredient they would add. 
    And when the smell of brownies floated through the restaurant the children experienced the joys of not only eating what they had made, but also sharing their treats with others.  The children were all smiles as they delivered warm brownies to all of the kitchen staff.
    Getting together in the kitchen with your children is an excellent opportunity for the whole family to work together toward a common goal.  It’s also a terrific way for children to share gifts with others.  What mother wouldn’t appreciate a custom made cake made especially for her on Mother’s Day!

Little kids are a big help in the kitchen when they are in charge of:
-All scooping pouring and stirring
-Gathering ingredients and putting them away when finished
-Arranging the ‘presentation’ of food in creative and imaginative ways
-Putting dirty dishes in the sink
-Washing the counters
-Creating a menu (keep your kids busy with paper and crayons and before they know it their meal will be ready to eat!)
-Setting the table

Okay, Your Turn: Here’s Paradiso’s Chocolate Mousse Recipe
1 liter        35% cream
½ cup        Powdered sugar
2 cups        Chocolate chips
2 Tbsp        Butter

*Melt chocolate and butter over double boiler until combined
*Whip cream with sugar and set aside
*Fold chocolate and whipped cream together.  Chill