Real Bread, Little Alchemists…
As much as my kitchen has a slightly ‘lived in’ look at the best of times, today the kids have been baking, which give’s it a very lived in look with added flour decorations on the wall, ceiling and floor…bless them.
As a slightly obsessive ‘real bread’ baker at home, it’s amazingly satisfying to able to teach my kids that with flour, water, salt and yeast you can create something truly magical, we call it ‘alchemy’ in our kitchen. Today my two young alchemists have been busy making Pan de Mie, the closest the French get to our sandwich loaf but without all the added nasty bits, a very important fact I like to drill into them as often as I can…NO NASTY STUFF IN OUR LOAVES GIRLS, to which they humour me with a big sympathetic smile. The advantages of baking something which is fairly quick and simple is that it’s going hold their attention. We mix it all up, bash it for 10 minutes, prove it for 45 mins and bake it for 30 mins…then eat it in 5 minutes with a good healthy spread of butter. This also gives them a little break in the middle where I leave them to clean up, which of course results in most of what is on the worktop transferring to the floor, but it’s the thought that counts. I must point out that if we were baking meringue today then the cleaning up stage is replaced with whisk licking, I swear one day a tongue will get stuck resulting in a trip to A&E (front page Gazette story in my neck of the woods).
I am the first to admit I am slightly ‘controlling’ when baking, something I found hard when I started baking with the kids, my hands were always in the way and my desperate chant ‘do you want daddy to do that’ could be heard at every stage, and then one day the penny dropped. Now I imagine my hands tied, not allowed to touch unless asked, allowing a few mistakes, over measurements and the odd piece of dough from the floor being mixed back in…apparently it won’t kill you I have been informed. My kids are at the stage now where they can take things in and out of the oven with a little care. I found it worthwhile getting oven gloves which fit small hands, it’s a lot safer and something special for them, although the look on their faces when I produced a couple of chefs hats was less than enthusiastic, fashionista’s at an early age, hairbands only.
A few tips from my experience:
1. Keep it at their level, use a table they can reach, imagine yourself trying to make a Victoria sponge on top the wardrobe…exactly!
2. Their own kit makes them feel very professional….it need not be expensive, their own wooden spoon, measuring jug etc.
3. Keep it simple, long drawn out recipes involving lots of stages loses attention, although a break in the middle always gets mine running back after a quick scoot around the garden.
4. Advise but at a distance, after all a piece of eggshell won’t kill you…another piece of advice from my young alchemists.
5. Ignore the mess and get yourself a dog, they tend to lick up anything dropped on the floor, or at least mine does. Mess happens, the more the better for mischievous little bakers.
6. I find that simple recipes from ‘grown up’ books work well (we bake a lot of Richard Bertinet’s recipes), this way it’s something you all can enjoy…hopefully!
Words by Neil White