“Can I bake something, Mom?!” is a common phrase I hear around my house. This time it was from one of my eight-year-old sons. I had some mushy, brown bananas sitting on the counter and thought it would be a great opportunity to use up the ripe bananas and let him bake.
My kids have always baked with me in the kitchen from a young age. They love dumping ingredients into the mixers, whipping up fresh cream for pancakes (had to put a stop to that one after they used up all my cream, which was supposed to be for a recipe I was intending to make), learning about how to turn on the oven (yes you have to press START or else it doesn’t pre-heat), making breakfast on weekend mornings…the list goes on and on. As a parent I am transitioning with my older kids (ages 10, 8, 8) into a more hands-off approach. I want to let them feel the success that comes with pulling a beautiful loaf of banana bread out of the oven and having the rest of the family ooh, ahh and compliment the chef.
On this particular day I was a little more “hands off” than I normally would be. I was outside chatting with a friend when my son begged to make something and I suggested banana bread. He found the recipe I’d left lying around and as typical eight year old boys do (and let’s face it…busy moms do too), pulled out the ingredients and started mixing them up before re-reading the ingredients and realizing a mistake had been made. Instead of melting the butter he’d put in cold butter…and kept on mixing.
When I came inside to check on his progress I found a bowl of chunky butter, bananas, sugar, oil and flour ready to be poured into a pan and put into the oven. In an attempt to “save” the banana bread I decided to whip the mixture to get rid of all the butter chunks. As we soon found out, there is a reason you want to GENTLY FOLD the flour into banana bread (or any quickbread) as your last step in the process. Creaming the butter and sugars together as a first step is fine, but once the flour is added…gently fold. When we started whipping the flour it activated the gluten. Instead of the light and airy crumb we love from banana bread, we had inadvertently whipped the bread into a dense, hard and a hockey-puck-like loaf once baked.
My son, however, was proud as a peacock pouring his mixture into the baking pan and setting a timer to check on it. After the bread was baked we cut into it…and you know what, my three boys gobbled up pieces of that banana bread exclaiming how delicious it was! Compliments were given to the chef and I think my three year old ate 5 slices of bread over the course of a couple days. I may not have been able to stomach a piece of the bread, but I am very grateful for the learning opportunity by giving my boy free reign of the kitchen and mixer.
Baking is a skill. It takes time, effort and desire. I want my kids in the kitchen. I want them to learn how to bake, cook and appreciate where their food comes from. Do you think that if I had made the loaf of banana bread that day we would have learned a lesson about folding in flour to bread? Probably not. Start close to your kids and help them learn how to read, measure and work your kitchen appliances. Gradually release that responsibility to them as they prove themselves capable. Will your kitchen be messy? Almost definitely. Will your kids learn important skills that will stay with them for life? Almost definitely. Teach your kids. It’s worth it!
…even when your banana bread comes out tasting like a brick.