The “Great Family Bake Off”

My family absolutely loves watching “The Great British Baking Show” together. It’s the one thing I can “bribe” my kids with as we fold laundry and I will do almost anything to get out of folding laundry for six people by myself. We enjoy watching the creative bakes, salivating over the treats, love learning about the British culture and seeing the lighthearted competition between competitors turned friends. After watching a few seasons together over the past few months my kids started talking about creating our own baking competition to mimic the show. 

Free printable at the end of this post

Bake Off Challenges

The “Great British Bake Off” as it is called in Great Britain, takes place over the course of many weekends. One episode covers a Saturday and Sunday of competition. Participants compete in three challenges:

  1. Signature Bake
  2. Technical Challenge 
  3. Show-Stopper Challenge

Because we have so much time on our hands right now with kids home from school, we have been looking for some creative ways to have fun, so I decided to acquiesce to the request and make our very own “Great Family Bake Off” competition. This would also make for a very fun birthday party, extended family reunion challenge or just something to do on a Saturday afternoon or summer weekday. In the spirit of fun and to give you something to make a long “Covid-19” day not so long…I give you everything you need to create your own “Great Family Bake Off!”

My four kids “competed.” I had to help my youngest through some of the challenges but I was surprised with the amount he could do. This would be perfect if he was paired up with a buddy…we just don’t have anyone extra around us right now with our “quarantine” situation

In creating this competition, I wanted to keep the three original challenges but tone some of them down a little to meet the abilities of my grade-school kids. I needed bakes that we could accomplish in a few hours and not a few days. After thinking it over, I came up with our version of “The Great Family Bake Off.”

Judging

You will need to find a moderator/judge(s) to be in charge of the event. This will preferably be a couple of adults. They will make sure to have all of the ingredients needed, prepare the secret technical challenge and judge the competition. You can print this printable for a rundown of the moderator/judge’s responsibilities.

The Bakes

Signature Bake: Finger Sandwiches

  • The signature bake is finger sandwiches. You need four identical finger sandwiches with tasty fillings. Judging will be based on presentation, taste and meeting the time requirement. You have 20 minutes for this challenge and the bread will be provided for you.
Finger Sandwiches

Technical Challenge: Personal Pan Brownies

  • In this challenge we take one basic recipe with the same ingredients and instructions and ask you to produce a perfect finished product. The moderator/judge will prepare the ingredients and kitchen tools beforehand. Then they will hand out the recipe (with no instructions or bake time!) and start the timer for 45 minutes. The brownies will be judged blind with no clues as to who made what.
Four entries for the technical bake

Show-Stopper Challenge: Cupcake Art

  • This is the final challenge to showcase your skill and talent. Judging will be on the professional appearance of your signature bakes. Judges will be looking for the most impressive and elaborate creations. The challenge is cupcake art. Use 4 cupcakes, icing and decorations. The cupcakes, icing and decorations will be provided for you. You have 30 minutes to perfect your show-stopper creations.
Such creative Cupcake Art

The challenges give enough hands-on creativity to be fun but don’t take hours to complete. Only one of the bakes requires an oven. You can change these up to fit your own family dynamic as you wish. Plan for a total time of 3-4 hours to complete this entire Great Family Bake Off! It will take some time but is so much fun and you will make awesome family memories. My kids are still talking about it!

So what are you waiting for? 

Download the moderator/judges guide here:

Download the planning worksheet (so the kids can plan their signature and show-stopper bakes ahead of time) here:

Download the technical challenge recipe here

Check out our family’s “Bake Off” on youtube here or watch below:

Ready, Set…BAKE!

Please share this post if you enjoyed it. If you plan to host your own “Great Family Bake Off” we’d love to see it! Tag me @amybakesbread on Instagram or share your video clip in the comments section.

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Easy Homemade Granola Bars

I don’t know about you, but with the current coronavirus climate I am searching high and low for easy recipes for my kids to make while home for an extended period of time. I want something that is easy for older elementary kids to do mostly on their own, with minimal supervision from mom. These homemade granola bars are not only a great snack for kids who are around all day, but are also quick to make, easy for kids to follow the recipe and clean up. 

This recipe has been around our house for awhile, though I haven’t made them much recently. With kids home full-time right now, I pulled it out of my memory archives and thought it would be a great one to share with you right now. If your kids are begging to make something yummy and you want something quick, easy and delicious…check, check, check! These are for you! My fifth grader made these independently and her brothers have helped gobble them up. They freeze well, store well in an airtight container and will hopefully last us more than twenty-four hours. I can see these becoming a staple in our house. I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 cups quick cook oats (NOT rolled)
  • 1 ½ cups rice krispies
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  • ½ cup mini marshmallows
  • A few extra chocolate chips and marshmallows to sprinkle on top

Instructions:

  1. Coat a 9 by 13 pan with cooking spray.
  2. Stir together oats, rice krispies, chocolate chips and marshmallows in a large bowl.
  3. On the stove heat the butter, honey and brown sugar. Once the mixture is completely melted and beginning to bubble take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla and a pinch of salt.
  4. Pour sugar mixture over the oat mixture and stir to combine. Top with mini chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. Press into 9 by 13 pan and let cool completely, 1-2 hours. If you can’t wait that long, put the pan in the freezer for 20 minutes to help the bars harden. Cut into pieces and enjoy!

Recipe notes: If you only have rolled oats on hand, give them a quick whirl in the blender to break them down. You can also leave out the chocolate chips and marshmallows and sub any other goodie in there…nuts, peanut butter chips, raisins, etc…

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

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Hockey-Puck Banana Bread

“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.

Proud boy with his “whipped” batter.

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. 

Hoping next time his banana bread turns out like this!!!

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.

Kid Sized King Cake

Last year we took a trip down to the Gulf Coast, driving through Mobile, Alabama and vacationing for a week on Dauphin Island…a little piece of paradise we never knew existed. We added a day trip to New Orleans, Louisiana where we indulged in beignets at Cafe du Monde, danced to jazz music in the street and enjoyed sampling Cajun cooking. We even sampled a piece of their famous “King Cake” and learned about the history of Mardi Gras, something we knew very little about. 

Jump to Kid-Sized King Cake Recipe

Mardi Gras History

Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French. It is traditionally a time of fun and feasting before Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday. Many people give up certain foods and other luxuries during Lent to prepare themselves for Easter. When French settlers moved to North America, they continued their traditions and the first American Mardi Gras was celebrated in Mobile, Alabama or New Orleans (depending on who you ask). Now, New Orleans holds the largest Mardi Gras celebration in North America. Many parades, people dressed up in costume, beads, jazz music and celebrating take place leading up to and on Fat Tuesday, exactly 47 days before Easter.

Introducing Kids to A New Culture

As a mom I’m always looking for fun ways to make connections to the real world with my kids. We don’t traditionally celebrate Ash Wednesday or Mardi Gras but I’m always up for an excuse to bake. After experiencing the fun vibes of New Orleans, I decided Mardi Gras King Cakes were on my bucket-list to “bake with my kids.” I picked up an informational book from our local library (thank you library holds), purchased a few ingredients and we made our own “kid-sized” King Cakes.

One of my mom tips: Pick up a book from the library about the history behind your bakes. It strengthens literacy skills and we all learn new things together.

What is a King Cake?

King Cakes are traditionally eaten during Mardi Gras season. They are baked into the shape of a crown and taste similar to a cinnamon roll, though other flavors are also popular. Gold, green and purple sugar sprinkles cover the creamy icing as a reminder of power, faith and justice. A little doll is traditionally hidden in the cake and the person who finds it (sinking their teeth into it) buys a king cake for the group the next time they get together.

1 Kid-sized King Cake will feed around 8 , this recipe makes 2 King Cakes

Adapting King Cakes for Kids

A traditional King Cake feeds around 18 people. I wanted each of my kids to get to make their own, so we made “mini” versions that make around 8 slices each. For our Kid-Sized King Cakes, I pulled some candy out of the pantry and let the kids choose what they wanted to hide in their cake. I thought an edible version would be better than the potential for a cracked tooth. We rolled up the candy inside the dough, baked it and then the kids had to guess where it was when we cut into the cake. The anticipation seeing if they guessed right and looking for the mystery candies was a hit. The consensus was the caramels held together pretty well. Chocolate was second-best and the gummy bears melted away. They were still fun to find the colors left behind. Moral of the story: use what you have on hand (leftover Valentine…or even Christmas candy works great).

The Process

This southern cake starts out with a sour cream mixture that is heated over the stove. The dough is mixed using a stand mixer or by hand and then left to rise for an hour. After rising, portion the dough into two king cakes (or one large one if you want to make a traditional king cake). Roll the dough out into two rectangles and fill with cinnamon sugar filling. This filling is not quite as heavy for King Cake as a traditional cinnamon roll recipe. If you like more filling, you can double the filling recipe. Choose a candy to hide and place it somewhere on your rectangle of dough. Then roll the dough up cinnamon-roll style and shape into a circle, bringing the two ends together. Let the king cake rise again before baking. Once the cake is baked, top with the icing and cover in colorful sprinkles (affiliate link).

These King Cakes are decadent, delicious and kids are in heaven with the amount of sprinkles they put on top. And while I would never recommend skipping this delicious dough, I won’t bat an eye if you pick up a refrigerated roll of dough from the grocery store and follow the rest of the recipe from there. Either way, get in the kitchen and have fun making a mess with all the sprinkles, living it up with your kid-sized King Cakes and “let the good times roll!”

Kid-Sized King Cake

The perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras with these kid-sized king cakes. Whether you want to introduce your kids to a fun new tradition or enjoy a King Cake that's a little smaller portion-wise, these King Cakes are the perfect size for a small group and taste delicious too.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 22 mins
Rising Time: 2 hrs
Course Bread, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 2 small king cakes

Ingredients
  

King Cake Dough

  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 3-3 1/2 cups bread flour see recipe note

King Cake Filling

  • 3 Tablespoons butter softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 small unwrapped candies to hide in the King Cakes

Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or any flavoring you like
  • purple, yellow, green sugar sprinkles for decorating

Instructions
 

  • In a saucepan on the stove over low heat, cook the sour cream, sugar, butter and salt until the butter is melted. Cool to room temperature.
  • Pour the mixture into a heavy duty stand mixer (Bosch, KitchenAid, etc…) and add the water and instant yeast. Mix in the egg and 1 cup of flour and beat until smooth. Gradually add in the remaining flour until a soft dough forms.
  • Knead with your mixer 5 minutes or by hand about 10 minutes. Be careful not to over-flour your dough.
  • Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour. 
  • Punch down the dough and divide it in half (this recipe makes two “smaller” King Cakes). 
  • Mix together your filling: butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and divide it in half (a portion for each cake).
  • Using one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough out to a rectangle about 16 inches long, or longer and 6-8 inches wide. Spread the filling over the dough trying to get an even coating over all the dough (this should remind you of making cinnamon rolls).
  • Place your candy on the cake at the edge nearest to you and where you begin to roll.
  • Roll up each rectangle like a jelly-roll and then form a circle by bringing the ends of the roll together and pinching the seams together as you
  • Repeat for the second king cake. You may want to put a small, circular, oven-proof dish in the center of the ring to help keep the circular shape in the middle when baking.
  • Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes until puffy.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes until golden and cooked through. 
  • While the cakes are cooling, mix up the glaze with a spoon or hand mixer. Add a little more cream if glaze is too thick.
  • Add glaze to piping (or ziplock) baggies, cut off the ends and let your kids decorate their cakes!
  • Top with purple, yellow and green sprinkles and have your child guess where their “baby” (or candy in this case) is located in their cake. Enjoy the deliciousness of a Mardi Gras King Cake!

Notes

Serving Size: This recipe makes two small king cakes, each feeding about 8 people. If you want to make one large king cake, use all of the dough and make one large king cake (feeding about 18 people).
Bread Flour: If you don’t have bread flour, you can substitute all purpose flour. If you have vital wheat gluten, add 2-3 teaspoons in with the all purpose flour for a bread flour substitution. 
King Cake Candy: Unwrap any of your favorite candy to hide in the King Cake. Caramel held up the best. Chocolate worked well. Gummy candy dissolved but was still fun. 
Recipe adapted from Southern Living
Keyword Kid Friendly, King Cake, Mardi Gras

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Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake.

Snow Day Doughnuts

I grew up in an area of the United States where we didn’t have many (or any!) snow days. When we moved to Kentucky and my kids started school, I couldn’t believe the amount of snow days they had – for an area that typically doesn’t get much snow! If we get any little bit of snow (or sometimes even a forecast for snow), school is often cancelled. Our area of Kentucky has lots of small country roads, a small amount of equipment to deal with snow and it’s not safe for school busses to travel in those conditions. I had previously taught school in Utah where we had many feet of snow every school year and never had a snow day once. This was a big change!

The amount of snow we get on a typical snow day…

Our first year in Kentucky we implemented a family tradition to help us look forward to the beginning of “snow day” season and the fun it can bring. Enter: Snow Day Doughnuts! My kids look forward to this tradition every year now and are always begging for snow long before it’s in the forecast.

Snow Day Doughnut!

A little superstition for you: In Kentucky, the night before snow is predicted in the weather forecast, kids come home from school and do these three things:

  1. Put a spoon under your pillow
  2. Wear your pajamas inside out
  3. Flush three ice cubes down the toilet

Kids head to bed and pray that tomorrow will bring snow. 

Two boys praying for no school: inside out pajamas, spoon under pillow…and they did flush 3 ice cubes down the toilet too!

For my kids the first snow day of the year is particularly special. Not only do we have a day off school and snow to play in, but we make Snow Day Doughnuts! This is the one time a year we try our hand at making doughnuts…fun for everyone. An enriched dough (that means butter, egg, and milk or fat) that is fried and dipped in icing? Sign me up!!! 

I usually research a few recipes the week before it calls for the first snow (thank you Google) and make sure I have the ingredients on hand. We mix up the dough in the morning, play in the snow for an hour while it rises and then come inside to cut out the shapes we want to make. It’s usually a combination of regular round doughnuts, doughnut holes and filled doughnuts. 

Making lots of shapes for our doughnuts

A few words of caution:

  1. When you roll your dough out, be strategic and use up as much space as you can the first time. Doughnut dough doesn’t do very well being smooshed back together to roll out again (not like sugar cookies).
  2. You don’t need a doughnut cutter, a round glass works well. We’ve found the cap of a plastic water bottle is also great for cutting the hole out of the center of the doughnut.
  3. Make your “scraps” into doughnut holes OR roll them together to form a roll shape for a “filled” doughnut–they may look a little craggy, but they will taste good.

The kids go out to play again while the doughnuts rise a second time, and I text friends and neighbors to invite them to a doughnut and hot chocolate party at our house. I really think this is one of my kids favorite days of the year. After a few times sledding down the neighborhood hill, a couple snowball fights, snow angels, you name it, the kids start straggling in.

Gotta love that Kentucky snow 🙂

I keep a pot of hot chocolate on one burner and hot oil on the second. As the oil heats, I test a few of the doughnut holes and try to keep the temperature steady. If they burn quickly you’ll know you need to lower the temperature. If they take too long to fry (longer than 30 seconds per side) you’ll know to turn the heat up.

Cocoa and doughnuts…makes for the perfect first snow day of the year!

Once your doughnuts are fried, it’s time for the fun part. Toppings!!! We whipped up some vanilla icing and chocolate icing and put out a bunch of sprinkles for kids to go crazy with. There’s nothing better on the first snow day of the year than a fresh, home-made doughnut and a cup of hot chocolate…except for sharing it with friends that is!

Did you have snow days as a kid? What is your favorite snow day tradition?