Friday, September 30, 2011

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen Might Not Be So Bad

Recently, I've re-embraced baking. We're crazy about sweets in this house, and would love to indulge in them every day. So I bought a "healthy" cookbook which features baked goods with fewer calories, less sugar and less fat than their [decidedly more delicious] counterparts. It seems like a pretty decent way to compromise.

Since I've been baking something almost every week, there seem to be enough opportunities for trial and error and for learning. Now that my kids are a little older, baking with them has become somewhat more tolerable. The key, I've discovered, is to not strive for perfection. As long as I remember that most any homemade baked treat tastes good, I become much more at ease with the imperfect measurements, the puffs of powdered ingredients that spill onto the table instead of into the bowl and the not-ready-for-prime-time presentation. I've also chillaxed a bit about tasting the process.

The other day I saw Fifi sneak a pinch of flour she intended to eat. I stopped her and told her that was gross. But then I realized that I only knew it was gross because somewhere along the line I probably tasted it myself. We use all our senses to learn about the world around us, I reminded myself. So then I let her eat the flour. And she said it was gross. And now she knows. She--as well as Vance--also now knows that the dry ingredients are really dry and taste yucky. But that brown sugar beat with butter (or butter-like product, as the case may be) is delicious and sweet.

The two of them know some other things as well, now that I relaxed my standards and upped the value of the experience. They now know that the trigger on the hand mixer is a bit temperamental and that if you push it too hard, the mixer will suddenly whir very fast and very loudly. Additionally, they know that if you put a mixer into the dry ingredients, you will create a wicked dust storm. They know that the symbol "one dash two" means half and that you can fill the half cup two times if you want a full cup. They know that flour is powdery and that sugar, while the same color, is more like sand in texture. They also know that cocoa is worthless without sugar, despite looking awfully tempting.

Baking with the kids is starting to actually be fun. I stand firm that their hands must be clean and that anything that enters their mouths is no longer suitable for cooking. Otherwise, I'm getting better at relaxing and letting them run the show a little more. The kids have fun and we all get a sweet treat in the end. Seems like a pretty good deal.