There’s nothing I love more than teaching kids to cook and I’m always on the lookout for recipes and books I can recommend to my students and their parents which is why I’m thrilled to be writing about a fabulous new cookbook for aspiring bakers – Kid Chef Bakes! Authored by Lisa Huff of Snappy Gourmet, this is a baking book aimed at 8-13 year olds who are interested in baking a little more than just cookies and cupcakes (though there are some fab recipes for those too!) so of course I was super interested in checking this out.
When a child is ready to take the spatula into his or her hands, it can be difficult to find recipes suited to their level, ability, and tastes that also capture their interest. Catering to ambitious chefs ages 8–13, this kids cookbook and culinary crash course shows your chef-in-training what it takes to bake from start to finish. With tips for prepping and setting up the kitchen, tutorials fostering basic skills, and sweet recipes that parents will love, Kid Chef Bakes is a kids cookbook to inspire the aspiring chef.
Looking through the book (the companion to the popular Kid Chef) it’s easy to see why this would appeal to this age group. With bright pastels and full colour images and lots of tasty-sounding recipes, it’s a book I know my 8-13 year old students would love to flip through and bake from. I’d argue that it appeals just as much to beginner bakers as to “ambitious” little chefs especially given the thorough lessons and information included at the start but it’s a really great place to start for kids who want to learn some basic and more complex techniques and recipes.
I really appreciate that the book doesn’t talk down to kids or make things overly simplistic (and hey, I know better than most what a tricky balance that can be!). Kids are actually super capable in the kitchen if you give them a chance and can handle much more complex instructions and recipes than many people give them credit for so it’s nice to see a book that teaches kids proper technique at a level that’s just right. Hey, I know some adult bakers who would definitely benefit from the clearly laid-out and easy-to-understand instructions!
The book doesn’t teach short cuts (so, for me, I rarely use more than one bowl when I bake something like a pound cake – I don’t measure the dry ingredients separately in a different bowl, partly because I bake using a scale and it’s easy to do the one-bowl thing) which is absolutely the right way to make sure kids are learning proper technique in the kitchen – once they understand a little more how baking ingredients work with each other, then shortcuts are something they can start to work with. For beginners, the attention to detail with the mise-en-place and organisation is absolutely necessary.
One thing I did find I was wanting were more images (and I know there are so many reasons why an image for every recipe might not be the route the publisher chooses) – because I find kids are so visual when it comes to cooking. The photos in this book are so well done (by Hélène Dujardin with styling by Tami Hardemann, both of whose work I am very familiar with and love!), striking a lovely balance between being appealing to kids and their parents (because mostly I’d imagine kids would be cooking with a parent closeby) and looking do-able but not too simple, so I’d love to have seen more finished dishes. In the Cakes & Cupcakes chapter, for example, there are 14 recipes and only 4 images (and I really want to know what a Grasshopper Cake Stack looks like!). Hey, even *I* like to see what an unfamiliar dish is supposed to look like when I’m cooking and baking!
The book is divided into two sections (Baking School – In the Baker’s Kitchen and Baking Skills – and Recipes) with two Appendices, a Glossary, a Resources section and a Recipe Index. The In the Baker’s Kitchen section discusses must-know information (for any baker, really – I also know a lot of adult beginner bakers who would benefit from this section too!) including things to do to prepare to bake, a list of items for the baker’s pantry, equipment for bakers and safety tips. The Baking Skills section is a must-read section for any kid baker wishing to undertake the recipes in the book – teaching everything from how to properly measure liquids to how to test if your baking soda is still active! These tips are featured through seven lessons and each lesson has a recipe tutorial at the end where you can put your knowledge into practice (the very best kind of homework, right?). For example, the lesson about melting chocolate includes information about using a double boiler, melting chocolate in the microwave and how to work with bars or blocks of chocolate as opposed to chocolate chips. Kids put all that knowledge to use in the Brownie Bites recipe at the end of the lesson. Sounds fun, huh? I thought this section was really well done – it gives a lot of information in a succinct way and while it’s easy to understand, it doesn’t talk down to kids. Really well done!
As to be expected with a baking book, the majority of the recipes are sweet. There’s one chapter with savoury baked goods with 11 recipes for things like pesto straws, bread rolls and quiche and other non-dessert (i.e. sandwich bread) recipes scattered through the book but the emphasis is definitely on desserts and treats. With classics like angel food cake, a really good looking loaf of banana bread, biscuits and scones, muffins, some gluten-free items like a flourless chocolate cake, cupcakes, bars and cookies, it’s a nice variety of baked goods, although I’d argue that ambitious kid bakers might want a few more challenging items (there are recipes like profiteroles but I might have expected a fancy layer birthday cake (maybe that’s for the next book?). I did like the variety of recipes covered and I appreciated the fact that there is a LOT of basic techniques taught in these recipes, really setting kids up for success and being more independent in the kitchen.
The recipes are written in short paragraph-style which I typically don’t like (I sometimes find it hard to follow, and I know if there are too many instructions in each paragraph, kids do too) but each paragraph has a bolded heading which tells you exactly what’s happening in each stage of the recipe which I really liked. It’s easier to keep track of where you are in a recipe when it’s well laid-out!
What did I bake?
I chose a simple lemon loaf from the book to make which was not only simple to make but also, devoured by my colleagues before 9am on a Monday morning! Speaks volumes! The publisher has generously allowed me to share the recipe here today – for big and little bakers alike!
- 1/3 cup milk (2% or whole)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated lemon zest
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1-3 tablespoons milk (2% or whole)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Lightly grease and flour a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 loaf pan.
- Make the sour milk. In a small bowl, add 1/3 cup milk and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, stir to combine. Let sit about 10 minutes.
- Mix the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Cream the butter and sugar. In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 10 seconds, or until smooth. Beat in the granulated sugar until well blended and light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg is added. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest.
- Combine all ingredients. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter mixture, beating on low after each addition, until the batter is just combined.
- Bake the cake. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool slightly, then remove the cake from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.
- Make the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of milk. Whisk in more milk as needed until thick but spreadable. Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake, so it can drizzle down the sides.
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Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of “Kid Chef Bakes” for review purposes. I was not asked to write about the book, nor am I being compensated for doing so. All opinions 100% my own.