#Recipe Baking with kids…not literally!

Montage

We’ve now been resident here in Toronto for 5 months and things have pretty much settled. My husband has found his pace with his job, our kids have made a smooth transition to a new school, heck we even seemed to have navigated the whole “Daylight saving hours” thing without too much trouble. The only fly in the ointment is me trying to start Mr. Mom’s from scratch again. Whilst a brand new audience awaits from my take on baked goods, it also means a whole bunch of people who no NOTHING about you. And that’s an uphill climb! (If you do happen to work in the foodie sector and would like a food writer, or baker to work with  please do check out my Collaborations page here.)

Anyhoo I digress! As I mentioned above, our kids have (surprisingly) takenthe move to a new country in their stride with little or no tears and tantrums. This week had them on their “March Break” from school- seems to be the equivalent to a UK mid-term break. As well as taking them to the obligatory art galleries and museums (I don’t know who enjoyed it more!) I decided to introduce them to the world of baking. Now I’m not talking anything major- they’re not quiet ready for the cook’s torch or bain maire yet! However you’d be amazed how some simple stirring, cutting, and participation can ignite eagerness.

Here are some of the recipes that took place in Mr. Mom’s kitchen this week. Whilst they range from the sweet to the savory, they are all big on fun, flavour and involvement from little flour-caked hands. I’ve  also included some tips on getting kids involved in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not including this because I consider myself some kind of childcare expert and these are rules by which you should abide. They’re simply meant from the point of my being a dad who wanted to get his children involved in baking and these ways worked for me. I’ve left where to get your kids involved to your discretion as you know them best after all.

Some tips/tricks:

  • Put on some music. Not loud enough that you have to shout over it but loud enough for background. It helps to have something to pass lengthy tasks like kneading or blending. Also think sing-along or random exclamations of “Knead to the beat!”
  • Get the children to find and fetch the ingredients. Framed as a “Baking Treasure Hunt” I’ve seen it help reading skills and memory.
  • Weighing is a surprisingly enticing activity which always draws willing volunteers.  If they overshoot the mark when pouring, it’s no biggie (despite their possible panic!)

So now on to the fun stuff- the recipes! These are a selection of what ended up on the cooling rack…

No Bake Chocolate Cookies

Pumpkin Bread

Sugar Cookies

Simple White Loaf ( and how this can be used to make Pizza)

 

Mud Puddles (aka No Bake Chocolate Cookies)

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Ingredients

200g caster sugar

125ml semi-skimmed milk

115g salted butter

4 tablespoons cocoa, unsweetened

1 tablespoon good quality vanilla extract

1 pinch salt

120g gram crunchy peanut butter

225g Jumbo Oats

225g Quick Oats

Method
  • Line baking sheets with baking parchment
  • Bring the sugar, milk, butter and cocoa to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, then keep on a rolling boil for 1 minute
  • Remove from the heat. Add the oats, peanut butter, vanilla and salt, and stir to combine
  • Drop spaced tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet
  • Leave to cool at room temperature for min 1 hour. After this they’ve set enough tp pick up and eat. I find they usually taste better and are easier to handle the next day
  • These can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days

 

Pumpkin Bread

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Ingredients

250g all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

400g caster sugar

170g unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 can (425g)  pumpkin (make sure it’s 100% pumpkin puree)

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Method
  • Preheat your oven to 160c or 325F.
  • Prepare two 1lb loaf tines with cake release or grease with butter
  • In a bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices
  • In a stand mixer combine the sugar, butter and eggs and mix for at least 10 mins
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and add in the flour mixture by heaped tablespoon at a time. Keep  the mixer going until just combined – make sure there are no white flour pockets
  • Remove the bowl, pour the mixture equally between the prepared tins and level the top
  • Bake in the oven for 60-70mins until a skewer comes out clean
  • Remove from the oven, remove from tins and leave to cool on a wire rack. When cool wrap in clingfilm until needed.
  • These loaves get better over time. After a couple of days wrapped they develop a fudgy, sticky texture which goes really with the warming spicy flavor (similar to McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake for those of you who know it?)

 

Sugar Cookies

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Ingredients

350g unsalted butter, softened

400g caster sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

620g all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Icing sugar for dusting and rolling

 

Method
  • Preheat oven to 200C or 400F
  • Line cookie sheets with baking parchment
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl
  • In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth (mix for at least 10 mins)
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time,and vanilla
  • With the mixer on a slow speed, stir in the flour mixture one heaped tablespoon at a time until well combined and a dough formed
  • Tip the dough onto clingfilm and wrap tightly
  • Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight)
  • Dust a surface with icing sugar, sprinkle the dough with icing sugar and roll out the dough to a thickness of apx 5mm (*use icing sugar to prevent sticking to surface and rolling-pin)
  • Cut out shapes using cookie cutters and transfer to prepared baking sheets
  • Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 mins
  • Remove and use a wide spatula or palette knife to transfer the soft cookies to wire rack to cool. They’ll firm up upon further cooling.

* I made 50/50 blend of vanilla and chocolate sugar cookie by removing half the dough when refrigerating it and leaving half in the bowl. To this I added 50g unsweetened cocoa powder and 100g unsweetened chocolate chips. Mix until well combined then refrigerate and make as per the rest of the recipe.

 

Simple White Loaf

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Ingredients

500g Bread flour

12g fast action yeast

10g salt

40ml light olive oil

320ml warm water

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Method
  • In a bowl combine the flour, yeast (to one side) and salt (to opposite side)
  • In bowl combine olive oil and water
  • Pour the water/oil mixture into the flour bowl in a steady stream
  • With your hand in a “Claw” shape mix from outside of the bowl towards to centre. Continue until all the mixture comes together into a dough ball and the bowl sides are clean
  • Lightly oil a surface with olive oil and tip out the dough onto it
  • Knead the dough for 10 mins until it becomes smooth and elastic
  • Transfer the kneaded dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with some lightly oiled cling film. Leave to rise until doubled in size
  • Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and dust with bread flour
  • Again lightly oil a surface and tip out the risen dough
  • Punch and knead the dough, for about 5 mins, until all the air has been expelled from it (called “Knocking Back”)
  • Shape with your hands into a long oval shape and transfer to the prepared baking sheet
  • Cover loosely with some damp kitchen paper or oiled cling film and leave for 40-60 mins until risen
  • Preheat your oven to 225c or 435F
  • Once the dough has risen, lightly spray with water, slash the top of the loaf, dust with all-purpose flour and place it in the preheated oven. After doing this place a dish filled with 1 pint of water in the bottom of the oven (this creates a crust)
  • Bake for 25mins, at which point reduce the temperature to 200c or 390F and continue to bake for a further 15-20mins
  • Remove the loaf from the oven (careful of the steam!) and leave to cool

Pizza adaptation

I’ve also used this recipe to make pizzas which the kids absolutely go crazy for. I’m not sure that it’s as much for the taste of it as it is for the whole “I’ve made this!” boost to their confidence. To use this for pizza making follow the steps until the “Knocking Back” stage.

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  • After knocking back the dough divide into equal pieces (I usually get 4-5 good size pizzas from this quantity of dough).
  • Preheat your oven to 250C or 475F (with baking sheets or pizza stones in)
  • Sprinkle a surface with a 50/50 combination of all-purpose flour and semolina
  • Dust the dough with some of the flour/semolina mixture. Flatten and stretch the dough until thin into which ever shape works best for you- circle, oval or rectangular. It just depends on what fits with your oven
  • Dress to your (and your kids!) taste with toppings. All of the following are good- tomato passata (as sauce); cheese shreds; bacon; tuna; pepperoni; chicken; fresh herbs; fresh mozzarella; thinly sliced figs…thre list can go on!
  • Carefully remove and dust your baking sheets or pizza stone with flour/ semolina mixture
  • Transfer your pizza(s) to baking sheets or pizza stone and bake for 10-12 mins until ready
  • Remove from oven, brush the exposed sides with extra virgin olive oil and servepic 8

So there’s a brief selection of some o the tasty goods from my kitchen. I hope you enjoy baking them, getting your kids to pitch in and tasting them as much as we have.

 

 

 

 

 

#Recipe- Egyptian Flatbreads

Egyptian Flatbreads 4

This started life as yet another “Popcorn” recipe which was consigned to the “Not Right Now” folder on my desktop. With the weather taking a turn for the better I’ve decided to dust it off and let it see the light of day. The flatbreads are really easy and they’re fantastic for picnic or BBQ weather. The popcorn feature ingredient can easily be omitted and the breads will be just as good- maybe not as much of a talking point though?

I love these with smeared with fresh, homemade hummus and sprinkled with some pomegranate seeds. They’re also ideal halved and stacked with slivers of BBQ’d meat, fresh juicy tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil. A definite taste for the summer!

Makes 4

Flatbreads

500g strong, white bread flour

10g salt

10g fast (easy) yeast

375ml warm water

40ml olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

 

Dukkah paste

100g chopped hazelnuts

50g sesame seeds

50g coriander seed

10g cumin seed

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

50g nigella seeds

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

14g Lemon & Fennel popcorn, crushed

Olive oil

Egyptian Flatbreads 1

  • Place the flour in a bowl, add the yeast to one side, and the salt to the other.
  • Create a well in the middle and add 275ml water, the olive oil and the honey and mix with your fingers until combined. Continue to add the rest of the water a little at a time until all the flour in the bowl has been incorporated. You may not need all the water- you want a dough that is well combined and soft, but not sticky or soggy. By the end your dough should be smooth and elastic.
  • Lightly oil a clean bowl and transfer the dough. Cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size.
  • Whilst the dough is rising, prepare the dukkah.
  • In a pan add the chopped hazelnuts; sesame seeds; coriander seeds; cumin seed; nigella seeds; and paprika. Toast over a medium heat until fragrant.
  • Add the salt and pepper and grind until rough.
  • Add in the crushed popcorn and mix to combine.
  • Drizzle in enough olive oil to create a rough paste.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, tip out onto a lightly oiled surface and knock back to remove the air (knead for about 5 minutes).
  • Cut the dough into 4 (roughly) equal pieces, and flatten with your fingers in a rough circle shape. With a lightly oiled rolling pin, roll into a larger circular shape, approximately 10-12cms diameter.
  • Transfer to 2 baking trays lined with baking parchment (2 dough discs on each).
  • Smear each of the dough circles liberally with the dukkah paste, covering the entire surface. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Whilst the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 225 degrees.
  • When the dough is rested, place the baking sheets in the oven- one on top third of oven, one in lower third of oven. After 6 mins, swap the positions of the trays, also turning them 180 degrees (front to back). Continue to bake for another 6 mins.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on their baking trays for a further 5 minutes. After this time transfer from the baking trays to wire racks.
  • The flatbreads can be served warm, or cool.

#Recipe Caramelised Walnut & Blue Cheese Soda bread

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Soda bread was one of the first things I remember watching my mother make/bake in the kitchen. From my seat on the kitchen drainer I would watch how she’d mix and shape the dough into the thick, dense cakes and I’d hanker for a warm slice, the melted butter dripping down my greedy knuckles. Beats crumpets any day! With the minimum of ingredients it was her “go to” recipe when cupboards were getting bare- maximum flavour from minimum input. So often  was it made in my childhood house that there was no need for her to weigh or measure quantities. It was an instinctual process, hands tracing what seemed like arcane patterns and motions, guided by numerous loaves that came before.

The lack of yeast in the mix makes it a particularly quick and easy loaf to knock together. No kneading is required and the mixing is minimal (to avoid an overly heavy dough). So it really is just a case of mix, shape and bake.

Whilst I have kept to the basic recipe as taught to me (flour, bread soda (bicarbonate of soda), buttermilk and salt, I have as usual added my Mr. Mom’s twist. The additional of the caramelised walnuts and blue cheese add wonderful pockets of sweetness and Unmami to the earthy wholemeal dough. I serve mine here with Guinness infused butter to make it just that little bit more indulgent for a St. Patrick’s Day treat.

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibhe!

 

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Ingredients

Caramelised walnuts

100g walnut halves
55g caster sugar
15g unsalted butter

Soda bread

450g wholemeal flour
175g plain flour
2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoons salt
450ml buttermilk (450ml  milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice stirred in)
100 g Cashel Blue cheese, plus extra for topping
Caramelised walnuts (see above)

Guinness Butter

1 quantity of homemade butter (See the recipe here)

150ml Guinness Stout (not draught)

4 teaspoons Irish heather honey (If you can’t find this, ordinary honey will be fine)

Pinch of salt

You’ll need 2 non-stick baking trays (or standard ones lined with baking parchment)

To make the caramelised walnuts

  • Set aside a non-stick baking tray. If you don’t have non-stick variety to hand, just line a standard tray with baking parchment.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a pan over a medium heat.
  • Stir to combine and to stop the mixture from catching.
  • Continue until the butter and sugar have melted. At this point you need to stir continuously until the syrup turns a deep shade of amber.
  • Immediately remove from the heat and tip the mixture onto the (lined) baking sheet. Using two forks separate the nuts individually so that they don’t clump together.
  • Allow the nuts to cool on the baking tray before use. (As a side note these make wonderfully tasty drinks snacks as they are like this. I often make a double batch!)

To make the soda bread

  • Preheat your oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
  • In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients (including the candied walnuts and cheese) and mix well.
  • Make a well in the center, and add in roughly 1/3 of the milk. Mix lightly.
  • Add in the second 1/3 of the milk and again mix until just combined.
  • Add in the final amount of milk and mix until a dough is formed and there is no dry flour remaining in the bowl.
  • Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead.
  • Form into a round about 1 1/2 inch thick transfer to your baking sheet.
  • Stud the top of the loaf with a few chunks of blue cheese (to taste) and dust with flour. Score the top of the loaf in half with a floured, sharp knife. Turn the loaf 90 degrees and score again so that you have a cross shape dividing the top of the loaf into quarters, then prick each of the four quarters**
  • Bake the loaf in your preheated oven for about 45mins. Test by tapping the bottom of the loaf- it should sound hallow. (If the top of the loaf starts to brown too quickly, loosely drap some foil over it). Once baked remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool.
  • Serve with Guinness Butter (see recipe below) or for a traditional Irish after-school treat slathered in butter and jam!

To make the Guinness Butter

  • Heat the Guinness in a pan over a high heat and reduce down to 1/3 volume. You should have a denser syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool fully.
  • Place the butter in a bowl of stand mixer, add in the cooled Guinness syrup, honey and salt.
  • Beat on medium until combined then increase the speed to high and “whip” for about 5-7 minutes until all the ingredients are fully combined and mixture is fluffy in texture.
  • Remove the butter from the mixing bowl, transfer to a dish and serve alongside the prepared soda bread.

**Although these two actions have a practical use in the making of this bread, the traditional meaning lends a much more romantic slant to them as only the Irish can. Cutting the loaf into quarters is said to be “Blessing the bread” so that it the house making it may never run out of it. Pricking each of the quarters is “to let the Sidhe (fairies) escape” in order to avoid any havoc they make reek if kept trapped in the bread. Quite how they got in there in the first place is beyond me by who am I to argue with centuries of tradition!

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Recipe- Italian Stromboli

So this week on The Great British Bake Off it was ‘Bread’ week (step forward Mr. Paul Hollywood looking rather smug). The bakers were challenged to a quick bread (typically soda bread); make some baguettes- this ended up with me screaming repeatedly at the TV and finally a 3-d bread sculpture. Yup- bread. Now while I didn’t attempt any of these in the vein of Bake Off fever, I did make something to keep up the theme itself.

I’m not sure why but over the past couple of weeks I’ve had stromboli on the brain. Please don’t be alarmed it isn’t a medical condition. Strombloi is in fact a stuffed loaf of Italian origin. Or as some people like to call it ‘Pizza Roll Bread’. Now for me that name just doesn’t do it justice. I much prefer it’s ‘Stromboli’ title (go ahead call me bourgeoise!). And so stromboli would be my #TheGreatBeardedBakeOff recipe for this week’s theme. Yes I know it’s not one of the challenges but I like to think outside the box; left of the middle etc etc – ’cause I’m crazy like that!

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Italian Strombloi

500g strong white bread flour

7g fast yeast

10g fine sea salt

40ml extra virgin olive oil

350ml warm water

1 tablespoon dried oregano

4 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping

125g buffalo mozzarella cheese, torn into pieces

75g sun-dried tomatoes, patted fry of any oil, roughly chopped

12g fresh basil leaves

80g prosciutto ham

Method

– In the bowl of a stand mixer place the flour; salt (to one side); yeast (to the opposite side; oregano and 1 tablespoon of parmesan cheese.

– Add the olive oil and 300ml of water.

– Using the dough hook attachment, mix the ingredients for 2-3 mins until fully combined. Add the remaining water in 2-3 pours until it’s all incorporated. Increase the speed in accordance to your machines instructions and continue to knead for 8 minutes. By the end of the kneading time the dough should be smooth and elastic.

– Once the dough has risen, tip it out onto a lightly oiled work-surface and knock the dough back until all the air has been removed. Flatten in to a rectangular shape, roughly 40cm x30cm, with the long edge facing you. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

– Over the surface of the dough scatter the remaining 3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Then scatter the mozzarella pieces; the sun-dried tomatoes and the basil leaves. Lay the slices of prosciutto at intervals over the dough surface to finish filling it.

– Working on the long edge, roll up the dough in to a sausage shape, trapping the filling inside. Normally with stromboli it s left as a long loaf  but I prefer to roll itself into a spiral shape and tuck the end underneath. This is entirely up to you.

– Place the rolled up dough onto a baking sheet line with baking parchment. Leave to prove in a warm room until roughly doubled in size.

– Preheat you oven to 220 degrees C.

– When proved, lightly spray the surface of the dough with water, and sprinkle with semolina and some finely grated parmesan.

– Place a baking tray filled with water into the bottom fo the oven, and place the baking tray with the dough on the middle shelf. Bake the dough for 20 mins, after which reduce the oven temperature to 190 degrees C and bake for another 10 mins or until it golden and sounds hollow when tapped underneath.

– Once the loaf is baked remove from the oven place on a wire rack to cool. This tastes great as a picnic loaf or served with some fresh salad as a delicious alternative to pizza!

– Enjoy!