I was sitting in my living room yesterday contemplating taking the six baskets of laundry that live in my hallway upstairs, when I thought, nah, upstairs is far — kids, let’s make some memories!
So we baked. Let me say, I am not a baker. I have always had a bit of a tick when it comes to baking. Perhaps it was because my mom wasn’t much of a baker, outside of a box. My sister Stacey, now, she was a baker, and would do it all the time and usually with me, even after that most tragic mixer incident of ’81. Sorry, sis. She’s likely still picking splinters out of her hair.
Anyhoot, my sister for my most recent milestone birthday bought me this absolutely stunning Kitchen Aid mixer, shiny red, and heavy; the kind of mixer that makes all my other appliances want to be better. While I have been using it for my more savory culinary adventures and just once on cereal, I have yet to use it on a bake. Until yesterday because, stairs.
Now, I’m gonna be honest, I don’t regularly involve the children in cooking. I should, but I don’t. I know all the benefits of it: the together time, the teaching of an important life skill, confidence-building and the guarantee that if they learn early enough I won’t have to suffer through the kind of dinners I fed my parents as a newly minted adult. (Ramen + ketchup does not equal spaghetti. Life lesson).
But, I’ve been missing them since they’ve been back in school so I thought, what the hay. Not wanting to be a hero, I stuck with something simple: the brownie recipe off the back of the baker’s cocoa tin. With only a handful of ingredients and a few simple steps that involved only one bowl — not two, not three, one bowl; get it together other recipes! — it was perfect.
Here’s what I learned: Max will stick his tongue full-on into anything resembling chocolate, even unsweetened baker’s chocolate. Addie will stick his tongue into anything his brother tells him to and that butter reminds both my boys of butts, and is endlessly funny.
The boys learned that Mommy loves her mixer. Not more than them, but real close, and if they slam the top of it down again they may get sold to the neighbor down the street.
I also learned that I shouldn’t be scared of baking generally or with my kids, and you shouldn’t either, but for those a little squeamish about it, here is my advice:
Make it a super-simple recipe. Who are you trying to impress? Your kids aren’t going to care if it’s right or perfect or worthy of “The Great British Bake Off.” I mean, let’s face it, mine are gobsmacked that I know how to work a machine that turns eggs into brownies. To them, I’m a goshdarn magical superhero and you will be, too. Take it in, soak it up.
Don’t do it when you are in a rush, and know that it will take a lot more time than it should. That’s okay. That’s the point. When I’d bake with my sister, it always seemed a most epic event and took forever, in a good way. Some of the best times I ever had with her were in the kitchen making cakes and whatnot. This time is what they will remember, if not the details, then the feeling. Plus, when you’re not in a rush, you’ll be much more pleasant to bake with.
Be okay with mistakes. The brownies we made yesterday were crunchy. They contained no nuts. And that’s okay.
Because I enjoyed myself so much with my boys I’ll help you out. Here is the recipe I used. Please feel free to not do laundry and make your kids do this and eat chocolate instead.
½ cup + 2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
6 Tbsp. baking cocoa
½ c. all-purpose flour
½ walnuts chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 325. Grease an 8x8x2 in pan. Cream butter or margarine, sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in cocoa. Stir in flour and walnuts if you are using them (or just let your kids be in charge of cracking the eggs, that’ll give you all the crunch you need). Spread batter into pan. It will have the consistency of a butter frosting, which is weird, but tasty. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool and then serve!
(Adapted from Hannaford’s Party Brownies recipe)