What’s wrong with blue sugar cookies with orange frosting, anyway? I must admit to a few culinary disasters along the way, but at least no fire trucks were summoned.
Inviting kids into the kitchen to help with baking provides a fun and educational activity to enjoy together. Children can learn about math through measuring and about language through reading the recipes. If siblings are involved, cooperation and conflict resolution skills may be tested and honed. Kids often will try new foods if they helped prepare them. Besides providing a fun learning environment, you’re also building memories.
Unlike cooking which allows for quite a bit of creativity, baking is a science and an art. “A little of this and a little of that” is a method that works in cooking but not in baking. Precise measuring with the right tools and the correct oven temperature will help ensure baking success.
If you haven’t baked in a while or have little baking experience, start with quick breads. They offer a tasty and nutritious diversion from other sweet holiday treats. A fresh loaf of banana or cranberry bread or some muffins make welcome holiday gifts, too.
Quick breads use baking soda or baking powder as the source of carbon dioxide gas which causes the bread to rise quickly in the oven. Yeast breads require much more time to make.
Over-mixing is one of the concerns in making quick breads, so it’s important to just combine the ingredients until they are moistened. Mixing the dough until it is smooth will likely result in tough muffins and breads with air tunnels due to overdevelopment of the protein in the flour or gluten. Over-mixed muffins will have pointed tops, which might be good conversation pieces but won’t earn you a blue ribbon at the county fair.
To cut down on fat and calories in quick breads, try substituting drained applesauce or prune puree for about half of the fat. This substitution works well in banana bread and other quick breads. A half cup of applesauce contains 55 calories and no fat, while a half cup of oil contains about 960 calories and 112 grams fat.
Here’s a tasty pumpkin muffin recipe. Pumpkin is an excellent source of beta-carotene, a pigment that our bodies use to make vitamin A. Vitamin A helps keep skin and tissues healthy, helps our eyes see normally in the dark and works as an antioxidant nutrient that could lower our risk for certain kinds of cancer. Pumpkin also is a good source of fiber, plus it’s naturally low in fat and sodium.
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. sugar
1 c. canned pumpkin (or cooked, pureed pumpkin)
1/3 c. canola oil
1/4 c. water
1 2/3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. nuts, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, sugar, pumpkin, oil and water in medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and spices in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir to blend. Place batter 3/4 to the top of non-stick or lightly oiled muffin tins. You may also use cupcake liners. If desired, sprinkle with sugar. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle of muffin comes out clean. Remove from pan right away.
Makes 9 servings. Each serving (without nuts) has Each serving has 260 calories, 9 grams (g) fat, 4 g protein, 41 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 380 milligrams sodium and a full day’s supply of vitamin A (as beta carotene).