Learning to Bake

One of our Summer “pot luck” activities involves each boy learning to bake a recipe of their choice.

The first to bake was my 9 year old and he chose to make banana bread.  I probably make banana bread at least fortnightly.  It is so simple and straightforward to make and it is impossible to fail at making banana bread – which is great since I am a pretty good cook but a pretty basic baker.  I also like that banana bread uses up bananas that are so overripe and squishy that nobody is going to eat them so it prevents waste.  I tend to make banana bread that contains either chunks of sticky date or chocolate chips but we had some surplus blueberries so my 9 year old decided to experiment with making banana and blueberry bread.  It was pretty tasty and very sweet.

Cooking - Banana Bread 2

Cooking - Banana Bread 3

Cooking - Banana Bread 4

Next to bake was my seven year old.  He elected to make Dulce de Leche chocolate cake from the Hungry Mum blog.  Last time I made it, it was no chocolatey enough – though still delicious – but I have since got my hands on some better, more robust cocoa which made all the difference.  My youngest did not have his patience tested making the actual dulce de leche: I already had one in reserve as I boil up several cans at once to speed baking up and then store them, labels off, ready for use.  He was a great little pastry chef and followed the instructions given.  His reward was getting to lick the spoons and bowl clean.  We did end up overfilling the loaf tin but, since it was silicone, happily it expanded during cooking to accommodate the expanding cake batter.  It was scrumptious and very sweet.

Cooking - Dulce de Leche cake 1

Cooking - Dulce de Leche cake 2

Cooking - Dulce de Leche cake 3

Cooking - Dulce de Leche cake 4

Cooking - Dulce de Leche cake 5

My 10 year old chose to make Tablet.  Tablet – if you have not hear of it – is an incredibly sweet Scottish confection made from milk, sugar, and condensed milk.  It is so sweet it makes teeth scream and gums cry.  I do not, therefore, make it very often.  However, I made some for my ten year old not so long ago as he was delivering a presentation to his class all about Greek mythology and decided that they should sample Tablet as a stand-in for Ambrosia.  Imagine Zeus nibbling on Tablet?

Tablet is actually pretty simple to make.  The real hassle is that it requires constant stirring for up to half an hour.  The kids got fed up of stirring a pot of very hot sugary goop after approximately five minutes.  This cooking stuff is hard labour, don’t you know!

Cooking - Tablet 1

Cooking - Tablet 2

It turned out we went a bit awry in our process (I said it was simple but apparently it is not foolproof) and probably let the sugar boil into too much of a syrup.  The result was that when the tablet set it did so in a way that was still sticky rather than it becoming firm and smooth like fudge.  Never mind.  Since this batch could not be eaten as a bite size snack, we just had to turn it into dessert and serve it with vanilla ice cream.

Cooking - Tablet 3

Last but not least was my 13 year old son.  Since he is older and a little more experienced, I selected a slightly more complicated recipe to work through with him.  We made Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, a recipe I found on Cooking is My Sport.  We found it a little challenging because I don’t own a mixer so we had to do everything by hand and the dough mixture became quite dense.  He certainly worked his arm muscles stirring.  I must admit that I was worried that we had allowed the butter to get too brown but my concern was unfounded as the finished cookies were absolutely divine.  The flavour was incredible and they were just the perfect balance of chewy and crisp.  I heartily recommend the recipe.

Cooking - Browned Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies 1

Cooking - Browned Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies 2

 

My first ever Girl Scout Cookie

For many years I have heard tell of a selection of cookies that are like crack to sweet-toothed plumpies like myself: Girl Scout cookies.  They are the stuff of legend.  Therefore, a couple of months ago when some sweet smiled little neighbour girls with sugary voices and twinkling eyes stopped by the house dealing their cookie wares, Mr Pict ordered four boxes.  He and the boys ate the peanut butter ones but I don’t care for peanut butter so left them to it.

This afternoon my kids came home hungry for snack.  In the case of the 8 year old that is because he did not eat a single morsel of his packed lunch.  I really don’t enjoy the packed lunch ordeal so I especially don’t appreciate having taken the time and effort to make it just to scrape a proportion of it into the bin at the end of each school day.  Most days he has at least eaten a little of it but today the entire packed lunch was untouched.  Thank goodness my packed lunches are just basic affairs and not those elaborate works of art that some Pinterest parents make otherwise I would be filled with volcanic rage at having to scrape that into the bin.

But I digress…My point is that the children were hungry and hungry children means crabbit children who squabble with each other and cannot concentrate on their homework – especially the 8 year old who must have been digesting himself from the insides out.  So I raked through the cupboards to see what might fulfil the role of snack and spotted the boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

I have been told that the most addictive and sublime Girl Scout cookies are thin mints so that was the box I reached for.  I doled one strip of them out between the kids but there were a couple left over.  It was my opportunity to try Girl Scout cookies for the first time.  My head trilled with a drum roll in anticipation of my first bite…

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I was underwhelmed.

It was tasty enough.  It was nice.  It filled a space.

It was not the cookie of mythological proportions that I was expecting.  It was a chocolate mint cookie.  No secret ingredient.  Nothing amazing that made me want to break open the other strip and devour them.

Disappointing.

Helps the diet though.

Girl Scout Cookies

We participated in an American tradition for the first time on Sunday: we bought Girl Scout Cookies.

This was a fundraising activity we were only aware of through TV programmes and movies (mainly ‘Monster House’) but we had heard the legends that these were the best cookies in the universe.  Those Girl Scouts know how to market themselves, that’s for sure.  So when two little girls who live at the other  end of our street popped by proffering cookies we had to say yes.  We are always happy to contribute to good causes anyway but we were also eager to try these baked goods of legend.  We bought caramel and peanut butter varieties on the spot and ordered another batch of peanut butter and thin mints.

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So far the boys have only sampled the peanut butter cookies but they met with their seal of approval.