Baking ‘fun’ can get messy

Written by Lisa Britton February 22, 2010 02:53 pm

February is Bake for Family Fun Month.

Hmm.

I love to bake, and I’m always on the lookout for a new recipe to try — homemade bread, a healthier cake, scrumptious cookies.

But gone are the days of my solitary puttering in the kitchen.

My daughter, Olivia, is 2 1/2, which means she’s quite aware of everything we do.

See if you can picture this: I grab a mixing bowl and set it on the counter. Immediately her eyes light up and she runs (she never walks) to the dining room.

Next I hear the scraping noise of our wooden chairs dragging across the floor — I cringe every time — and then silence as she hoists it in the air to carry it across the carpet.

Back in the kitchen, she pushes the chair to the counter, climbs up and rolls her sleeves to mimic my own preparations.

She cannot be deterred, so I pull out her apron and get out the measuring cups.

And prepare for a mess.

I admit I’m still learning the patience part of parenting, and must remind myself that every mess can be cleaned up, no matter how far the flour spreads.

I haven’t yet happened upon the perfect recipe for cooking with kids. When I tried cut-out sugar cookies with Olivia and my 4-year-old niece, McKenzie, we ended up using the cookie cutters on bread instead, and making toast. (That was my mom’s idea — she is infinitely more patient than I.)

Cookies always seem like a good idea, although Olivia insists on tasting the flour. Why? I don’t know — life is all about experiences, I guess.

Then, of course, comes the issue of cookie dough. For years we’ve been told to never eat cookie dough for the fear of salmonella from raw eggs. Do I follow this advice? Let me just say that I hardly ever crave the finished cookies because I nibble too much of the dough.

Maybe it’s genetic because Olivia loves to taste the dough.

What I need is a good cookbook from World War II full of ration recipes that don’t use eggs.

We like to make bread, too, and I figured the bland flavor of bread dough wouldn’t be tempting.

Oh how wrong I can be.

On New Year’s Eve we made pretzels from scratch and cheese fondue, as is our simple tradition. I was parcelling out dough pieces for rolling and twisting, then transferring the pretzels into boiling water before putting them in the hot oven.

We thought Olivia was old enough this year to master the pretzel technique.

We’ll never know — she preferred to stuff dough in her mouth rather than roll it.

At least I didn’t have to worry about raw eggs.

When each project is finished, I try to shoo her out of the kitchen while I clean.

She will have none of that, and pulls her chair up to the sink to help.

Remember that mantra about how every mess can be cleaned up? What about when all that flour is suddenly doused with water?

You get goo, which spreads quite well when smeared with tiny hands.

I know she means well — she is, after all, not quite 3 and there is a lot of the world to discover.

Instead of worrying about the mess, I’m remembering to focus on the funny face she makes when she mistakes salt for sugar, or the way flour coats her perfect little face.

These baking ventures will get easier, I know, but I’m afraid I will miss the silliness of this phase, and her giggles at the floury hand print on her pants.

She is, in her innocent way, teaching me to lighten up about life, which can get pretty darn messy no matter how careful we are.

Lisa Britton is a Baker City Herald reporter.