Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sharing the Kitchen

Munch is now a very grown-up six years old and I have been working on giving her more independence in the kitchen. A couple of years ago, I bought her a set of measuring cups and spoons at Cost Plus; each cup or spoon was a different color, making it easier to give her directions when measuring out ingredients (an orange cupful, rather then 1/2 cup). For the most part, I handled reading the recipes and let Munch practice measuring, pouring, and mixing.
Munch is a much better reader now, and between cooking and baking with me and her aunt, she has internalized a lot of the steps of cooking. She knows to keep the dry and wet ingredients separate when baking, that a pan should be hot enough that you hear a sizzle when something is added. I can trust her to use a paring knife to cut things up. However, recipes as they are written in cookbooks remain a challenge- they are still too wordy for Munch, and often printed in a small enough font that she often loses her place. I have taken to rewriting ingredient lists and simple instructions for her on a separate piece of paper, which helps tremendously. She can now make a batch of chocolate chip cookies on her own, with me handling the oven for her. I do however, let her check on the cookies' progress and determine if they need more time or are ready to come out.
The newest recipe Munch has tackled is a mix-in the pan chocolate cake. All the dry ingredients are sifted and mixed directly in the pan before adding the wet ingredients. It's fun for kids because they also create a hole to place the baking soda in, then pour vinegar over it creating a mini volcano.

Mixing the dry ingredients- flour, cocoa, brown sugar, and salt

Watching the baking soda and vinegar bubble

Sprinkling marshmallows over the cake batter before putting it in the oven

Recipe: Munch's "Moon Mud" cake, also known as a mix-in the pan chocolate cake, or a "craters of the moon" cake because of the way ingredients are added to "craters" in the dry mixture

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the following dry ingredients directly into a 9 or 10-inch round cake pan (I have found it more difficult for kids to mix thoroughly in a square pan due to the corners) and mix carefully until it looks like light brown sand.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cocoa powder

Add 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips to the sand and mix in.

Use a spoon to dig out three holes, or "craters", in the sand- small, medium, and large.
In the largest hole, pour in 5 tablespoons melted butter.
In the medium sized hole, spoon in 1 teaspoon baking soda.
In the smallest hole, pour in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Here comes the fun part- Pour 1 teaspoon white or cider vinegar over the baking soda and watch it foam and bubble!
When the bubbling stops, pour 1 cup milk over the all the sand and mix carefully until it looks like smooth mud.

Scatter about 1 cup of mini marshmallow "rocks" over the top of the batter.

Bake the cake until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out dry/clean- about 40-50 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan, then slice and serve.

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