The Art of Baking

Dear Munchkin,

Today I’m thankful that my mom taught me how to bake. Christmas baking was not only a tradition when I was a kid, it was a major undertaking. We used to bake a ton of cookies, in lots of different types, as well as various quick breads, and wrap them up in pretty packaging as gifts for family, friends, teachers, neighbors, etc.

I’m not sure exactly how old I was when she first started involving me in the process. I do remember that by the time I hit high school, I did the majority of the cookies because I really enjoyed it. And to toot my own horn a little, people raved about my cookies. One of the times my dad brought some to share with his coworkers, another person brought some in that his wife had made. My dad said there was no comparison – my cookies looked perfect and tasted scrumptious, compared to her hard, misshapen, and burnt ones.

I’ve recently read that baking, with all its measurements, and the opportunity to double or halve recipes, can help kids learn math, especially fractions. What a bonus! I also learned how to bake by sight and smell since the temperature regulator for our oven was broken. Since most recipes say “bake approximately ___ minutes or until done (oven temperatures vary),” that particular skill comes in handy quite often.

I continued baking periodically throughout college and into my adult life, always sharing the finished product with friends and coworkers. It became easier once I had a fully functioning oven, and then I discovered stoneware! It’s pretty hard to burn anything on stoneware.

After you were born, though, I just couldn’t find the time any more. I really missed it. Especially around Christmas.

The Christmas after you turned one, I think I managed to bake two different types of cookies. It felt like a paltry effort, but at least it was something. Then your brother came along, and once again, there was simply no time.

Now you’re both a little older, I am resolved to accomplish a wider range of Christmas baking this year, and I will include you as much as you like! Your first attempt at baking went quite well. We did some sugar cookies in Autumn shapes for Thanksgiving. You enjoyed scooping flour and sugar into the measuring cups, and then I would hold your hand to level it off. You helped with liquid measures by holding the spoon. You also enjoyed dumping the measured ingredients into the bowl. We have a stand mixer now, so no more handheld electric mixing until I feel like my arm will fall off and my hand cramps into a claw!

You wanted to help with rolling out the dough, but you’re just not strong enough yet to have much success. You definitely liked playing with it like play-doh, though. You were so excited to use the cookie cutters that I had to keep reminding you to let me gently place it on the dough each time before pressing down, so we could get as many cookies from each roll-out as possible.

And I still can’t decide whether it was funny or gross that you kept licking raw flour off your fingers. Probably both. Kids love to experiment, I guess.

When it was time to decorate, you chose which colored sugar or nonpareils or other decorations to use for each cookie, then sprinkled them on, with my hand over yours to guide you. Of course I had to take care of putting them in the oven, taking them out, and getting them onto the cooling racks. But you were beaming ear to ear when Daddy took pictures of us with the finished product and you finally got to eat one!

Over the course of the last week, you begged us for cookies at any time of day or night. We settled on letting you have two cookies for dessert after lunch and dinner, but you had to eat the nutritious food first! We were amazed by how motivated you were to actually eat your meals, so Daddy and I think having you help make cookies may become a regular event, no matter what season it is. Tonight we made chocolate chip cookies together, and I was impressed by how much you remembered and how capable you had already grown. You cracked the eggs and leveled off dry measurements by yourself this time, and even folded up the wax paper and dumped spilled flour back into the jar a couple times.

I’m so glad we can share this experience and I can impart knowledge to you that I learned from my mother, and she from hers. You are the newest inductee into this family tradition, and I pray it will bring us closer in years to come.


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