Back to School Baking

by Billilyn Friese

Summer's end is fast approaching. Swim lessons are over, the trip to Disneyland is just a happy memory and soon the familiar refrain "Mom, I'm bored," will disappear for another year. As the kids begin to dread the thought of heading back to the classroom, it's up to Mom to help make the transition from pool to school just a bit sweeter.

Cookies are a wonderful way to brighten the day of a child - regardless of their age. Cookies not only make for a great snack, but can also be a great tool for learning! That's right. Cookies shaped like letters or numbers can teach a variety of lessons to the child. Younger children can work on letter and number recognition, while the older children work on spelling or arithmetic with their baked goods. Have the children roll out and cut out their cookies and then freeze some (for lessons in the days to come). Mix and freeze now, bake later. Then 'teaching with cookies' will be faster and easier than ever (for you OR your child!)

The subject is art and the assignment is cookies... encourage your child's artistic ability by letting them paint on cookies! Keep them busy for hours with edible food colored pens. Iced cookies make an excellent surface for painting or drawing. Mix and freeze your cookie dough ahead of time and then, when the artist wants to create, their 'canvas' is ready! Get prepared by rolling dough into logs and refrigerating overnight. The next day, slice and freeze separately by putting them (in a single layer) on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper. Pack in airtight containers and place in the freezer and bake as needed. Bake according to recipe. And let your little (or big) artist do the rest!

School time also means treat time. Whether you are baking up some cookies for an after-school snack, or you have to send treats for the bake sale, it will be much easier if you've done some prior planning. Drop cookies are a hit at bake sales and the best part is, they can be made up ahead of time and frozen in a bulk tub. Though it takes more time up front, I prefer to drop them with a cookie scoop on wax paper and freeze individually. Then I can pop just what I need into the oven. Or better yet, let the child bake off what is needed. This not only will help you out, but also will teach the child about being responsible for the treat needed at school.

Bar cookies, too, are great for bake sales. Again, planning ahead can make baking up goodies very easy for little hands. I like to use disposable foil pans to freeze bar cookies. Spray the pan with vegetable spray, press in the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze overnight. The next day, knock the frozen dough out of the pan and wrap it tightly. (You can stack more in the freezer that way). When you (or your child) need baked goods, simply drop the chunk of dough back into the same size pan and bake. Another way to freeze bar cookies is to line your pan with foil that is big enough to fold over the top rim of the pan. After freezing, lift dough out by pulling on the foil. Wrap and return to freezer.

The kitchen is a wonderful place for the adult and child to spend quality time together. Baking with a youngster not only enhances their understanding of kitchen utensils and equipment, but can also be a fun and creative learning exercise. The Junior Bake Set is ideal for whatever those little hands will be making. Don't wait for your child to be back in a desk before they begin learning this fall... start them off right with an educational trip to the kitchen. They'll be amazed at what fun learning can be!