I have said I am not much of a baker, but I got inspired to try with my niece, the incomparable Sofia, when she was little, figuring kids will love to cook if they can make their own desserts. It was good fun.
Now I bake pretty often with my own son, Leandro. You have to be ready for a bit of a floury, batter-splattered mess, for tussles over the right time to help, for wandering attention. The pay-off is a delicious-smelling house, not-too-sweet treats for the week and, I hope, a kid who knows his way around a kitchen in the future.
And, of course, the blessing of achieving something together (and not planting him in front of the T.V. in order to get something done).
We most often make mini-muffins – four trays of 12 will suffice for a standard 12-muffin recipe. Then we have 48 little muffins which we divide and deliver to various neighbors and friends (he is very proud to tell people, “I made these for you.”) and I pack three at a time in his lunch box. I also pack three at a time in my own gob, but nevermind…The downside of mini-muffins is washing the tins by hand. Let them soak first!
Here’s our simplest, entry-level recipe for banana muffins. See notes for baking with kids at the end!
Basic Banana Muffins
6-ish overripe bananas
¾ Cups sugar (regular or light brown are fine)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1.5 Cups unbleached white flour
1/3 Cup (5 and 1/3 Tbsp) melted butter
Preheat oven to 400°. Mash bananas in a big bowl (they don’t have to be smooth). Add sugar and egg. Add the melted butter (not too hot, or there will be lumps when it hits the cold batter). Separately, combine the dry ingredients, then add to banana mixture and combine until thoroughly wet and then stop! Spoon into greased muffin tins. Bake for 12 minutes (15 minutes for regular size). Makes 48 minis; 12 regular. Will keep for three days out of fridge, a week in.
NB: 1. Lay out all your ingredients and equipment before calling the kids to help! 2. Grease muffin tins before getting started. 3. Aprons are a very good idea. 4. This is the time to remind them about thorough hand-washing and no coughing into the batter! 5. By all means let the little ones try to spoon the batter into the tins. It will be a mess, I promise you, but the muffins come out fine and it does wonders for their fine motor skills, their concentration and their feeling of accomplishment.
On bananas: Keep a ziploc bag in the freezer for overripe bananas or bananas that don’t get finished (trimming off the bit end, of course). DO peel them first. When you have six or thereabouts, you are ready to make bananas muffins!