Baking With Henry

While I'm on vacation, I've got a handful of helpful and savvy kitchen elves pitching in to keep the blog engine running. Today's treat comes from Elizabeth Terry, a washingtonpost.com colleague who spends much of her free time in the kitchen.

My four-year-old nephew Henry likes to declare himself an “expert” on various topics (sharks, space exploration and the Red Sox are some of his passions). This year he has been interested in adding “baking” to the list, and he’s turning into a very capable sous chef. Last spring, he helped me with banana caramel cupcakes for his little brother’s first birthday (recipe can be found here ), and in August, he and my dad spent a full 30 minutes sitting on the kitchen floor, watching his “Olympic” cake bake through the oven window.


(Elizabeth Terry)

I’d been keeping an eye out for a yeast bread recipe I could try with him (I don’t have much experience with bread myself, but I’m not easily intimidated in the kitchen). When Henry turned four at the beginning of November, I sent him a very cute little orange apron to match his bright red hair, and promised him we would bake bread for Thanksgiving. When the Post Food Section ran this recipe for “Soft Buttermilk Dinner Rolls” a couple of weeks before the holiday, I knew I had found The One.

On Thanksgiving morning, Henry and I put on our aprons and started by combining some yeast with a little warm water and sugar in a measuring cup. As we mixed the rest of the ingredients, we both marveled at how the yeast was foaming and filling the cup. The dough was very soft and forgiving. My sister has done a good job teaching him to take turns, so I was able to get in there and give the dough a few good shoves in between Henry’s attempts at kneading. We set the dough aside to rise, and again marveled at how much it had grown.

The most challenging stage of the project was forming the cloverleaf rolls. Rolling walnut-sized pieces of dough into balls and popping three balls into each cup of a buttered muffin tin was not hard -- the tricky part was that baby brother Noah, now 20 months old, had caught on to the fun we were having and was not distracted enough by his pile of stickers. I pinched off a lump of dough for him to play with, which kept him busy enough -- and when he plopped the sticky, grimy wad on top of an already-formed cloverleaf, I moved quickly to pluck it off before it was too late.

After a second rise, and after the turkey, baked sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts emerged from the oven, the rolls went in for a quick bake. They were gorgeous and golden, and most importantly, delicious. Henry and I were both very proud. I bet they will make a return appearance on a future holiday table.

What recipes in your repertoire have you found great fun to make with kids? Share your faves in the comments area.


Elizabeth Terry produces online chats and co-moderates Dirda’s Reading Room, a discussion group on washingtonpost.com.

By Kim ODonnel |  December 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Baking , Family
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Comments

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This sounds like so much fun! Sometimes I wish I had a little nephew/niece/daughter/son so I could have a helper in the kitchen :)

Posted by: orchidgirl | December 17, 2008 12:02 PM

It really is fun. The day I left to come home after Thanksgiving, we ordered pizza and when my sister left to pick it up, he said "Quick! Let's bake something before she comes back!"

Posted by: Elizabeth_Terry | December 17, 2008 1:33 PM

I can't wait until my daughter is old enough to help with cooking.

this sounds like a kid-friendly recipe.

Posted by: chiquita2 | December 17, 2008 4:39 PM

My nephew has always liked to help in the kitchen. One day we were walking through a mall and he noticed a sign outside the kitchen shop advertising cooking classes. He asked what it said, I think he was about 5-years old at the time, and his response was, "Who needs to take a class to learn how to cook?" I think it was a great compliment to my sister and her husband.

Posted by: esleigh | December 18, 2008 12:22 PM

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