Joe Influences the Youth

I’ve started doing afternoon, once-a-week baking classes at my daughter’s grade school. They’re part of an “afternoon enrichment” program, and they take place after regular classes let out. I’ve got five students signed up out of a possible twelve, which is completely OK by me since real live teaching is a new thing for me. The problem is that we have one hour exactly for the entire class…explaining, mixing, shaping and baking. Which means I need six ideas for projects I can tackle in that amount of time.

Yesterday we did American biscuits, and that went pretty well. As for next week, I scarcely have an idea. But I need six of them in order to make good on my commitment. Any and all input on short-and-sweet baking and pastry projects is welcome…because I need help!

66 thoughts on “Joe Influences the Youth”

  1. Banana Bread wouldn’t take too long, or make them muffins so they take even less time to bake.

  2. Wow, what lucky kids! I wish we had something like this when I was in grade school! I’m so glad you’re providing them with after-school activities to keep their minds engaged.

    I’m not sure what your resources are, but cakes came to mind– maybe a lesson on butter cakes/oil cakes? If you bake them in cupcake form, it would only take about 18 minutes+cooling time for them to be ready. And every kid loves a cupcake 🙂

  3. How about individual cobblers? Those cook fairly quickly, and crumb topping is a snap to bring together.

  4. The only thing that comes to mind is your classic chocolate chip cookies, or any other cookie for that matter as they have relatively short baking times.

  5. Scones! Very similar to biscuits but oh so good and quick. I mixed the dry ingredients for a batch last night and cut in the butter. This morning I threw in the last of the cream left over from your pumplin pie recipe, added a handful of chopped ginger, popped them in the oven and had them ready to take to work when I walked out the door.

  6. Eclairs… Maybe better chouquettes?
    Or dacquoise.
    Just the first things that come to my mind. Too much on the pastry side?

    1. Nothing’s too far on the pastry side for my tastes, Marco! I thing éclairs might just be doable…maybe for a final class or something when I can keep the kids a little longer. Actually we could make the shells one week and do the filling and topping the next week. Great!

  7. When I was at school we learned how to make a sort of “pizza” with a scone dough base. Just plain ordinary scone biscuit dough rolled out in a thin circle and topped with pizza toppings. Kids love it and they can take it home for dinner.
    Good thing to follow your biscuits, shows them how they can adapt one thing to another purpose.

    1. Ah yes….kids do that in the States as well, but I’d completely forgotten about it. Great. Thanks Bronwyn!

  8. Hi Joe.
    How about a tart? You could make a graham cracker or other cookie crust, and a chilled cream filling with or without fruit. You could also take a more difficult project and spread it out over two classes. Have fun with it!

    1. So I thought of one more easy project that is yummy and fun to make, Coconut Macaroons! You could even teach how to melt chocolate and then dip them! Yum!

    2. Nice idea…never thought of keeping something over a week, but it could certainly be done. Cool!

      – Joe

  9. One hour, yikes. And these kids are how old?

    This will be a lot more work for you, but you might want to try it some weeks: prepare batter for whatever you’re making before the class starts. Get it all ready, already in the baking pan, ready to pop into the oven. When class starts, give a brief two minute “this is what we’re making” pep talk to the kids, show them what the unbaked batter looks like in the pan, and then pop the pan into the oven. (And set the timer.) Then, you can start your class with the kids. You’ll get to whatever point you happen to get to, although you might not finish. However, at the end of the class, all the kids will have a finished product to take home (or eat immediately). Does that seem reasonable? (Good luck.)

    1. Hey Chana! I’ll probably have to do at least some pre-class prep at some point. I think it’s a good idea. The kids range in age from 4th to 6th grade, so they do have at least some ability. I think this might be harder if the kids were younger, but at least a few of them are pretty capable.

      – Joe

  10. How about something with pre-made puff pastry? I know that there wouldn’t be enough time to make the puff pastry, but they could get experience working with dough. They could twist it or shape it into bread sticks, or they could cut it and bake it to make something like a Napoleon. It would also be pretty cool for them to see how puff pastry transforms while in the oven (I still think it’s pretty cool).
    Love your site, Joe. Thank you!

    1. Very good indeed, Evelyn! Most people use store-bought puff pastry anyway. That’s good thinking.

      – Joe

  11. I was going to suggest peanut brownies, but given the fear of peanut poisoning, perhaps not.

    In an hour, start to finish? Lose 5 – 10 minutes explaining, so 45 min max for prep and cooking?

    Breakfast dishes? Scrambled eggs? Omelet? How to cook sausages properly?

    Good luck with it Joe, you’ll have fun once you relax and let things happen 🙂

    1. I’ll figure out something, Warren. I generally do…teaching kids is something that intimidates me a little, I’ll be honest. I have enough trouble controlling my own! Cheers,

      – Joe

  12. Well, I suppose it depends on the age of the kids, how much science content you need to sneak in (perhaps none?), and how involved they need to be (whether they can handle some really hot stuff). I’ve done loads of projects with kids. I think for most kids, it doesn’t have to be interesting or even very different from week to week.. it just has to taste good. Here are a few suggestions:

    marshmallows (used your recipe last week to make for daughter 2 with daughter 1), granola, granola bars, any kind of bar cookie or brownie, cupcakes, muffins, cookies, crepes (we did these when I was in school), pizza dough might be do-able in an hour if you can do some of that ‘magic’ of prepping steps ahead for them, chocolate truffles, crackers (savory or graham), gingerbread (’tis the season), quick breads, fudge, caramel corn, kettle corn (most kids have only seen popcorn made in the microwave) ..

    ok, I think I’m tapped out now.

    Good luck!!

    1. Wow, Rebecca, you really know your stuff when it comes to baking with kids. This is an outstanding list. Thanks so much!

      – Joe

  13. How about pancakes?? Cooking on a griddle is a form of baking, after all…
    Also, you might try a simple yeast bread recipe, bringing in a finished loaf of the same bread to sample, after they’ve mixed and kneaded the dough….

    1. Thank you, Ruth. Pancakes are another thing that one of the kids mentioned. Talk about quick and easy…


    1. You know, we need a new waffle maker. This might give me an excuse to buy one. Thanks Julie!

  14. Coconut macaroons. Easy, gooey (fun to shape the little pyramids), different from other techniques. If you have time and it’s safe, you can dip in chocolate.

  15. Heh. This sorta reminds me of my Home-Ec class. Our teacher must’ve been faced with the same problem: what to make that takes slightly less than an hour. We made biscuits, too. And candied apples. (We melted cinnamon candy and swirled apples in it.) Learning to make biscuits was a lesson that has served me a lifetime. Candied apples, not so much.

    So let me see… I would think you would be looking for something not only on the easy side to make, but also something that these kids could take away to treat their family and friends. Would Rice Krispy treats be too simple? What about some kind of bar cookies? Chocolate chip cookies aren’t that hard, and you could have each kid make them crispy or chewy depending on how they like them. (Or am I making something simple become too complicated? I tend to do that a lot.)

    1. I’m prone to that myself, Briggita! 😉

      Actually bar cookies were among my first thought. I hadn’t considered Rice Krispy treats. Those might be good for a day when I’m disorganized and pressed for time. Which now that I think about it is pretty much every day. Cheerio,

      – Joe

    1. Very true. Actually one of the kids asked if we could learn how to make crackers. They are indeed very easy things to do…and bake up in no time. Thanks!

      – Joe

  16. Dutch apple pancake– lessons learned are cutting apples, importance of acid, easy custard, the joy of how flour helps things climb, and it cooks fast in a hot cast iron in the oven.

  17. What about yeasted rolls? Our local Waldorf preschool makes “Brötchen” every morning with the kids. I assume they premake the dough, but one could mix the dough, form and bake the premade, then observe how the dough you made in the beginning has risen while the premade stuff cooks…

    1. That’s not a bad idea, Kelly…give the kids a tutorial on dough shaping at the very least. Thanks!

  18. This is a neat trick, and I think you (and the kids) will enjoy the science of it. (It’s from another blog I sometimes read.) Scroll down to the “Nifty Cabbage Party Tricks” — it’s pretty cool.

  19. Can you start a batch of bread on one week, let them measure the ingredients by volume and weight to see those differences and hand knead it to get a feel for the different textures of hydration, and then you knock it down after the first rise and freeze it until next week? Pull it out the morning before the class and then the next week they can play with shaping? If it were rolls or knots you could maybe skimp on the final proof time and teach how high heat will give it quick boost?

    My other idea is flour tortillas. Very forgiving, only need a few minutes rest before rolling, and cook super fast… It can also be made into smaller batches without sacrificing the process so they can all have their own bowls of stuff. They can play with the gluten letting it relax or not and seeing how hard it is to roll out. Oh, also they are good with cheese, that always helps kids, right? 🙂

  20. What about chocolates? All you need is chocplate to melt and some cheap plastic molds. If you skip the tempering business (something I’m guessing might not be appreciated at their age anyway?) you even have time to fill them with something.

    1. Another great idea! Thanks Brittany! Heck, I’ve got a tremendous curriculum now. This is great!

      – Joe

    2. Similarly, you could make up some ganache ahead of time, but have them make some still in the class with you. Then they can roll up the premade stuff into truffles, and roll ’em in cocoa powder, nuts, coconut, etc.

      Are you making handouts with recipes to take home? I bet they’d love that!

  21. I’m thinking pizza. You could prepare the yeast dough ahead of time so it can rise, but then have the kids mix the ingredients while there together, knead it and put it aside to “rise”. Then you explain this takes time and pull out the already risen one – voila! Then they can top it and eat it before they go.

    1. Ah yes, the Julia Child treatment. Mrs. Pastry had a very similar idea. Good thinking, Connie!

      – Joe

  22. I thought of the ganache idea, too- the kids could package them up and give them to their parents for the holidays.

    The other idea I had was shortbread cookies- so classic, so simple, and the best ones are made with the hands, which kids love.

    1. That’s a must, I think. Some basic shortbread. We’ll need at least one cookie class. Thanks, Julie!

      – Joe

  23. I’m late for suggestions, everyone beat me to everything I had thought of. I do hope that you share with us what you end up making with the kids!

  24. Mole Cake (Maulwurfkuchen)–uuuuuuuhhhhhhhhh gross! For kids, the creepier the better. See web address below.

    If site comes up, just wait and some 60-70 more mole cake pics will slowly appear automatically . If the pics don’t change automatically, click on little black left and right arrows under the picture that does appear and you may be able to change the pictures “manually.” I’m crossing my fingers that it will work and apologize to your adoring public :-)) in advance if it doesn’t. Sorry I’m such a technodolt. I’ve sent recipe and translations to your email.


    1. Wow, that’s wild! Those Germans seem almost as goofy as us Americans. I wonder of they’re where we got it from!

      – Joe

  25. I am SO late to this but one of the things we’ve done at my kids’ school (we are doing these classes in February…totally stealing some of these ideas, by the way! Lol) is to make pretzels! They love making the shapes, the quick “hot tub visit” and, of course, eating them!

    We’ve also made “nests” of chow mein noodles with melted chocolate then set in muffin pans. We use Jordan almonds as the “eggs”. This was GREAT with the littlest ones.

  26. Hi Joe, How about cake pops? You can use box mix
    which is quick, and molds. Or you can crumble cake
    up with frosting, firm up in a freezer for ten minutes
    or so. Then dip them in in chocolate, or something
    else, and even decorate them with small folded paper
    pastry bags. I think this idea would give you the
    opportunity to show the kids different techniques.
    My family loves them!! Good luck with the class!!

  27. What about shortbread cookies? You only need 3 ingredients (butter, powdered sugar, and flour) and in about 2o min, you are eating freshly baked shortbread cookies! You could even have the kids roll them in sprinkles for a fun added touch. 🙂

  28. Joe. I did an after-school class on apple crisp. That worked out well. The pretzel candies would be perfect as well as the ever-popular cake pops. You’d have to do some prep, bake the cake and have them break it up then mix in the frosting. Have some pre-frozen that they could dip and decorate. Messy but fun@! Can you tell I am catching up on your posts?

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