When the boys are bored (plenty of opportunity for that lately) they'll often say "no" when I suggest an activity I want to do with them: Can I read you a book? Want to do a puzzle? Play a game? No, no, no. But something they are always up for is an activity they first did at my sister-in-law's house: no recipe baking!
As the name implies, no recipe baking is mixing up ingredients to your heart's delight, putting it in the oven, and seeing what you get. They are thrilled by it every time! I will admit that as someone who loves baking and generally a plan I don't quite understand why they would rather wing a recipe to potentially make something disgusting rather than follow a recipe and guarantee something delicious. Kids, man. I think what's so fun is probably the lack of a plan or anyone telling them exactly what to add. They're in charge! And they only think of the potential for something delicious which they are always convinced they're making. Usually they do turn out something that is somewhat good if not delicious.
Here's how we do no recipe baking:
+ Set out all the baking ingredients. We usually have all the basics on hand: flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, eggs, milk, butter, sprinkles, and chocolate chips. Add anything else interesting you might have like vanilla yogurt, maybe some rolled oats, chopped dried fruit. There are no recipes and no rules here!
+ Set out bowls, measuring cups, and measuring spoons. Make sure each child has a work station; our boys always want to make their own individual recipes.
+ Name each ingredient and explain what it does. My sister-in-law does this and I think it's so smart. "Flour makes the base part of your recipe, sugar makes it sweet, baking soda and baking powder help it to be fluffy, eggs hold it together..."
+ Let them at it and hold your tongue except to answer questions! No comments as they skip adding any eggs and only add one teaspoon of sugar. This is their creation. And by letting them experiment you might be nurturing a little chef. Or scientist! Or at least someone who enjoys home cooking.
+ Bake those crazy concoctions. When their recipes are mixed up we pour them into a pan and pop them in the oven. Since these baked goods are...unconventional...it can be a little hard to know they they're done cooking so check every eight to ten minutes.
+ Chefs must clean up before tasting. What a great opportunity to practice washing the dishes!
As the boys are measuring and mixing they might ask me again what something is and what it does. Sometimes they ask for help if their concoction isn't turning out right. While they're mixing I preheat the oven and ask what kind of a baking pan they need. Are they making a cake? Brownies? Cookies? Something totally new? I love to ask them to name their recipe to see what they come up with.
Once the goodies are out of the oven and the dishes are clean it's taste-testing time! Another thing my sister-in-law does if she's overseeing a few bakers is to give each baked good an award like "best looking," "most tasty," "most interesting," or "most surprising."
And that's it! Happy (no recipe) baking!