23 January 2012

Perfect first baking project: Blondies

Amazon: How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food (Book)What's the first dessert you remember baking all by yourself? Cake from a mix? Chocolate chip cookies? Well, I stumbled onto a recipe for Mark Bittman's Blondies over the weekend, and I hereby dub it The Perfect Recipe for a New Baker.

My criteria:

  • The ingredient list is small (and you've probably got everything on hand).
  • The measurements are straightforward.
  • The preparation is simple.
  • The cleanup is quick.
  • The results are chewy, luscious heaven.
  • There are tons of variations, so one could make these 10 times in a row and have a different dessert each time.

My 8 year-old daughter made these bar cookies by herself. And I mean she did everything by herself except take the pan out of the oven (which she could have done but was too nervous to try). Not only did I have the pleasure of watching my kid bake something independently, she felt the pride of ownership. Each time she offered us a Blondie, her chin lifted an inch or two with satisfaction.

This recipe comes from the indespensible How To Cook Everything app for the iPhone, which I was lucky enough to get for free (it was "Pick of the Week" at Starbucks). Otherwise, it's $4.99 at the iTunes App Store, but a 100-recipe version called How To Cook Everything Essentials is always free. (There's the book, too.)

adapted from How To Cook Everything

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted (in the microwave at 30% power for 1 minute)
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten
Pinch of salt
1 cup flour

Optional additions: Up to 1 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut, chopped nuts, chocolate chips (any flavor), and/or chopped dried fruit. My daughter chose to add coconut, and then pressed additional coconut and chopped almonds onto the top before baking. Other ideas: dried cherries + semisweet chocolate, chopped peanuts + milk chocolate, dried cranberries + white chocolate, dried apricots + chopped amonds. I'm thinking candied ginger + pistachios would be amazing. You could even make a grown-up version with a bit of bourbon.

Preheat the oven to 350, and butter or spray an 8x8 pan (I used my ceramic Fiestaware square baker because it's dishwasher-safe).

Beat melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. (My daughter used the stand mixer, but one could also use an electric hand mixer or a whisk and a wooden spoon.) Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the salt, then gradually stir in the flour. Stir in any additions.

Pour into prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes or until the center is barely set (you've got some wiggle room here). Let cool before cutting into squares. We cut ours into 2-inch cubes to prolong the enjoyment...otherwise we would have inhaled the entire pan.

What's your favorite first recipe for kids who want to bake all by themselves?

Big thanks to Linda Candello who was with me at Starbucks and suggested I download this app, and to Kyran Pittman who sang its praises on Twitter (reminding me to actually use it). It has become my "what should I make for dinner?" standby.

MoreLet them bake cake by themselves

And: High-protein snack: Honey Peanut Butter Cookies

Your comments

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I LOVE this book and have given it as a wedding gift many times (not because people can't cook, but because there are so many more things in the world than they may presently know how to cook). It's a great reference.

Rice Krispie treats were an early favorite. They are more assembly than baking, but it's fun and low-impact.

My kids 3 & 6 love to help make oatmeal scotchies (the family cookie of choice) which we now make as bar cookies. I'll be checking out Bittman's blondie recipe immediately. YUM!

My 3 and 5-yr-old chefs would love blondies. We sometimes bake cream scones or cream biscuits because they have a short ingredient list. We've also enjoyed bread machine baking (lots of measuring and dumping) and baking pizza. The same things that are easy for me to do with little kids would probably work for bigger kids to do alone.

Pizza is also great because your young baker can assemble a salad and serve dinner for the family.

What a great idea for youngsters to do. I will be doing this with my child as soon as I can! Another great idea that I did with my child during the holiday's was make snowman cupcakes. It was a lot of fun and the kids loved it. Here is the recipe for those who want to try it out :)


We had fun making these but, unfortunately, they were not done on the inside even after 35 minutes. The edges were crispy and the top golden brown, but the middle was runny. Wondering what we did wrong.

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