I recently realized my daughter is about the age I was when I started baking muffins all by myself for 4-H. She’s not in 4-H, but I thought she might be able to do some more independent baking, so I started looking up recipes online and looking at children’s cookbooks.
The Children’s Baking Book is one I saw on Amazon and fell in love with just because it has such pretty photographs. But like anything, it got mixed reviews, so I didn’t order it right then. Especially with cookbooks, I’ve found that I would rather borrow the book from a library or a friend before forking over the money for a book I may not end up liking or using. I’m very glad my library had this book.
The pictures are beautiful, and each recipe has both a list of ingredients and a list of tools/equipment used at the beginning of each recipe. Photos illustrate many of the steps, which is especially helpful for beginners.
But, and this is a major but, the book seems to have been published in the UK first (DK Publishing is based in the UK, but is also part of the Penguin Group, which publishes internationally), and the measurements were originally, I think, all by weight. When it was changed over to volume measurements for the United States, you end up with some odd amounts and artifacts of the process, and some measurements are still by weight.
For example, one muffin recipe called for 1/4 oz. of brown sugar. I have a scale, so I could have weighed it out, but my daughter isn’t used to measuring by weight. She just saw the 1/4 and put in 1/4 cup. It didn’t hurt the final product, but out of curiosity I weighed out 1/4 oz. brown sugar, and it was about a teaspoon.
There are also some odd measurements (like 7/8 cup) that are difficult for someone without a firm grasp of fractions other than quarters and halves. One recipe called for 5 oz. of water, which is an odd number that isn’t marked on either of my liquid measuring cups. Since the mL measurement was given in parenthesis, I had her use that instead, as one of my measuring cups is marked in mL as well.
I also found that some recipes weren’t well laid out. The orange poppy-seed muffins recipe had zesting the oranges in the first step, but not how much to zest. Orange zest was only listed as an ingredient in the glaze, so I had my daughter zest that amount. Then, in a fit of cleaning zeal, I threw the orange rinds in the trash. Halfway through the recipe, it mentions that we need to stir 1 tbsp. of zest into the batter, as well. Yes, I should have read the recipe better, but in my opinion, the recipe should have listed the 1 tbsp. zest in the ingredients list for the muffins.
Another thing was self-rising flour. Several recipes called for it, so I bought some. It turns out that self-raising flour (as they call it) in the UK has a lower percentage of added salt than self-rising flour in the U.S. So the muffins were saltier than I like.
Overall, if this were a cookbook for myself, I would have probably gone ahead and bought it. I can deal with odd measurements and hybrid weight-volume issues. All of my cookbooks end up with scribbled notes and adjustments anyway. However, for my eight-year old, I want something that she can follow step by step without help, and obtain an edible result. When she has mastered the basics of volume measurement, the most commonly used type of recipe for this country, then she can worry about weight measurements and hybrids of the two.
I think we made three of the recipes – pizza dough and two kinds of muffins. The pizza dough and the first muffin recipe, which didn’t use self-rising flour, turned out good, but the orange-poppyseed muffins were too salty, as I mentioned.