On Saturday I took Fiona to a great event celebrating my good friend Jennifer Perillo’s new cookbook, Homemade With Love. It was hosted by KidzVuz, an amazing video review site for tweens and young teens owned by two other good friends of mine (do I have the most amazing friends, or what?). Fiona and I headed up to 92nd street to an adorable kids’ cooking space, Chef Toni’s Cooking Adventures.
Jennifer is adamant that cooking from scratch is not complicated, and Saturday proved that it’s so easy, even kids can do it. The group started out making a basic baking mix that Jennifer keeps on hand to speed up her scratch cooking. Then the kids got to decide what to turn that in to: cupcakes, waffles, or pancakes. Fiona and Isabella (her cooking partner and Jennifer’s older daughter) chose to make Deep Chocolate Cupcakes.
The great thing about cupcakes is that they’re quick. Most of my favorite cookie doughs have to rest in the fridge for at least an hour. In fact, my favorite cookie recipe happens to be one of Jennifer’s, and that one has to rest at least overnight – torture! Cakes and quick breads don’t have to rest before baking, but they take a lot longer in the oven.
Cupcakes, however, are perfect for kids because they can go from ingredients to mouths in under an hour. Plus, they’re so much fun to decorate!
Fiona and Isabella
Fiona munching on her cupcakes
Fiona didn’t expect anything out of the event other than a cooking lesson, so she was thrilled when Jennifer gave her a cookbook to take home! She wants to make every single thing in it.
On Sunday while Fiona was at a friend’s house, I mentioned to Jake that I was going to make Homemade Cheese Crackers. Now, Fiona loves to cook with me, but Jake hardly ever wants to. I knew he’d want to eat the crackers – he’s addicted to Cheez-Its – but I was floored when he begged to make them! Of course I said yes, and we got to work.
Actually, Jake got to work. First, he shredded the cheese and the butter. And yes, he’s wearing my cut-resistant glove. I have a tendency to shred my fingertips, and no recipe needs that.
When we were gathering the ingredients, Jake crinkled his nose at the paprika and dry mustard. He said he didn’t think he would like something with those in it. I told him to go look at the ingredients on the Cheez-It box, where he found paprika, plus several things he couldn’t pronounce. “Oh” he said. “OK.” A simple, but important, revelation for my picky son: lots of flavors go into the things you think just taste like one thing. And this time, you know every single thing that’s going in. (He did not, however, notice that the flour was whole-grain, and I did not point it out.)
After mixing everything up in the food processor, Jake rolled out the dough, then cut it with a pizza slicer. Thanks to Jennifer’s excellent directions, the cracker dough came off of the parchment paper with absolutely no trouble.
Jake even decided to make some “mutant” crackers:
Luckily, Fiona got home before all of the dough was rolled out and was able to do some too (after getting over me baking with Jake instead of her – seriously, she was pissed when she walked in and saw us!).
I can’t even tell you how many crackers we produced, because a lot of them were eaten straight from the pans and many, many more were grabbed while they were cooling.
By the time they were all cooled and put away I think we only had about a third left of what we’d made. Seriously addictive!
Jake has declared these crackers better than Cheez-Its, and told me that if I’m willing to keep making them, I don’t have to buy Cheez-Its anymore. These were so easy to make, I think that’s a deal. And I bet if I got him more comfortable with using the food processor (this was his first time), he could make these start-to-finish by himself. They’re that easy!
Many thanks to Rebecca and Nancy from KidzVuz for hosting the event on Saturday, Chef Toni for providing the space, and of course to Jennifer for providing us with these wonderful recipes and experiences!
Homemade Cheese Crackers
(Reprinted with permission from Jennifer Perillo and Running Press)
Makes 11 to 12 dozen
1 1/2 cups (216 grams) whole wheat pastry flour, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) dry mustard powder
2 cups (170 grams) shredded Cheddar cheese
1 stick (112 grams) very cold unsalted butter, shredded using a box grater
2 tablespoons (15 ml) cold seltzer
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (200 degrees C). Line two 9-inch x 13-inch (22-cm x 33-cm) baking sheets with parchment paper.
Add the flour, salt, paprika, and mustard powder to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse once or twice to blend. Add the cheese and butter. Pulse until the mixture forms a sandy texture. Pour in the seltzer and pulse a few more times, just until a ball of dough forms.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Place half between two sheets of parchment paper and set the other half aside. Roll out to an 1/8-inch (0.31-cm) thickness. Lift one side of the parchment, and sprinkle it with a bit of flour. Place the parchment back on top. Flip the dough over, still keeping it between the parchment sheets, and peel off the top layer of paper.
Use a pastry wheel or sharp paring knife to trim the sides to form a square (save the scraps to re-roll). Cut the dough into 1-inch (2.5-cm) squares – you can use a ruler or just cut them free-form. Transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets (they can be placed pretty close to each other since they won’t spread). Use the tip of a metal skewer or toothpick to pierce a hole in the center of each cracker. Bake 9 to 10 minutes until fragrant and the edges are golden. Keep a close eye on them, as they go from done to burnt pretty quickly. Let the crackers cool on the sheet for 2 minutes, then use a small offset spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
Store the crackers in an airtight container for up to 3 days (if they even last that long – Mikey always seemed to eat them quicker than I could make them).
Make ahead: Place the cut-out, unbaked crackers onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer to let the crackers flash-freeze, about 1 hour. Transfer the frozen crackers into a plastic zip-top bag. Follow the baking instructions as directed in the recipe – surprisingly, you don’t need any extra time to cook the frozen ones.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 1 (Fiona’s cookbook). Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.