Eric Akis: Share the joy of baking with kids

Eric Akis

Kids are off school, and if you’re looking for an activity, baking something together can be tasty fun. The adult can run the operation, while the kids help with such things as fetching ingredients, measuring and mixing.

I have two recipes for you to try that don’t require an electric mixer. One is a savoury muffin made by flavouring a batter with items you would use in a pepperoni pizza. They can be enjoyed on their own or as a side dish for such things as soup. Any leftover muffins will freeze well. When needed, thaw and warm in a 300 F oven for a few minutes.

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My second recipe is a sweet one, where cookies are flavoured as you would carrot cake. When they’re baked and cooled, you drizzle the cookies with an easy-to-make cream-cheese glaze.

Pepperoni Pizza Muffins

These savoury muffins are flavoured as you would a pepperoni pizza. Be sure to cut the pepperoni, grate the cheese and dice the pepper before making the batter.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Baking time: 20 to 22 minutes

Makes: 12 muffins

3 large eggs

3/4 cup olive or vegetable oil

3/4 cup milk

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 to 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups grated mozzarella cheese (divided)

1/3 to 1/2 cup finely diced pepperoni stick (see Note)

1/3 cup finely diced green bell pepper

12 large paper-baking cups

1/4 cup pizza sauce or tomato sauce

36 to 48 very thin slices pepperoni stick

Make wet mixture by placing eggs in a mixing bowl. Beat until well blended, then mix in oil and milk.

Place flour, baking powder, oregano and salt in a second mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add 3/4 cup of the cheese, diced pepperoni and bell pepper and mix with a spoon until coated with the flour mixture.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with the baking cups.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in wet mixture. Use a spoon to mix the two together until combined.

Divide and spoon batter between the baking cups. Set 1 tsp of pizza sauce (or tomato sauce) on the top centre of each muffin. Top each muffin with some of the remaining cheese and three or four slices of pepperoni.

Bake muffins in the centre of the oven 20 to 22 minutes, or until they spring back when gently touched in the centre.

Cool muffins 10 minutes. Remove muffins from pan, using a thin metal spatula or paring knife to loosen them if they’re stuck. Enjoy muffins warm or at room temperature.

Note: One long or two medium-sized pepperoni sticks should yield the amount needed. But you can always buy more than you need and snack on the rest. Pepperoni sticks are sold at most supermarkets. Finley diced means to cut into 1/8- to 1/4-inch cubes.

Glazed Carrot Cake Cookies

In this recipe, ingredients used to make carrot cake are mixed into cookie dough. You end up with tender, nicely spiced cookies topped with a sweetened cream-cheese mixture.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Baking: 18 minutes

Makes: about 18 cookies

1 large egg

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp finely grated orange zest

1 Tbsp orange juice

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

• a pinch each of ground nutmeg and cloves

1/2 cup grated carrot

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp spreadable cream cheese

1 1/2 tsp milk or water

1/3 cup icing sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Make wet mixture by placing egg in a mixing bowl. Beat well, then mix in oil, sugar, juice and zest.

Place flour, baking powder and spices in a second mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add carrots, raisins and walnuts (or pecans) and mix with a spoon until coated with the flour mixture.

Add wet mixture to flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Set slightly heaping 1 Tbsp amounts of the cookie dough on the baking sheet, spacing them about two inches apart. Bake in middle of oven 18 minutes, until set and light golden. Let cookies cool to temperature.

To make the glaze, combine cream cheese, milk (or water) and icing sugar in a small bowl. Vigorously mix until completely smooth. Drizzle some glaze on each cookie, or simply spread some on top of each cookie.

Let glaze set and cookies are ready to enjoy.

Eric’s options: If you don’t have cream cheese, make a simpler glaze for the cookies by placing 1 Tbsp milk or water in a bowl. Gradually mix in 1/2 cup icing sugar until smooth.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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