Thursday, May 26, 2011

My baking center

A well-organized baking center makes putting together a batch of waffles or pancakes very quick -- I can make a batter in two minutes, and my easily distractible fifth-grade sons can do it it five.  

Here are a few other things that help me speed up the batter process.

We use a one-bowl technique:  our mixing bowl (one that I got for a quarter at a yard sale a few years ago) has measuring markings on the side, plus a spout.  The other measuring cups (except for flour) hang on hooks where we can easily reach them.  We're fortunate to have a very deep drawer, and so all of my ingredients are in there, in one place (except the flour canister, which is so large it sits nearby on the counter).

I gave up on those wimpy little flour canisters.  At a yard sale, I found a large glass jar that can hold a 10-lb bag of flour.  I also got an extra one-cup measuring cup that I leave in that canister, that I use only for flour.

All my other containers are likewise large and easy to get into.  For example, powdered milk boxes aren't easy to lift and pour from, so I transfer the dry milk into a 2-quart rubbermaid jug, so I can either pour or scoop out how much I need.   I also transfer my vegetable oil into an bottle with one of those pop-up lids (like on syrup containers), so when I pour oil, all I have to do is point and squirt.

The recipes deliberately call for a lot of repetition -- my boys can use the 1/4-cup scoop four times in a row (dry milk, soy flour, oats, oats again), and then squirt the oil into that same scoop, rather than constantly switching between measuring cups.  The only other units they think about are the water (the levels are marked on the bowl itself), the cup of flour (the measuring cup is in the canister already), and the teaspoon of baking powder.  Because of this, I showed them how to do this recipe just once.  Since then, I've supervised intermittently, but they cook pretty much on their own.

A side note:  I've found that small picture albums make great recipe books for kids.  They're cheap (you can find them at lots and lots of yard sales, if you don't happen to already have several unused gift versions hanging around your home); the small pages are just about the right size to hold a recipe, and the plastic pages allow you to wipe off the inevitable spills.

I learned all of these things slowly, over the years.  But like many things about organization: once you put in the effort to learn and reorganize, you own that information forever.  

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