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Book Reviews

Bake It and Build It

by Elizabeth MacLeod, Tracy Walkeri, llus.

Makin’ Muffins

by Susan Devins, Yvonne Cathcart, illus.

Whatever excellent taste they may promise, recipes for kids must be straightforward, precise, and leave little to the imagination.

Bake It and Build It, a kind of edible architecture for the oven, certainly woos the prospective cook with its artful confections. Coloured photographs of cookie pets, castles, and holiday masterpieces are sweet delights to the eye. Recipes for cookies, icing, and melted chocolate are provided. The appetizing creations are then constructed from baked cookie dough and other enhancements. Eleven designs are featured, each with a list of required ingredients and utensils, as well as clear, step-by-step directions.

With recollections of a Christmas gingerbread house that caved in and had to be refashioned as the stable of Bethlehem, I steered the junior bakers toward what seemed to be one of the simplest projects in the book, the cookie gift box. Fresh from Ontario’s Grade 3 testing, these youngsters had, presumably, been schooled in the art of measuring area and perimeter. Nevertheless, the medium of cookie dough required a new set of problem-solving skills. How do you measure a square of nine centimetres with a ruler directly on the dough? It is extremely tempting for an adult to step in and suggest making a paper pattern first, to abandon the process for the sake of time and the good of the product. This book, and others that display culinary perfection so vividly, seem to demand a certain level of adult intervention. Typically, the young bakers enjoyed the experience most when they created delicious monster cookies from the leftover dough.

Makin’ Muffins takes a quicker, and perhaps less exacting, approach to baking with young people. A dozen recipes for mini-muffins are provided, along with a small muffin tray. Parents will appreciate the inclusion of safety tips and the collaboration of a nutritional consultant. These recipes often feature fruit and yogurt, and generally go easy on the sugar and fat. The statement that these recipes are created for “little hands, mouths and tummies” also suggests that the adult will be in control of the baking experience.

However, kids are certainly not excluded from the audience. This cookbook tries hard to be educational and entertaining. A “Did You Know” section on each page explains the origin and growing particulars of the ingredients. Food jokes enliven the text, but don’t interfere with the clarity of instructions. The recipes also seem quite flexible; when an extra egg was accidentally slipped into the batter for Marble Twirl Muffins, the results remained perfectly palatable.

Baking as an experience shared by two generations probably necessitates a kind of double voice – one addressed to young cooks and one aimed at adult supervisors. Indeed, both these cookbooks do their best to be inclusive. It is, after all, a trifle risky to create a baking book just for kids – as long as the recipes require heat from a conventional stove. Only in fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel can kids take complete charge of a hot oven with outstanding results.