School is right around the corner and brings me all of the feels. It has been a challenge to be home with the kids this summer as I try to continue working from home, but, for the most part, it has been good.
My grand plans to impose an hour of reading every day for the kids and me haven’t come to fruition. I also had planned on working with our daughter on letter and number skills, but that hasn’t happened, either. However, we have had fun every day in the pool and invited friends over at least a few times a week. We also took a few trips to Texas and Missouri to visit family.
My oldest went to a 10-day-long camp in Chicago this summer, which left me with my two younger ones at home. My middle child is really into baking, and I found myself looking for a cooking or baking camp that he could attend that same week. While there were camps in our area for kids, they all didn’t work out for one reason or another.
So, I did what I do best: I made up my own camp for him.
I told him that we were going to do a five-day camp and bake something special each day. Just me and him. He already makes cookies, cakes and brownies, so I wanted to raise the bar a little bit. I told him that we were going to elevate our cooking skills and try all new recipes. He got to pick out two items to bake while I chose three.
I gave him time to come up with a grocery list, and we picked up a few supplies that we didn’t have. The investment wasn’t that bad and was way less than what we would have spent for a camp and traveling expenses.
On Monday, we made his first choice of saltwater taffy. While this isn’t exactly a baking item, I let it slide because he was so excited about it. I did warn him that candy is harder to make and that the reason why I have never made it is because it can be a bit temperamental.
We forged on, though, and bought ingredients for cotton candy and funfetti-flavored taffy. We started strong but realized that our taffy wasn’t going to quite cut it when it wasn’t easy to pull. We made three batches, and they were all failures.
On Tuesday, I decided to go with something that I knew we could be successful. We made beignets, which is fried sweet bread that is light and fluffy on the inside with powdered sugar on top. I knew that the 5 cups of flour in our recipe was a little cause for concern but decided to go with it. We ended up making so many beignets that we had to divide and deliver them to neighbors to eat.
On Wednesday, we made Baked Alaska, which is a cake that includes ice cream and meringue. The kicker to it is that you start with cake, then cover it in ice cream, then top it all in meringue and bake it in the oven. And as you guessed it, it is a delicate cake to pull off if you don’t cover the ice cream well with the meringue. His turned out great, though, and all of the ice cream was still intact.
On Thursday, we made crème brulee, which ended up being a good experience. I told him that crème brulee is excellent to learn, as it is a fancy dish that is quite easy to make. We bought the handheld torch needed for the recipe, which is always fun to do in the kitchen. Our torching skills do need a little work, but, for the most part, it was a success.
On Friday, we had plans to end our baking camp week with a grand finale of Mirror Glazed Cake, although we were tired by the end of the week. We still have the ingredients to make this cake, and I plan on baking it with him before school starts.
You don’t have to attend a fancy camp to make memories with your kids. We made our baking camp a priority and made sure that we had enough time each day to get it done. I really enjoyed how excited he was to do it, and the added benefit of eating a dessert every day wasn’t too shabby, either.
Kristina Phelan is a former Spokane-area resident now living in Illinois. Visit her website at mamabearmoxie.com.
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