Home Baking Projects: A Great Way To Spend Time Together

When the weather is cold or wet outside, find fun things to do inside, like taking your children or grandchildren on a trip to the zoo--the baking zoo.

Together you can create treats fashioned after animals, such as elephant-ear crisps, teddy bears and monkey bread. The time you spend together helps kids and families become stronger and teaches ideas, concepts and values. Here are some handy tips for grown-ups to keep in mind when working with budding chefs:

• Keep it safe. Teach younger children about hot stoves and sharp knives. Even very young children will want to put the flour in the mixing bowl or break an egg. Turn the mixer off and let them handle this step.

• Show them a picture in advance. Choose recipes with photos to increase their interest level.

• Make it feel good. Overlook mistakes such as egg shells in the dough. Praise often even if the product isn't perfect. When a mess happens, take it in stride and don't voice blame.

• Build kids, not just food. The kitchen makes an excellent classroom. Help your child read and interpret the directions--learning to follow written instructions is an important life skill. Help the child understand the fractions found in most recipes. With older kids, use the opportunity to pass a little wisdom along--even if it slows down the project.

• Take your time. Neither you nor the younger ones will enjoy the experience if you're fighting the clock. It takes twice as long to bake with kids--plan accordingly.

When creating delicious yeast breads or other baked goods, Fleischmann's Yeast can help with preparation tips and fun recipes such as this creative and cuddly edible teddy bear:

Teddy Bears

Makes 2 large bears

1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110° F)

2 envelopes Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast

3/4 cup warm milk (100° to 110° F)

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 to 31/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

11/2 cups whole wheat flour

Date pieces or raisins

Place warm water in large, warm bowl. Sprinkle in yeast, stir until dissolved. Add warm milk, butter, sugar, salt and 2 cups all-purpose flour; blend well. Stir in 2 eggs, whole wheat flour and enough remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Grease top; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.

Remove from refrigerator. Punch dough down. Remove dough to lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; set aside 2 portions. Shape 1 portion into ball for body. Place on large greased baking sheet; flatten slightly. Divide 1 portion in half; break off 3/4-inch piece and shape into ball for nose. Shape remaining piece into ball for head. Attach head to body; pinch to seal. Attach nose to head; pinch to seal. Divide remaining half of portion into 6 equal pieces. Shape into balls and attach to body and head to form paws and ears; pinch to seal. Press date pieces or raisins into dough for eyes and buttons. Repeat with remaining portions. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 40 to 60 minutes.

Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water; brush over dough. Redefine shapes, if necessary. Bake at 350° F for 25 minutes or until golden. Remove from sheets; let cool on wire racks.

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About The Author, Stacey Moore
For more recipe ideas and baking tips, visit the Web site at www.breadworld.com.This creative, cuddly--and edible--teddy bear is just one member of the baking zoo that kids of all ages can help make.