Teenage Bakers

Class is on hiatus, but instructor has some tips

When the Howland Public Library in Beacon resumes its afterschool programs, Dana Devine-O’Malley will be putting on her apron again to guide tweens and teens in monthly “bakeology” lessons.

Dana Devine-O'Malley

Dana Devine-O’Malley cooking at home (Photo provided)

She’s hoping the middle schoolers who attended the class before the library closed due to the coronavirus pandemic will use some of their newfound baking skills at home. She says her own two children, ages 8 and 12, are pretty good at it already.

Devine-O’Malley comes from a cooking and baking lineage. Her grandmother was a chef for the Lackawanna Line, working in the club car. “She was a foodie before a foodie was a foodie,” she says. “I went to art school, but baking has always been in my life.”

After working in New York City as the photo editor for The Wall Street Journal, Devine-O’Malley moved to Beacon with her family 13 years ago. She soon discovered there weren’t that many bakeries around.

While nurturing a dream of someday being able to open “an affordable food place for all — it’s lacking,” she had stints as the manager of the Beacon Farmers’ Market and launched Five Hens Baked Goods, whose products are sold locally. She also leads many baking classes, such as the one at the Howland. “I’m trying to teach kids the difference between homemade and natural and helping them learn the basics, which are being lost in this generation,” she says.

Jayde Green nibbles on biscotti

Before they went on hiatus, the 90-minute Bakeology classes attracted about 15 middle schoolers, she says. “It’s a great class — it brings me a lot of joy,” she says. “I put the essentials before them: washing hands, wearing aprons, skills and rules. I usually break them up into two groups. Sometimes they bake the same things, but sometimes I change one ingredient or step to show them how much changes with baking, depending on what you do.

“We’ve done sweets, pizza, bread, pretzels, crepes and have worked with eggs. We bake in two convection ovens the library has, which fit a couple of racks each. It’s a little tricky timing things, and we can go over. When that happens, we pre-bake and let the kids finish it at home. Each kid gets a recipe so they can recreate the dish at home for their family.”

Lillie O'Leary, sampling

Lillie O’Leary, sampling

For parents and caregivers who are now dealing with much unstructured togetherness with their children and charges, Devine-O’Malley suggests that cooking together is a great pastime. But she advises the adults, particularly with baking, to keep it simple. “Kids often get the concepts down, but they don’t understand the time factor,” she says. “They’re surprised by all the steps involved, the preciseness, the science of it. I try to add a math or science element to it. I do a lot of measuring ingredients with scales.

“A lot of times parents see things in a magazine, and attempt to replicate it, but it’s too hard. Start with crepes, or a basic cookie you can play with, trying different elements within that. Keep them away from packaged mixes, although there are some out there that are OK and can be a first step.”

Photos and recipes by Dana Devine-O’Malley

Big Cookie Pie

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoonbaking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
Pinch of flaky salt, to finish

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-, 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet with cooking spray. You can use steel or enamel-coated as well, as long as they are oven safe.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until just combined. Fold in 1 cup chocolate chips.

Spread dough into skillet in an even layer. Top with remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Bake until edges are golden, 20 to 24 minutes. Let cool to the touch, and cut like you would a pizza pie!

Sprinkle Biscotti
Makes 18 large pieces

3 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 c vegetable oil
1 c sugar
3 large eggs
1 tb clear imitation vanilla
1/2 c rainbow sprinkles,
A few pinches of sea salt and sanding sugar (or regular sugar) for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together oil and sugar. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and then fold in the sprinkles.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, divide dough into two equal parts, and then form long rectangles, about 4 inches wide. Leave a few good inches in between the rectangles because they will spread in the oven.

Sprinkle the tops with a few pinches of sea salt and sanding sugar (or regular sugar) and then bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and reduce heat to 250. Use a serrated knife to cut the rectangles into 1-inch pieces and place them on their sides.

Bake at 250 for 20 more minutes, or until desired crispiness.

Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies
Makes 20 or more cookies

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1¾  cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1.5 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 pound bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup dried cranberries
Flaky salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 3 sheet pans with parchment paper or slipmats.

In an electric mixer or hand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl again.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix in the oats. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. Don’t overbeat it!

With a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate and cranberries until the dough is well-mixed. With a one-inch ice cream scoop (or two spoons), scoop round balls of dough onto the prepared sheet pans. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until nicely browned. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store the rest in the airtight container.

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