Over the last few months, my two year old has started “helping” me in the kitchen. This is kind of a big deal because for the first almost two years of parenthood, the kitchen was my safe place. Not just because I would cook / bake to relax, but because we literally put up a gate to keep our inquisitive toddler out of the kitchen.
But when we moved earlier this summer, my husband and I, figuring we’d have to teach kitchen safety sooner or later, decided it was time to rip off the band-aid and go gate-free in our new house. I’ll be honest — those first couple of months were a struggle. Being a normal 2-year-old, Marcus wanted to touch everything and open all the cabinet doors. (I found toys in the freezer a couple of times.) Now, about 6 months later, I can’t remember the last time I had to say, “Don’t touch the stove!” Progress.
So now we’ve graduated to Mommy-Marcus kitchen adventures. I’m trying to make it a point to choose one or two recipes a week where he can actively participate. At first I was concerned with the mess, the safety, and the unpredictability of it all. I quickly realized that I just needed to let go. Baking with kids is not about being picture-perfect or detailed or anything close to fancy. It is about creating memories, teaching independence, and having fun. Marcus absolutely loves helping, and I’m thrilled to be able to share one of my hobbies with such an eager little buddy.
One of our current favorite things to make together is banana bread. Marcus likes it because he gets to smash bananas and later eat the banana bread. I like it because there’s no mixer or special ingredients required. I’ve been making our house banana bread for years, but we tried this King Arthur recipe recently and it was a hit — it’s a little more cake-like and moist (thanks to a full pound of bananas). Both will be in our recipe rotation this year.
- When baking with Marcus, I prepare some things in advance: I pre-measure the ingredients, toast/chop the nuts and fruit, and line the pan. I’ll give him a few tasks like smashing up the bananas, pouring in the pre-measured ingredients, stirring, and sprinkling on the topping. And he definitely helps with clean-up too (I give him a damp cloth to help wipe down the counter).
- I used 100% sifted red spring wheat flour and it worked beautifully — not heavy or stodgy like completely whole grain products can be. I think you can definitely play around with the flours in this recipe; white whole wheat or spelt would be good choices, or you could mix regular AP and regular WW.
- I like baking quick breads in my 9x4x4 pullman pan for nice straight sides (baking time is generally about the same for me), but this recipe certainly works in a regular loaf pan.
- Like a good banana bread, this recipe holds up well to substitutions. Switch up the nuts and dried fruit for chocolate or omit them completely. Change the spices to suit your tastes. I’d love to try this with a teaspoon of espresso powder.
One of Marcus’ favorite things about helping in the kitchen is getting to wear his apron (and making me wear mine). I absolutely love the aprons from Hedley & Bennett — not sponsored, though they can if they want. 😉
- The key to really good banana bread is really ripe bananas. Like so ripe they’re “dead” — basically black all over. I usually let them get to that state then pop them into the freezer. When I want to bake with them, I measure out the amount I need into a bowl and defrost in the microwave. There will be a lot of liquid; just add it to the recipe.
- I generally lower the sugar in my baked goods a bit, so if you like a sweeter loaf you can increase the sugar to 200g (1 cup). I think this recipe would actually be fine with even less sugar and will probably lower to 150g next time (especially if dried fruits are added).
- Please don’t skip the topping! The caramelized crunchy lid is one of my favorite parts of this banana bread.
Other kid-helper-friendly recipes on Cook Til Delicious:
- My favorite granola — stirring, measuring out additions
- Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats — not the browning butter part, but measuring out marshmallows and cereal and pushing into the pan
- Apple butter bundt cake — mixing and glazing
- Cherry berry almond crumble — making the crumble, mixing the fruits, sprinkling crumble on
- Banana Bundt Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache Drizzle — mashing bananas, mixing, and glazing
Whole Grain Banana Bread
Makes one 9×5 loaf | Barely adapted from King Arthur Flour
- 454g thoroughly mashed, very ripe banana (4 – 5 medium bananas)
- 99g vegetable oil (I prefer grapeseed)
- 175g light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 226g sifted whole grain flour (see note above)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 57g chopped, toasted walnuts (optional)
- 57g chopped dates (optional)
- 15g coarse or granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position. If your nuts aren’t yet toasted, put them in while the oven is preheating (just don’t forget about them!). Lightly grease or line a pullman pan/loaf pan with parchment.
- Place the bananas in a large bowl and mash them with a wooden spoon or fork until mostly smooth (a few lumps are ok). Whisk in the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
- Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to combine gently. When the batter is almost completely combined (there should still be a few streaks of flour visible), add the nuts and dried fruit. Mix until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the top with a palette knife. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the batter.
- Bake the bread for about 60 to 75 minutes, until the bread feels set on the top, and a paring knife (or other thin knife) inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs (but no wet batter). If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking.
- Remove the bread from the oven. Cool it in the pan for 15 minutes, then loosen the edges, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely. Store leftover bread, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.