One blustery day some time ago, when my kids had no school and I couldn’t make it into the office, I decided to take them outside for some fresh air as soon as the snow had stopped. It was probably the first time that my toddler son, Kevin, had been out in deep snow, and he looked none too happy as I suited him up and plopped him onto a sled for a ride down the gentle slope of our backyard. Instead of enjoying the excursion, he looked terrified and asked to go back into the house. “The snow is too big,” he told me. “And I am too little.”
Though Kevin didn’t enjoy the outdoor part of that snow day, he liked what came later: chocolate-chip pumpkin bread. It seems that when our family is housebound, we all develop an insatiable appetite, especially for sweets. We bake muffins, cookies, and brownies, served with homemade hot cocoa. But this is everyone’s snow-day favorite: a moist, cinnamon-spiked loaf of pumpkin bread loaded with milk-chocolate chips. It is easy to put together, and it’s fabulous to make with kids who are just learning to cook.
What Kids Learn
- The right way to preheat an oven
- What happens if you start baking when the oven is cold
- Where pumpkins originally came from
- The edible parts of a pumpkin
What You’ll Need
2⅓ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1¾ cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup canola oil
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (about 2 cups)
⅔ cup water
1½ cups milk- or semisweet-chocolate chips
What to Do
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.Teachable Moment: 4 Science-of-Baking Facts
- Preheating a gas oven can take 10 to 15 minutes, sometimes longer, depending on your oven’s power and the target temperature a recipe requires. For some recipes, like this one, that’s just enough time to gather your supplies and prepare the ingredients.
- Some experts advise waiting an extra 10 minutes after reaching the required temperature before you start baking. This allows the temperature to “settle” and for you to make sure it’s exact.
- You need to cook food at the exact temperature for certain reactions to happen—for example, for eggs to bind ingredients together, sugars to caramelize, and your finished product to get that nice baked texture and flavor.
- Baking when your oven isn’t completely or evenly heated can make the difference between a great result and a disappointing outcome. Baking time and temperature can alter texture and flavor, and starting in a cool or cold oven changes both conditions
- Show your budding baker how to spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with non-stick spray and let him line 8 of the cups in a 12-cup muffin tin with paper muffin liners.
- Help your pint-size chef measure the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and then guide her as she adds these ingredients into the work bowl of a standing electric mixer or a large mixing bowl to use with a handheld mixer.
- Hand your child a large spoon and let him stir until all the dry ingredients are mixed well. Show him how to make a well in the center of the flour mixture, using the spoon.
- Demonstrate how to crack an egg into a small bowl, and then add it to the mixing bowl. Let your child do the same with the remaining eggs.
- Together, measure and add the canola oil, canned pumpkin, and water. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Let your muffin master measure and add the chocolate chips to the batter. Help her stir until the chips are evenly distributed.Teachable Moments: 4 Surprising Pumpkin Facts:
- Pumpkins are indigenous (or native) to Central America.
- As members of the Cucurbita genus, pumpkins are closely related to cucumbers and melons.
- In addition to eating the pumpkin pulp, you also can snack on the seeds and flowers!
- Pumpkins today make a popular filling, but the first pumpkin desserts in America included pumpkin as part of the crust instead.
- Scoop the batter into the muffin cups until each one is about three-fourths full. Pour the remaining batter into the prepared loaf pan.
- Place both pans in the oven. Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Remove the muffins from oven and let them cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack to finish cooling. Continue to bake the loaf for an additional 40 minutes or so. Insert a toothpick to determine if done. Remove from oven and cool for about 20 minutes in the pan. Remove to a rack to finish cooling.
Tips: Freeze muffins and bread, well wrapped, for up to 3 months. For a change, make this with dried cranberries, raisins, or chopped nuts.