I didn’t realize it when I put the cooking club together over the summer, but this was a very French themed lesson. The true theme was breakfast, but there was a definite French flair to the entire afternoon.
Before I go any further, I will say that I would not have been able to do it without the help of Jenny and Michael, two parents who graciously volunteered their time and helped me make sure that little fingers remained attached and burn free for a second week. I truly couldn’t have done it without their help.
What is so French about this lesson you ask?
We made French toast using French bread (purchased from le Walmart).
Our scrambled egg recipe was from Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
The maple syrup came from Vermont (French for Green Mountains) Also, Quebec produces most of the world’s maple syrup…*and what do they speak there? French!
Voila! There you have it, we taught a group of 5-10 year olds French cuisine.
*I love that Canada has a strategic Maple Syrup reserve. We hoard oil here in the US. Canadians NEED syrup, just in case. I also wonder how one steals $30 million in syrup. First, what is your motivation? Second, what is your plan once you have the syrup? I suspect lumberjacks.
If I had to pick a second theme for the day, it is that eggs are amazing. I’ve been doing some egg-speriments in science this year with the kids, and they’ve all been big hits in the classroom.
The eggs were an even bigger hit in the kitchen.
We started out the class by making scrambled eggs. This seems like a pretty easy, straightforward dish, but so often we get giant, dry clumps of eggs, or a vast yellow mat of egg. Really good scrambled eggs are neither. A really good scrambled egg is made up of small, soft, moist lumps of egg that still has a little liquid in-between. If you get a chance, check out this video of Julia Child and Jaques Pepin making scrambled eggs on their PBS show.
I did use her recipe for cooking class. First, we had the kids crack the eggs. The recipe called for eight eggs, so I gave each lower grade student one egg to crack, and my middle grade students got two eggs to crack. We talked about how an egg should be cracked on a flat surface, and not the edge of the bowl, and then proceeded to crack our eggs into the bowl.
It was fun to watch the kids try to crack eggs. Some would tap their egg on the counter so gently, as if it was a yolky grenade ready to blow. The middle graders could all crack the egg into the bowl pretty easily. Kindergarteners really like to smash the halves of their shells together rather than splitting their hands apart. My wonderful son and several other kindergarteners would put their thumbs together, split the yolk and then immediately smash the halves of the eggshell together after the contents had dropped into the bowl. We fished out a few shells from the bowl from time to time.
After adding milk, and a pinch of salt, we were ready to whisk. Everyone took turns holding the bowl and whisking, and in a bit our batter was ready to go to the frying pan.
The key to good scrambled eggs is LOW AND SLOW.
We put those pans on low and had the kids constantly stir the eggs, waiting for the little lumps to form. It took a while, but the eggs eventually formed little lumps and within minutes, we were ready to plate the eggs.
I did have lofty ambitions of going truly gourmet and sprinkling chopped parsley over the eggs, but the kids seemed to have little interest in leafy garnish.
We placed the eggs into an oven set to warm and then got the french toast ready. Round two of egg cracking went well, we added flour, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. More whisking commenced, and soon our batter was ready to go. Meanwhile, I had our middle graders chop strawberries and slice the French bread into thick slices.
Finally, we dipped the bread and put it on the griddles to cook. I left the middle grade boys with the task of flipping the toast when one side was brown. They did an awesome job.
Meanwhile, lower graders set the table. I will say, I have forgotten to get drinks for the kids the last two weeks. (What is breakfast without orange juice?) NO DRINKS FOR YOU HARD WORKING KIDS! Just kidding. We had water. Next class, I’m going to bring in something for them to drink.
Soon enough, we all sat down to enjoy our hard work. Each kid got scrambled eggs and two slices of French toast. And the reaction?
“BEST SCRAMBLED EGGS EVER!”
“I LOVE THIS FRENCH TOAST!” (Said Brendan, my son)
“THIS MAPLE SYRUP IS SO GOOD!”
Overall, the truest measure of our success was that there were no leftovers. My daughter had the two extra slices of French toast, and told her brother he did a good job making it.
I’m enjoying the class so far, and we’ll see what happens next week when we do a lunch themed class.
Finally, how do you all like your eggs? Let me know!