Ah, family breakfasts at elementary school. Parents are invited to come see their kids latest project work,* siblings are invited to join in from their classrooms, and each family brings something for a breakfast potluck. In kindergarten, there was clearly a lot of effort by some parents for the potluck contribution to be “healthy,” although there were also quite reliably a few boxes of donut holes. More recently, in a 3rd grade classroom, only two families brought something homemade – a local chef** and me – everything else was Entenmann’s, Dunkin Donuts, or drinks. Unsurprisingly, not many of the kids went for the whole-grain, banana mini-muffins.***
This led to an interesting side conversation with my eldest about why no one seems to cook. I tried to explain about time constraints, and needed energy, and needed know-how. He expounded a bit about how very bad it is for you to just eat Dunkin Donuts, which, is very true, and yet is a bit awkward to exclaim in a room full of folks who just brought donuts to a potluck.**** Mostly, I think he was sad that not many folks wanted the muffins. I was sad too, but I understood.
Still, I not-so-secretly do wish people cooked more. There are myriad arguments for doing it, most of which I’ll resist going into. For me, cooking is an important point of connection, to the world, to our needs and imperfections, to our history, to each other. I can’t do much about other families’ time and energy constraints, but I can chip away, a tiny bit, at the need for know-how and related reticence. Most cooking is actually pretty easy and forgiving! It doesn’t have to be a gorgeous, three layer, apricot jam sponge cake to be delicious and worth making! You can just try things! Really!
Next third grade breakfast, I think I’ll bring coffee cake, my mom’s coffee cake, a bit altered. It’s not Entenmann’s, but it is pretty darn easy (and delicious and flexible). This way, I’ll bring something homemade, and the kids still might eat it. Compromise.
More or Less My Mom’s Quick Jam Coffeecake*****
- 6 T butter, softened, plus a little for the pan
- 1/4 sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup other whole grain flour or cornmeal******
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/8 tsp almond extract or 1 tsp citrus zest or …) – optional
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 chopped nuts
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or other complementary spice) – optional
- 2/3 cup jam
Preheat over to 375ºF. Butter an 8×8 inch pan.
Cream 6 tablespoons of the butter with the 1/4 cup sugar. Add the egg and optional extract, then beat until well incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture alternating with the milk (in two or three rounds) and continue to mix just until you have a (mostly) smooth batter. Spread batter in prepared pan. Mix together the brown sugar, chopped nuts, and optional spice and sprinkle on top. Dot with ~9 dollops of jam. Bake ~25-30 minutes, until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
Serves ~9. Double the recipe and use a 13×9 inch pan if feeding a large number of third graders.
*model Mayflowers! the Solar System rap! reports on the habitat of your chosen animal and how to protect it! research into one of your family’s countries of origin! The school projects are actually pretty cool.
**OK, technically I think the chef made his triple-layer, apricot jam sponge cake at work, so it wasn’t quite homemade either, but it was absolutely delicious.
***admittedly, these were not my best ever banana muffins. I cooked them a minute or 2 too long, so they were dry. Ah, well.
****also, I kinda like donuts, just not as part of a regular breakfast.
*****I may have added butter. Sorry, Mom! (Also, I have no idea how this would work if actually simply beaten with a fork and am too lazy to find out. I use a mixer.)
******I like to match this to the jam type – rye for stone fruits, cornmeal for berries, etc.