The past two weeks my students have discussed and baked dishes for what I will politely call the “lesser holidays.” Not to say they are unimportant (because I can hear my Irish friends and those I know down in New Orleans screaming hearsay), but more that at their age, a holiday without presents, candy, or animals in disguise isn’t much of a holiday. I would also add people in disguise but both these holidays have those covered–sometimes uncovered. The oldest child I teach clocks in around 11 years of age, adding another element of understanding as to why these two holidays, Mardi Gras and St. Pat’s, today  centered around having a valid ID that dates you over 21, isn’t necessarily a known or favored holiday for the younger crowd.

Regardless of age and lack of holiday knowledge, last week my students celebrated Mardi Gras by making their own King “Cake”– soft yeasty pretzels we dyed purple, green and yellow then braided together. We discussed the meaning of the day– a large feast with dancing and “celebrations,” which precedes 40 days of fasting for Lent. My students unanimously agreed they would give up broccoli. (I pointed out you had to give up something you enjoy eating, like chocolate, but many feigned deaf ears.) A handful of French students I have enjoyed showing off their language skills breaking down Gras = fat and Mardi = Tuesday. Fat Tuesday! So we discussed feasting until fat and dancing for beads and naked babies baked hidden in cakes.

“What?! Naked babies in cakes?!”

“Sorry, baby Jesus.” I corrected myself to the class. I just made that worse, didn’t I? “We put naked plastic babies in the cake to symbolize Jesus.”
Eyes are glazing over- Jesus am I making any sense?!
“Look, if you find the naked baby you get to be the King or Queen.”
Now they’re perking up. “But we’re not using a naked baby… We are using an uncooked bean.”
(Which is what was actually used before we had plastic in the shape of naked babies.)
“A bean?! I don’t like beans. I don’t want that.”
So I explain you don’t eat the bean, you just find it, and you can only be King or Queen if you find the bean.

There are protests because: (a) We’re pretty sure we’ll accidentally eat the bean and we think beans are gross. (b) It’s not fair to only have one King or Queen and shouldn’t everyone get to find the bean and be King or Queen? (c) One student offers up her little sister as a sacrificial baby to bake. (d) We don’t want to be King or Queens, we only want to play if we can be princesses [and Kings]. (e) All of the above.

4/5’s make a grab for the last Soda Bread

To close off our celebrations, this week my students made Irish Soda Bread. Cheers of excitement because we all love soda. Moans of disappointment as we understood Soda Bread is so called because of baking soda, not the sweet carbonated drinking soda. More moaning when we realized no bean would go inside to crown a King or Queen.

We are now bread experts going from yeast-laced pretzels to quick breads.

Irish Soda Bread
Makes 1 loaf
2 cups oatmeal flour
1 cup whole wheat flour, plus more for kneading
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cane sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup raisins, soaked overnight in water to plump
1 egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine flours, sugar, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Add butter and use your fingers to smash the butter into the flours, breaking apart until it resembles a coarse meal. Add raisins, egg and buttermilk. Stir until is too stiff to continue mixing. Add about 1/4 cup more flour and knead the dough until it just forms a rough ball. Do not overwork the dough, it should still be a little sticky.

Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, pat into a mounded round. Use a knife to score the top of the dough with an X-shape to allow even baking*. Bake until bread is golden, about 40 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and allow to sit briefly before serving warm.

*NOTE: In class, instead of one large loaf we cut our dough into 9 mini-loafs. This helped speed cooking time to about 15 minutes and made dishing out in class slightly less crumby.

Book a Class or Party

An on-site dinner party is an awesome way to spend time together with family and friends. Enjoy a fun evening while showing off your inner chef skills.

Support Us to Help Kids Eat Healthy

We are committed to bringing healthier options to the table. If you are a fan of our work and effort please consider making a kind donation towards a more nutritious future.

Translate »