French Madeleines

French Madeleines - Montessori Life As We Know It

We are right in the middle of a practical life explosion. Joshua wants to do so many things himself and at the top of his list is baking. He has been going to his supplies area, digging out his bowl, getting out his wooden spoon, going to the cupboard and getting out flour and sugar and declaring “want to bake, Mama”.

I have been following a lovely blog run by Helene called French Foodie Baby. I LOVE this blog, Helene writes about all the lovely food she cooks for her little boy Pablo – and her family, everybody eats together. I have been following now for some months and the recipes on there are delicious! I highly recommend you go and check her out, I really enjoy her posts and she has such a wealth of information on introducing (tasty!) food to your baby. I picked out French Madeleines to bake with Joshua today as it is fresh, simple and toddler friendly.

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter
Pinch of salt
Seeds from one vanilla bean
Zest of one lemon
8-10 strawberries (cut up), or a handful of chocolate chips

Method:

1. Have your toddler get out all the utensils required for this exercise. We will need a madeleine tray (we have the Soffritto madeleine tray which we got from House homewares in Australia, overseas this one looks good), a medium sized bowl, wooden spoon, whisk, measuring cups, measuring spoons, wavy chopper and chopping  board. I always have Joshua put on his apron prior to starting baking.

2. Place the empty madeleine tray into the freezer. Do not skip this step, I researched a few recipes on madeleines and they all say to do this.

3. Melt butter in a small pan or in the microwave.

4. While you are preparing other parts you can have your toddler help prepare by cutting up the strawberries. Joshua has his chopping board and his wavy chopper and cut off the green stalks and chopped up the strawberries with his wavy chopper. (Australian supplier you can try is the General Trader or other shops that sell kitchen gadgets).

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Joshua cut the tops off the strawberries quite efficiently and then systematically chopped up all the strawberries into little pieces before transferring these to the little bowl.

5. In a bowl have your toddler whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

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6. Have your toddler crack the eggs into the flour mixture and mix together with a wooden spoon.

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7. Add the melted butter, the zest and scrape the vanilla bean seeds. Mix, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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We took this opportunity to inspect the vanilla bean pod and to smell it before I cut it open and scraped out the seeds.  I highly recommend using the vanilla bean pod and not vanilla bean paste or extract. The flavour that it adds to the madeleines is amazing, I promise you the flavour is worth it.

8. Preheat the oven to 220°c (450°F).

9. Grease the madeleine pan. Have your toddler stir the strawberry pieces or chocolate chips into the dough. (Since this is two batches, place the remaining dough back in the fridge). We used strawberries today as we had quite an abundant supply on hand.

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10. Fill each shell about 3/of the way, and place in the oven for 6-8 minutes. This part needs an adult but I did have Joshua spoon a few of the madeleines into the tray. Watch them carefully, as they’re quick to burn, we did 6 minutes only and this was more than enough to cook the madeleines.  As soon as they’re golden and puffed up, take them out of the oven and remove from the pan. Let them rest on a kitchen towel and cool down prior to eating. You could dust these with a little icing sugar prior to serving.

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These quantities will make about two batches, so if you have one pan, don’t forget to stick it back in the freezer before making the second batch.

I would love to try this in orange, they can also be made in vanilla, chocolate and lavender flavour. I enjoyed one of these with a cup of tea, these are such a lovely goûter (afternoon snack).

An interesting literary reference to madeleines was brought to my attention by Helene. She referred to this delightfully as “Madeleines de Proust”, an expression which refers to a vivid memory from childhood that is triggered by a taste or smell and refers to a passage written by Marcel Proust in his book Remembrance of Things Past. He uses the memories brought back by madeleines as a way to contrast involuntary memory with voluntary memory and says that voluntary memories can never be as complete as they do not bear the essence of the past. Isn’t it amazing the memories that are evoked through our senses? Our senses are so powerful, that’s why I believe that Montessori education and concrete learning experiences offered are so effective.

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Cherry Clafoutis

I have been unwell the last few days so we have been home and Joshua is back into baking again. We made a cherry clafoutis that Joshua loved and was a great way to use up our stock of cherries, the first of the season here in Australia.

We are loving French recipes at the moment, French recipes are so delicious and so easy to make. Cherry clafoutis (pronounced kla-foo-tee) is a very traditional version of the French flan that is made traditionally with cherries. This recipe required a bit of preparation of the cherries but also was a great chance for Joshua to exercise his practical life skills – pitting the cherries, helping me wash them, pouring, scooping, stirring. I sourced this from French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. Check out the blog recipe here.

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Ingredients:
2 cups (150g) pitted cherries or plums (or other moist fruit – we used just a little more as we like lots of cherries in our clafoutis!)
1/3 cup (75g) granulated sugar (white sugar)
1/cup (70g) plain flour
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
11/cups (360ml) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon icing sugar for dusting

Method:

1. Pit the cherries.

2. Place the fruit in a bowl with half the sugar, stir well and set aside.

2014_11_14_IMG_76123. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 9 inch (23cm) baking dish. We used a flan pan and this worked quite nicely.

4. In a large bowl, sift the flour with the salt and the remaining sugar. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk to combine. Add the vanilla extract.

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5. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and combine well. Pour the batter into the dish and drop in the cherries as evenly as possible. If after pouring the batter you find that the cherries float around I would push them back into a more even spread.

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6. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is firm and golden brown. Cool, then sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve immediately.

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I tried another method which is to bake this dish twice – bake a thin layer to the bottom of the dish, then add the fruit topped with remaining batter and baking until done. I found that this baked the clafoutis a little more thoroughly and evenly. I also recommend serving the clafoutis in the baking dish as it does not transfer well to other dishes. It puffs up in the oven and then sags a little – this is meant to happen so don’t panic when it does.

Just to note – the pan was completely cool when Joshua put his mouth toward it as he did in the picture above, I would never allow him near a baking pan that was hot, unsupervised.

What I love so much about this recipe is how easy it is to make and how toddler friendly it is. Joshua did most of the work for this, I helped by preparing the measured ingredients, putting the flan into/taking out the flan from the oven and slicing up to serve only.

Me Do It – Updated Clothes Cupboard Work Space

Since the start of the year we have been working hard to get some things done around the house. This includes updating many of the work spaces so that Joshua can access things much more easily. The leap from baby to toddler has required ongoing adjustments as needs arise so it has been somewhat of a challenge to keep an eye on the work area as well as sleep and self care areas to ensure that they still meet Joshua’s needs. We had been coping with his bedroom cupboard which has not been very satisfactory as Joshua could not reach many things so a great deal of reorganisation has been required since late last year.

After searching and getting inspiration from other sources online, the main change we decided to install a lower hanging rail so that Joshua can access things like jumpers, jackets and coats. We installed this rail – all you need is a hand drill and some screws.

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You can see how high the rail is for adult clothing. It is no wonder children must feel like they live in a world full of giants.

As time has gone on I have adjusted the space to include some space for underwear, socks, tops, pants and singlets so it now looks like this.

20140707_101608As you can see it is all at a height that is accessible for Joshua. These are simple little plastic shelves from the $2 shop. The hangers to hang his jackets are easy to reach. On the left we have his pajamas. On the right from top to bottom:

  1. Underwear, singlets, accessories (hats, gloves, socks)
  2. Shirts – t-shirts, long sleeve shirts
  3. Pants – trousers on the left, tracksuit pants on the right.

Items such as shoes are still kept on the shoe rack next to the back door which is where we exit to go to the car. It still makes sense to keep those near the door as that is when they are going to be used. Joshua has a little cube chair nearby that he uses when he is ready to dress himself in the morning. We are currently working on putting on socks, these are still tricky for him to put on independently.

The other side of the wardrobe was a bit more challenging. We decided to make this into the side that stores all his bedding.

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We currently have these drawers in our house fitted into the cupboard. I dislike having drawers out taking up space outside the inbuilt closet and this arrangement seems to work well for us – not to mention being accessible to Joshua as he has able to open and close these drawers easily. We also have built in robes so it makes sense to try and make use of the space that is available. This has his waterproof sheets, pillow covers, doona covers and fitted sheets. Joshua is also able to reach these – except for the waterproof sheets.

All in all I feel that this arrangement is far more satisfactory than the old one. Do you have pictures of your clothing storage spaces? I would love to see them.

Me Do It – Practical Life Toddler Activities

Joshua is 25 months old. For Montessorians the most important activities at this age are practical life exercises which can be easily set up in the home. Joshua has been so interested in cutting, chopping, lifting, carrying, moving, wiping, preparing, sweeping, brushing. You name it, he wants to do it, he wants to be involved. If I pick up the broom to sweep his little hands are grasping for the broom and pushing me out of the way, me do it Mama. If I start preparing dinner his little face is always nearby and I can see him pushing his step stool up to the bench next to me out of the corner of my eye.

Here are a few ideas for practical life exercises – we have been doing so many lately I thought I would share some snippets of our day. Please note that these practical exercises are classified under “care of the environment” exercises. There are other exercises that are considered to be practical life (e.g. care of self) but I am focusing on the “care of environment” area in this post.

Wiping and cleaning table. This is great water play.

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Mopping the floor. Joshua is still working on his technique, he tends to drag the mop and broom around with one hand, sometimes two.

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Window washing. I did a post on it here. Joshua is getting much better at squeezing the spray bottle.

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Squeezing orange juice. This requires a lot of strength, Joshua is still working on this and needs help but he knows that if he wants a glass of juice (a treat in our house) he has to work for it. Cut, squeeze, pour and drink. I love watching Joshua do this exercise, the look of focus on his face is wonderful.

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Cutting and chopping. We have a variety of knives and a chopping board for Joshua to support this development. He also practices spreading condiments every morning on his toast. Here Joshua is using a yellow kid safe knife and a first knife.

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Washing dishes in a basin the old fashioned way. Part of our daily routine is to clean up the dishes.

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Grating cheese – Joshua’s contribution to our dinner. Real tasks in the home for the youngest family member.

20140306_184914This is real participation in the life of the family. To be needed in such a manner makes a child feel very big and important. To be able to do something for oneself brings great satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment that no amount of fancy toys or gadgets can provide.  Throughout history (and even into today) adults give children pretend tools and toys to use.  But children emulate adults and want to do what adults are doing. So why provide pretend tools when they can do the work themselves with the correct modelling? Recognising this need, providing real child size tools and adjusting the world made for adults to help children participate in it effectively was one of Maria Montessori’s greatest contributions.

There are many physical, emotional and mental values in work. Through these activities the child learns to be independent. There can be no intelligent choice or responsibility at any age without independence in thought and action. He learns to concentrate, to control muscles, to focus, to analyse logical steps, and complete a cycle of activity.

… It is helpful to begin with one thing, perhaps putting the napkins on the table for a meal, and gradually add to the repertoire of tasks in which the child can participate, and little by little take over.

Susan Mayclin Stephenson, The Joyful Child, Montessori Global Wisdom for Birth to Three

There are so many more things such as sweeping, cooking, vacuuming, scrubbing, pouring, setting a table and polishing that are great activities to set up for your child to work on. We don’t do every one of these every day – that would be unrealistic. But when the opportunity presents itself we make sure Joshua is offered the chance to participate.

We try to do somethine every day, an achievable target. Each builds Joshua’s confidence and self belief and makes him stronger and more independent.

Activity of the Day – Banana Bread

I had a few queries on the banana bread I was making with Joshua today that I thought I would do a post on it. I am by no means a cooking expert but this one is so easy to make and toddler baking friendly.

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Best ever banana bread recipe:

Ingredients:
100g butter – soft
100g brown sugar
1 egg 450g bananas, mashed (ripe ones are better)
3 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla essence
225g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
100g raisins
40g chopped pecans or walnuts (optional, i didn’t put these in as I am not a fan of nuts in bread)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and line a 22 x 11 x 7cm tin (A small loaf tin basically).
  2. Have your toddler mash up the banana in a separate bowl while you measure out the other ingredients.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy then add egg and continue to beat until smooth.
  4. Add mashed bananas, yoghurt and vanilla essence. 
  5. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate soda, cinnamon and salt and beat this gradually into the banana mixture.
  6. Finally stir in the raisins and chopped nuts if using. Let your toddler use their wooden spoon to mix this in themselves. (At this point you will probably need to pull out and fend off little fingers if you haven’t had to already as the batter is delicious).
  7. Bake for about an hour until stick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (I checked at 45 minutes and this was enough to cook it and have it super moist so would recommend checking to see what it is like at this time and decide if you want to cook it longer. My oven at that temperature seems to cook things a bit quicker.) Let it cool in the pan and is lovely served warm.

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Me Do It – Window Cleaning

With the weather so warm here in Melbourne it has been fun getting out things for water play. When practical life activities can be done easily that involve water it’s a bonus.

After calling Joshua over to demonstrate, he had a go at washing the large windows on our sliding doors.

Spray. Clean. Wipe. Repeat.

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Practical life activities are wonderful and Joshua is enjoying using his own tools to complete tasks around the house. We have a lot of glass to clean so we won’t be running short on windows that need cleaning.

Me Do It – Rolling Up A Work Mat

At Montessori Toddler Group Joshua is good at pulling out mats and putting them away but these are flat mats for stacking. At home we have a mat that needs to be rolled up so we have been practicing tidying up and rolling away the work mat.

Joshua’s first attempt at rolling up the work mat was a little skewed. In an attempt to please he thought maybe I will stuff it into the space it is stored.

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Let’s try again Joshua. Lay out the mat flat and practice rolling up neatly.

20140210_102624 20140210_102626 20140210_102634Joshua’s technique involves rolling the mat up by flicking it to roll with both hands. Beautifully rolled up and put away. This is quickly becoming part of the routine when we clean up at the end of the day.