STYLE

Children learn to bake pies and decorate cakes in hands-on classes

08/08/2013 02:15 EDT | Updated 10/08/2013 05:12 EDT
Having one's fingers in every pie has a whole new meaning when young children are getting creative in the kitchen.

Culinary camps, offered at venues across the country, are just the latest way kids can learn a life skill while having fun. Not only do they glean valuable knowledge about food preparation, but they also gain confidence in handling knives and other kitchen tools.

Lisa Sanguedolce owns Le Dolci in Toronto, which aims to provide foodie education along with its sweet treats.

"We think a lot of kids love baking and love watching YouTube videos on how to bake, so this has been a great experience for them to actually come and do things from start to finish," explained Sanguedolce in the midst of a recent class focusing on summer strawberry pies.

"So they get to make their dough, create their fillings, create their pie and then take it home and eat it, so it's been a great experience for kids who've always wanted to bake."

The five participants, ranging in age from five to nine, each concocted a pie. Once the kitchen portion of the class wrapped up, the kids spent the rest of the day doing crafts such as T-shirt decorating or playing games, singing or dancing.

Monet Parker, 9, said cooking "is just fun to do and then you can eat it after so it's fun."

Matthew Quinn, also 9, said creating the lattice top for the pie was challenging "because you have to make the strings straight. Otherwise, you're going to mess it up."

Any pastry scraps were turned into cinnamon rolls. "I'm going to cook them and I'm going to eat them," he added with anticipation.

Neither child is a novice in the kitchen; they've both made cakes and cupcakes at home and Monet had made a pie.

For James Quinn, 6, rolling out the dough was the best part of pie baking. He said he enjoyed making a cake the day before and was looking forward to preparing pizza and eating it for lunch the next day.

Eight-year-old Olivia Garrido's favourite tip: "We put flour on the dough so it won't stick to the rolling pin," she explained.

The children are given plenty of individual attention. Along with Sanguedolce, teacher Cherry Yeung provides guidance, such as showing students how to brush the top of the pie with an egg wash "as if you're washing a painting" so that the pastry will brown nicely.

During the week, kids also baked cookies and decorated them with royal icing, made sponge cakes with butter cream icing and prepared and decorated cupcakes with fondant and butter cream icing.

Sanguedolce said four and older is the best age for children to attend cooking classes. "We have had children under the age of two come, but that's been quite a rarity. I think four years old is when they can kind of sit and have lots of fun on their own."

Like many other culinary schools across the country, she offers camps during March break and at Christmas in addition to summer sessions. At Le Dolci there are also evening classes for adults and weekend sessions where mothers or fathers can attend with their child.

"We started with a few birthday parties and parents were interested in doing more, so we started putting kids programming together and it's one of our most popular parts of the business doing kids birthday parties and kids events," Sanguedolce said, adding that cupcake decorating is a favourite activity of the youngsters.

For adults, she also offers private parties and corporate team-building events with challenges using food.

"People, adults especially, are always looking for something new to do and corporates really love it because it's different," she said.

"They're working with food and it's not your average team-building event when you're working with pies or chocolate or learning to roll truffles. I think that we're bringing something new and our goal is to have fun."

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