Spontaneous Confections

Gingersnaps in a snap and other quick baking ideas


 Many of us have great ambitions for cooking with our kids. We organize an apple pie project to use what we picked at the orchard upstate. We set aside a day for making our child’ s birthday cake, to their specifications and with their involvement. For the holidays, we de-gunk the cookie cutters our kids choose, and collect our gift tins.

But while some kids are into the process of prep, others might get restless waiting for pastry dough to rest or cake layers to cool or cookie dough to firm up for cutting. Cooking with kids for special occasions, including the holidays, tempts us to take on what time—and patience--often won’ t allow. For these kids, and many of us parents, the fun really begins when we can eat.

In these instances, if we still want to treat our kids to something sweet and homemade,we need to do as chefs do: keep a ready-to-go pantry of sweet, homemade essentials that we can assemble into quick, delicious treats.

Here are some examples:

Stockpile overripe bananas, frozen, for banana bread. Make big batches of cookie dough, then portion them individually, for use directly from the freezer.

Other, less obvious items, are just as easy to store, and more versatile in their use. They
might include:

--Crisp topping to keep for whatever fruit is ready to eat (freezer);
--Chocolate sauce for dipping bananas or slathering onto bread (refrigerator);
--Soft caramel for instant sundaes (refrigerator);
--Simple syrup for the quick popsicle (refrigerator);
--Play (sugar cookie) Dough for the quick cut-out cookie (refrigerator or freezer);
--Pate a choux, for baking up quick cream puffs (frozen in bite-size pieces).

But one of the basic prep items in the professional pastry kitchen is rarely seen in our kitchens at home. This is the Dry Mise.

A Dry Mise is short for Dry Mise en Place, a term that, while misrepresented by cooking shows as “ pretty glass bowls of nicely chopped things,” is central to the professional cook’ s pantry. And could be a great addition to yours.

Simply, mise en place refers to ingredients put in their appropriate place, and in a restaurant’ s case, for the most efficient assembly of the highest quality dish. Just as we may “ mise out” a soup before cooking, by chopping our vegetables and measuring our stock in advance, we may also “ mise” the pancakes for our favorite weekend breakfast, or the gingersnap cookies that our kids’ friends like us for. You could even mise out creative hot chocolate mixes, with excellent cocoa, the exact amount of sugar you like, and spices like cardamom or cinnamon.

You can identify uses for a Dry Mise in recipes that say “ to sift dry ingredients together”or “ combine all flours and sugars in a large bowl.” You can mise dry ingredients for things like waffles, quick breads, cookies, and cakes, which you then finish yourself, at your leisure.

There are obvious benefits to this. For one, it eliminates the time, mess, and pressure of having multiple little hands measure dry ingredients accurately, but retains, for kids, the pleasure of watching ingredients come together to make something magic. Plus, unlike making dough in advance, a Dry Mise requires no cold storage and takes up little pantry space.

Think of saving those takeout soup containers for storing the combined dry ingredients (flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, spices) and write a short hand of directions to follow to complete the recipe. Do this directly on the container with wax crayon. Or scribble some instructions on a small note card and stash the card inside with the dry mix. Make it as convenient as those box cake mixes from the store, but at a percentage of the cost, not to mention the improvement in quality and choice.

Gingersnap cookies are an easy pick for upcoming holiday treats.

For the recipe, click here!

Ronna Welsh

Ronna will be holding Purple Kale Kitchenworks parents-only workshop: Sunday, November 7, from noon to 5 pm in which she’ll show how to adapt professional techniques to cooking fast, delicious wholesome meals at home. For more info, please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


(It works! Ed.)