By Melissa Arnold
Pastry chef Duff Goldman has risen to become one of the titans of the baking world over the past 20 years. His bakery, Charm City Cakes, has crafted incredible sweets for anything from a child’s first birthday to a presidential inauguration, and he’s a fixture on the Food Network. Since 2014, Goldman has judged the network’s Kids Baking Championship, gently encouraging the eager contestants with pro tips and a sense of humor.
This year, he released Super Good Baking for Kids (HarperCollins), an easy-to-read cookbook covering kitchen basics and unique, whimsical recipes for bakers of any skill level. Kids are encouraged to experiment and have fun in the kitchen as they whip up dessert pizzas and tacos, unicorn cupcakes, Boston creme donuts and much more. The book is also full of helpful photos and interesting facts — a great addition to any kid’s (or adult’s!) holiday haul.
Goldman took some time to chat with TBR News Media recently about the book, his early food memories, and how parents can support their kids’ culinary adventures.
Lately, you’ve been working with kids a lot. Did your own interest in baking begin as a child?
Definitely, the interest began with cooking in general. My mom is a really good cook, my grandmother was a really good cook, and my great-grandmother was a baker. So I was always around it, and some of my earliest memories are food-related. Good food is really important to our family as a “thing,” not just as something that keeps you going. It’s a part of who we are.
Why did you decide to write this book?
Well, I read cookbooks all the time, and I’ve been reading a lot of kids’ cookbooks recently. I found myself thinking, “You know, these are okay, but if I were 9 or 10 years old I probably wouldn’t be that satisfied.” So I wanted to write a book that I thought I would enjoy [at that age]. When I think about the things I like in a cookbook, I’m looking for lots of details and things to discover. A good cookbook for kids is about a lot more than using bubble letters and crazy colors. Kids love facts, lists, pictures. And that’s what I wanted to give them.
Have the kids ever taught you something new?
Oh, yeah! One of the girls on Kids Baking Championship made a cupcake that had a graham cracker crust on the bottom, which I had never heard of before. I thought it was genius. So I decided to make a cookies-and-creme cupcake for this book that uses an Oreo crust because of what she taught me. There’s also a recipe in there for rainbow brownies — my wife and I took a big road trip for our honeymoon, and we visited some of her family. I asked one of her cousins who was 8 or 9 years old what recipe she would want in a cookbook, and she immediately said she wanted rainbow brownies. I told her, “You can’t have rainbow brownies — brownies are brown!” She told me to figure it out! So I did.
How do you go about deciding which recipes go into a cookbook?
We made a list of things that I’ve made in the past that people really tend to like, or recipes that get a lot of questions. There are certain things people are always asking how to make, so a lot of the process was about answering those questions people wonder about.
Some of the recipes I’ve included because I see them as a bit aspirational — something they can work toward and tackle as they get better. For example, the Boston creme donut recipe in there is the exact donut recipe I use in my own kitchen. There’s nothing different about it — nothing is made easier or safer, and they’re still being deep-fried in oil.
But watching kids on Kids Baking Championship shows you a lot about what kids can do. They can make fried stuff. They can use yeast. They can do it, as long as someone is there to help and make sure they work safely. The same can be said for working with knives when it’s appropriate — you can teach them that a knife is not a toy, that it’s sharp and it can hurt you.
Cooking can be dangerous, but it’s important to learn that you can do it safely if you treat it with respect. I wanted to include some of those lessons in the book as well and that we didn’t shy away from it, because I think sometimes people are excessively afraid. Just because there’s a risk involved doesn’t mean it should necessarily be avoided. I’m a big believer in giving kids a sense of accomplishment — it affects them in so many positive ways.
What are a couple of your favorite recipes in the book?
The brown butter blondies that are in there are one of my favorite things to eat, and they’re great to make for others because they’re so good. The dessert pizza recipe was actually suggested by my editor — I don’t really like them; I always thought it was a dumb idea. But I was challenged to make a dessert pizza I would enjoy, so I asked myself what it would be like — brownie stuffed crust! Red velvet sauce!
Dessert imposters [desserts that are made to resemble other foods] are a really big thing on Kids Baking Championship. The kids really look forward to it, so I wanted to make sure I included that as well. I love tacos, so I gave a lot of thought to what ingredients you could use in a dessert that looks like a taco but is still delicious.
What would you say to a kid who wants to become a baker?
The first thing to know is that it takes practice. The first chocolate cake you ever bake might not come out so good. And that’s okay. But as you keep baking, you’ll get better and better. It’s a new experience every time — sometimes it works out great, and sometimes things come out terrible. Even for me, when I make things today there’s always this feeling of excitement, like, “Oh boy, is this going to work out? I don’t know! Let’s see!”
What advice would you give a parent who is reluctant or nervous about letting their child cook or bake?
Honestly, truly — get over the fear! Seriously. I’m not saying that you should just let your kid go alone into the kitchen and deep fry some donuts. Go and be a part of it, do it with them! Read the directions, Google some safety tips, talk about it together. It doesn’t have to be scary. Some recipes or techniques can look intimidating just because you’ve never tried it before, and then you do it, and boom, you’ve gained a skill.
What age group is this book best for?
We’ve seen 9-year-olds come on Kids Baking Championship and totally school the other kids. So I don’t want to set an age requirement. And these recipes are legit — these aren’t little kid recipes where everything is a variation of a sugar cookie. You’re making donuts, puff pastry, pâte à choux — it’s all real pastry technique. I think the book is appropriate for any person, kid or adult, who shows interest and is willing to learn.
Super Good Baking for Kids is available at Book Revue in Huntington, Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.