Bite-sized Baking for Friends and Family

‘Tis the season for so much that is so good to be shared with so many. We enjoy serving up wonderful meals, gifts and moments. However, with the challenges of finding a healthy balance, focusing on moderation, and tracking down the right ingredients, we all know difficult this can sometimes be during the busy holiday season. Fortunately, when you hold the measuring cup, bowl and knife, it helps.

Whether you’re looking for specialty ingredients or an American heritage recipe, many of our members offer helpful guidance and resources. Baking for Special Needs can help with ingredient substitutions too.

If the loved-one you’re baking for is watching their diet and focused on making it through the holiday season, and the delicious goodies that come with it, without needing a new wardrobe, we suggest embracing wisdom from about 70 years ago—before “mega-sizing” cookies, muffins, and cakes was typical. Treats from back then look like “bite-sized” portions today, and that’s exactly what we need.

Download this image as a PDF

To make this work, you may need to down-size both the portions and the plate. To get in the right mind-set, compare a current dessert plate with one from your great grandmother’s (should you have it handy!). We’ve done it ourselves and the size difference can be a bit startling; today’s dessert plate is about the size of a previous generation’s salad plate. Those smaller dessert plates is why your grandmother could cut a 9 X 13-inch cake to serve 24 or more. Today it’s more likely to be cut to serve 16.

Bake your favorite chocolate cake, portion in small squares, serve in a muffin cup and use just a drizzle of Three Ingredient Caramel – click here

Another way to achieve a “bite-sized” goal is to create a Charcuterie Board from favorite home made crackers, crisp flat breads  , meats, cheeses and olives. Delight taste buds by preparing Fresh Fig Preserves or a Brown Sugar Mustard.

Add to your brown sugar knowledge with a baker’s ingredient guide.

For the bread basket, consider Pretzel Bites—so many options are available!

Tarts or “tartlets” are a great way to go savory and bite-sized too. Jiffy Ham and Cheese Tarts or Cranberry Walnut Tartlets tucked on a festive tray or boxed make a perfect gift.

By going “bite-sized,” you’ll love the delight of friends and family enjoying a taste of several options without the January consequences!

Have a happy and healthy holiday season,

Sharon Davis
Home Baking Association





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Dining In Day is Just Around the Corner

The Annual Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS) Day, “Dining In” for Healthy Families campaign is just around the corner–Monday, Dec. 3rd! As a member of an organization in the Family & Consumer Science profession, which leads advocacy efforts for the field, your involvement is needed!

FCS Day is an opportunity to promote family and consumer sciences programs, and resources that support family mealtime. Families are asked to commit to making and eating a healthy meal together on December 3rd – the birthday of AAFCS founder, Ellen Swallow Richards, first woman graduate of MIT. For purposes of the campaign, AAFCS is defining family very loosely–relatives, neighbors, co-workers, community members, or fellow members of an organization!

Since 2014, more than 400,000 commitments have been made to “dining in” on Family & Consumer Sciences Day. In 2018, the goal is to add 200,000 “Dining In” commitments. To reach the goal of 200,000 commitments to “Dining In,” your outreach efforts are critical.

Here are simple actions you can take now:

Please keep in mind that if you can’t celebrate FCS Day on December 3rd, it’s okay.  The date is flexible – “dining in” most anytime between now and December 15th counts! In fact, if you initiated family mealtime programs any time in the 2018 calendar year, you can retroactively make that commitment using the same form.

For more ideas on promoting FCS Day in your business, school, or community, please take a look at suggested ideas on the FCS Day website.

Thank you for supporting this important initiative! TOGETHER, we are stronger … as the “go to” professionals for education related to essential life skills.

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Pilgrim Bread

I’ll keep this short to allow you time to bake what is one of the tried-and-true breads of my life—Pilgrim Bread.  The original recipe—splattered and worn—is in my More-with-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre.

This bread is great baked in small batches for family or nearby neighbors as well as large batches like the hundreds baked to raise funds for refugee needs in El Paso. Very soon it will be baked by 200 “pilgrim” teens in Atlanta attending their 4-H Congress.  We’ll “Share the Wealth” baking brings to life and give half to the Atlanta Food Pantry. defines a pilgrim as “a person who journeys, especially a long distance, (often) to some sacred place; a traveler or wanderer, especially in a foreign place.”  This sums up most of our experiences, starting with personal family trees and onward to this time of year when we share what is sacred time with friends, families, faith groups and communities.

I hope you’ll carve out time to bake this bread that combines three nourishing ancient grains, a little leaven, brown sugar, water, oil and salt. Feel free to slow down the process with cooler water and regular active dry yeast.  If this bread is too sweet for your tastes, simple decrease the sugar.

Need how-to help or a source for an ingredient?  View key steps to measuring and kneading in our Baking Glossary and members’ test kitchens

Pilgrim Bread   Makes 16 buns, four small round loaves or two large loaves.


1 ½ cups (12 oz) Water, very hot (180-190°F)

½ cup (2.5 oz/70g) Cornmeal, yellow or white

¼ cup (1.6 oz/45 g) Vegetable oil 

½ cup (4 oz) Water, cool

4 ½ tsp (½ oz/14 g) Instant or fast-rising yeast (2 pkg)

¼ cup (2 oz/55 g) Brown sugar, packed

2 cups (8.5 oz/240g) Whole wheat flour (hard wheat)

½ cup (1.8 oz/55g) Sorghum or rye flour 

2 ½ tsp. (½ oz/15g) Table salt

3 cups (12.75oz/360g) Bread flour, unbleached*

 *May require additional small amount for kneading

 Directions Tie back hair, remove jewelry, wash hands, put on apron.

  1. In large mixing bowl whisk very hot water and cornmeal to blend. Stir in vegetable oil or shortening. Continue with Step 2.
  2. In separate mixing bowl combine yeast, brown sugar, whole wheat flour, sorghum OR rye flour and salt. Mix well.
  3. Add cold water to cornmeal mixture; take a temperature to be sure it’s cooled to 130°F. Stir in the flour and yeast mixture.  Stirring vigorously, adding 1/2 cup at a time, mix in 1½ cups bread flour.  Stir about 3 minutes, until rough dough ball forms.
  4. Measure last 1 cup bread flour. Scrape out mixing bowl, turning dough onto clean kneading surface, or add dough hook to mixer to develop dough.
  5. Sprinkle the dough with about ¼ cup flour. Knead in the bowl or on the mat/counter for 1-2 minutes. Repeat with ¼ cup more flour, kneading another minute.  Repeat 2 times more. Dough should become smooth and elastic.  If dough is very sticky, sprinkle with another 2 T. flour and knead again. Stir/knead/mix 5 – 10 minutes.
  6. Turn bowl over dough. Let rest at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, wash hands, counter, line or oil sheet pan; sprinkle pan with cornmeal.
  7. Gently weigh dough. Divide dough in equal halves to form into two large loaves, or equal fourths for four small loaves or into 16 buns. Stagger or space loaves and buns at least 2-inches apart.
  8. Cover lightly or proof about 20-30 minutes (loaves double in size)— a 105°F draft-free place is great.
  9. Preheat oven to 375°F. Slash loaves in center top (about ¼-inch deep).  Bake 25-30 minutes, until 190°-200°F. at center of loaf. Cool bread on wire racks until 100°F. at center before slicing or packaging.
  10. Wash counters, utensils and hands before handling baked bread. Store bread at 70°-95°F.—do not refrigerate bread–freeze bread if not eaten in 1 day.
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Sculpting Bread Dough for Seasonal Decor

With seasonal décor flooding the stores, do you ever imagine sculpting your own decorations from bread dough? For ideas on how to accomplish this, the 2018 Kansas Wheat Commission recipe book features over thirty bread sculptures.

The Kansas Wheat staff publish an annual recipe book—a collectors item for many.  I asked why this year’s recipe book features Bread Sculptures for All Seasons. Cindy Falk, Kansas Wheat nutrition educator recalls, “The 2018 annual recipe book inspiration began at the 2017 Kansas State Fair. We had more people stopping just to see the bread sculptures used as exhibit decorations. With all of the interest in the booth, came the idea to hold a Bread Sculpture Contest to coincide with launching a 2018 recipe book on bread sculptures.  We chose to organize the sculptures by seasons, and so anyone could dough sculpt, we developed step-by-step photos with detailed instructions.”

Falk organized the inaugural Kansas State Fair Bread Sculpture contest and registered over thirty entries. An ornate, woven bread basket filled with colorful, painted flowers was awarded the grand champion prize. 

Long before the 2018 fair, Cindy along with her assistant Julene DeRouchey,  sculpted, styled and photographed dozens of creative bread shapes. The results?  We can all now roll up our sleeves and prepare a simple white or whole wheat dough for sculpting anything from bees to fishes…to spiders to witches.  

Each season showcases six to 10 creations to set apart every gathering.  For example, learn how to sculpt centerpieces like a stunning, golden Sunflower, a cluster of rustic Harvest Grapes, and all-time favorite Tom Turkey.    

Check out this beautiful Kansas Sunflower  and Tom Turkey 

Guests will be delighted to find their place at the dinner table with their very own filled mini-cornucopia. They can also enjoy a bountiful bread basket overflowing with rosettes, rose blossoms, and sweetheart cinnamon rolls.

Decorate for any season with an eye-appealing bread sculpture. See the step-by-step instructions at here

Finally, share your sculpting skills with others and turn your holiday creations into a fund raising campaign for a special cause. Together, we can “Bake the World a Better Place.”  

If you’re a culinary or FCS teacher, learning the skill to bake these value-added products helps achieve 20+ Family and Consumer Sciences standards, builds Career and Tech skills, is STEM + Art (STEAM) and applies Baking Food Safety.  

You’ll find Julene and Cindy featured on HBA’s Dough Sculpting 101 DVD.  Download a free lesson




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Fall… How Sweet It Is

The beautiful array of apples coming into the market takes me back to junior high Family & Consumer Sciences home economics classes I taught.  There were a surprising number of students who “didn’t like apples!”  This could not drop off my teacher radar—apples are relatively inexpensive, extremely nutritious treats.  What to do?  (It NEVER works to just say “Eat this, it’s good for you.”)

Using sensory science first, we’d cut and labeled sample slices of about 5-8 varieties.  Tasting one slice of each variety helped the students prove to themselves “an apple is NOT just an apple.”

You’ll love the U.S. Apple Association’s variety chart

Sometimes we’d simply Bake Apples, or make Homemade Applesauce, to see and taste how flavors and textures differed.

Often we’d tackle something a little more grand—apple galettes, apple pie, or apple cake, all were favorites.

My pick for Fall 2018—Apple Custard Pie

If you go “gluten-free,” as the recipe suggests, you’ll need a Gluten-free Pie Crust

Fruit and sugar go hand and hand—it’s a great time to help the students learn facts about sugar while they learn about fruit.  Explore how the “sweet” gets in fruit, and where sugar comes from. Both are the product of photosynthesis. Download infographic here

Brush up on your sugar myths and facts with this Food Insight, August 2018 feature, and Sugar in the Diet consumer facts.

Illustrate with a small apple (a serving) and The Fruit in All Forms, Making Sense of Sugars Infographic to teach sugar and fruit facts

Promote critical thinking— Is the apple’s sugar a “natural” sugar?  How did it get there?  If the apple’s sugar was extracted into a sugar bowl, would your body use it in the same way?  Sugar is not evil. It often comes with nutritious company.

Help the students get a handle on Bite-Sized Tips on Sugar Portion Control 

Round out the eating experience.  After you’ve created a beautiful Apple Custard Pie, help the students portion it sensibly, sit down, turn the tech off, and enjoy eating together, slowly savoring a little of Fall’s beauty and flavor.


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What September Brings to the Table

September offers a bounty of great baking ideas and resources. Three of my favorites this fall include the Whole Grains Council’s Deal of the Day specials for Whole Grains Month.

I may need to speak for myself, but I plan to “get out of my culinary rut,” and try a new whole grain recipe each week.  Access the “how-to” whole grain baking guide and many whole grain recipe videos for home or in foods classrooms or out-of-school programs.

Take time to Instagram and tag what you do with #SPOTWHOLEGRAIN for a chance to win $500.

FREE is always an educator’s dream.  Down load or order these baking food safety  resources from The Partnership for Food Safety Education and

Fall’s bounty has begun! My baking will begin with Whole Grain Carrot Streusel Coffee Cake, Smart Snack, p. 13. I’ll make them as a muffin for a portable breakfast.

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August is for Fair for Baking

Recipes and Resources for State and County Fairs
by Sharon Davis

August is not generally top-of-mind baking season, but even while you read, some of the most amazing baking ever is coming out of home kitchens all over the country for county and state fairs.  This is good on many levels. Parents or adult 4-H and youth leaders are happy to engage young bakers in some major summer mental and eye-hand coordination workouts.

Baking  “mental workouts” often include ingredient or pan substitutions as young bakers explore ribbon-winning recipes.  After all, what actually IS apple pie spice?  What do I do if I don’t have buttermilk or cake flour?  Can I substitute anything for honey?

Young bakers will need to be self-critics re: their products before the products are judged.

The science of cause and effect is a great part of baking. For yeast breads, access What Happened to the Yeast Bread chart for help.

Learn from test kitchen baker successes like cakes and pies

… and breads

Check out the winners from wheat country’s finest… Oklahoma Best of Bread, Wheat Montana, the National Festival of Breads and many more

Take time to for your own little baking challenge.  Visit a fair near you. Buy a fat little spiral notebook to log your baking inspirations, trials and errors, successes, questions and challenges.  You’ll be ready for FALL baking season before you know it.


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Baking Math for Families and Young Children

To help my children with math, I had to find where math had its groove in our life—where it was applied and practical. I didn’t want to pass on my math fears! Because I teach baking, we used simple math concepts, methods, and measurements, and we enjoyed the results. Children often want to help—and help sample the finished product! Find time, at least once a week, to hold baking sessions that can start math conversations and calculations!

Baking math begins with forming a habit called mis en place—everything in order—“ducks in a row”—before you ever put the flour in the bowl. Bake together and build math skills along with these 10 baking habits:

1. Pick an ingredient your children have read about—apples, blueberries, carrots, butter, zucchini. Ask children “What shapes do you see?” Bake waffles, pancakes, bread, and pizza.

2. Choose a recipe with simple ingredients and 1, 2, 3, directions. Recipes at and (Spanish or English) are a great start. Check your library for Cooking Class and Baking Class by Deanna F. Cook—perfect for young bakers.

3. Read the recipe, top to bottom, reading aloud ingredient names, amounts needed, oven temperature, baking time, and steps, beginning to end.

4. Ask, “What ingredient is used in the smallest amount?” “Which is the largest amount?” “Is there more flour than sugar or butter?”

5.Find each ingredient and place it on the counter. Ask your child to help put the ingredients in the order they will be used.

6. Offer children under age 2 the dry measuring cups to use as stacking cups. By age 3, they can hand you “the littlest cup,” (1/4 cup), the “medium-sized cup” (1/2 cup) or, you can ask, “Which cup has a 3 on it (⅓ cup)?” Help children fill the cups and level the measure off. Let them add the ingredients to the mixing bowl.

7. Bake the same-sized cookies, muffins, and loaves. This isn’t just to avoid fights over the biggest cookie! Help 4-year-olds work on hand–eye coordination by scooping batter or dough. Ask them to guess why all the cookies or muffins on one pan need to be equally spaced and the same size. (All will bake the same—if some are big and some small, the big ones might be raw while the little ones could be burnt.)

8. What is a fraction—or part of a cup? Have your 5-year-old measure two ½ cups of flour and transfer flour to the 1 cup measure. Show them that “1 over 2” is ½ cup; if the ½ cup is used twice it will equal 1 cup. This may be done with ¼ (four ¼ cups = 1 cup) or ⅓ (three ⅓ cups = 1 cup).

9. Check the oven—Ask if it is empty. “How many racks are in it?” “We will use the middle rack—which one is that?” Heat the oven to the temperature in the recipe—have your older children match the oven degrees in the recipe to the oven dial or toggle up to the degree number. Ask, “How hot will the oven be?” Compare and contrast the oven’s heat to a hot summer day—the oven is 3 to 4 times hotter! Remind your children: ONLY adults should load and remove pans from a hot oven.

10. Get a simple food scale. Help older children weigh their pancake, muffin, or bread serving to see its net weight. “Is it 1 ounce?” That’s one serving. “Does it weigh more?” “How many bread servings is your pancake?” Weigh the ingredients after measuring them. See if your child can get 1 cup of flour to weigh 4.25 ounces three times in a row!

Above all, wash hands before you begin and after you handle flour and raw batter or dough to reduce the number of bacteria on your hands.

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The Winner of the 2018 Educator Award Has Been Announced

2018 Home Baking Association Educator Award

First Place Selection:

Cheryl Z. Doyle and Louann Moos

Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers
Pennbrook Middle School
North Wales, PA
Entry: The Pennbrook Baking Club
Congratulations to this year’s winners!  The Pennbrook Baking Club is an after school club for middle school students.  Its purpose is for students to practice baking skills, raise money for charity and have fun!  HBA members will meet Cheryl Doyle and Louann Moos at the Home Baking Association Annual Membership Meeting, September 30 – October 2 at the Resort at Squaw Creek, Olympic Valley, California.   
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Bake to Build Learning with Special Needs Children

Summer vacations are coming with teachers and students both glad AND hopeful.  Teachers HOPE their students will USE summer time with their parents, grands, friends and sibs to keep learning.  Students are GLAD to have creative learning opportunities. Baking is uniquely suited both. The Home Baking Association offers many resources to assist, but what about teaching children with special needs?

Veteran Family & Consumer Sciences teacher Connie Nieman shares adaptations to build baking skills and confidence when there are special learning needs.

“My students often shared that their Grandma helped them get excited about baking.  I wanted to teach my granddaughter even though she has ADHD and some special learning needs.  Having worked with many special learning needs, doing this at home with my own grandchild still presented a challenge.  Remember:  It was well worth the challenges. During my research I learned that baking with special learning needs children is so important. It helps them develop eye-hand coordination, hand strength, boosts listening and sequencing skills, helps math skills, plus organization and planning skills.”

I think you will find this guidance helps:

  • Allow more time. No rushing.
  • Pre-teach the child appropriate and safe kitchen behavior –such as washing their hands. Do not just expect them to just know.  Guides to help can be found at
  • Let the child help choose the recipe. It’s more motivating! Do guide them to choose a simple recipe for a baked item you know they’ll enjoy eating.
  • Provide the child with photos of recipes or samples of the baked food. It helps them visualize and makes the baking tasks needed more exciting to “check off” to get to the goal!
  • Use a recipe that has easily read, 1,2,3, directions. Depending on the cognitive and physical abilities of the child some children may do best with picture directions. Visual Recipes by Tabitha Orth, Kid Chefs Bake by Lisa Huff, Baking Class by Deanna F. Cook and Picture Cook by Katie Shelby are good options.
  • Visual receipes is an on-line source where you can also prepare your own picture directions with the child.
  • Pre-read the recipe aloud with all children. When there’s a special learning need, it’s essential! While reading, highlight and illustrate the terms that need to be identified.
  • Work together to number or highlight each step of the recipe with colors to break the recipe into small steps. Too many directions at once will overwhelm.
  • Visually review only the equipment and ingredients necessary for the recipe.
  • Work together to gather each item needed and arrange in order for preparation. It is important to have the least distractors possible, so eliminate items that are not needed in the recipe.
  • Buy equipment that will help make preparation easier. Specialized equipment for children with a special learning needs include plastic knives, non-slip cutting boards, wide handles on spoons and tools, plastic liquid measuring cups, and mixers that are not electric.
  • Accommodations to help child gain independence may include measuring cups and spoons with a color system will help the child eventually memorize the measuring tool size needed to prepare baking recipes.

  • Mark clearly the dials on the oven for the child to easily set to preheat.
  • More clearly mark liquid ingredient cup lines to give children a visual clue for when to quit pouring. Eventually and ideally these will wear off and the student will  cook without them.
  • Demonstrate parts or the entire recipe, but then allow the child to do it too. Be sure to keep the listening time short.
  • Pause between steps when giving directions to allow the child time to carry out the process in his mind. Have the child repeat some of the directions as you show them a skill. You may repeat some of the directions too.  Last, ask the child questions with facts and asking for facts in return during the demonstration
  • Take breaks. Take time to clear the mind or time for movement to “blow off steam.”
  • Divide the process. It is often difficult to focus for a long amount of time. Break up the recipe.

Example: You may only prepare the dry ingredient mixture in the morning and finish the recipe later.  Yeast breads like pizza crust work well—prepare the dough, cover and refrigerate or let it rest. Make the pizza later! Here are tips for postponing baking

  • Often students with special learning needs do not feel they succeed. Provide the child with reinforcement for accomplishments, but DO correct errors. Reward child when they correct the error. Please don’t make eating raw batter or licking mixing tools a reward. Raw flour and eggs could make them sick.

  • Show their success with a Food Skills Check List!

  • Expand the learning, field to kitchen with Celebrate Wheat! Extra wheat, flour and pizza lessons.

One of my favorite recipes is to prepare with my granddaughter is pizza in a bag.  Here is the recipe for your convenience.

Another recipe we love because my granddaughter is a chocolate lover…

Here are several interesting articles you can read for more information:

Program teaches special needs students the art of baking

Cooking with Children with Special Needs

Written by:
Sharon Davis and Connie Nieman


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