Resource on Trial: Bake through the Bible
Bake through the Bible: 20 fun cooking activities to explore the Bible with young children (The Good Book Company | £9)
‘I thought we were doing baking,’ said my goddaughter Harriet. ‘We are,’ I replied. ‘Then why are we reading a story?’ she asked.
Bake through the Bible is designed for parents to use with their young children. The book follows the story of the Bible, from creation through to Revelation, with each session providing a retold Bible story, a related recipe and questions to chat about. The recipes range in difficulty from spreading tuna on bread to making hot cross buns from scratch. Each session requires some careful planning: stories and recipes need to be read in advance, ingredients need to be bought and time needs to be set aside. Some of the recipes have ‘time saver’ options, where you can use ready-made items (such as pancakes) or packets (such as bread mix).
As I was trialling this in December, I thought I would try one of the Christmas sessions, which involved making festive cupcakes. I decided to test the recipe beforehand, particularly as it described a cake-making method I’d never tried before, involving melting butter together with milk on the stove – why would you include a potentially hazardous step when you didn’t need to? The test was a wise decision. The cake batter was possibly the most unpleasant I’ve ever made: thick and gloopy, it was the consistency of wallpaper paste and about as appetising. ‘Maybe it will improve with baking,’ I thought.
When they came out, I saw I was wrong. They looked strangely textured and had risen in weird peaks. I’m willing to admit that this weirdness might be down to my execution of the recipe, but I’m not a bad baker and have made hundreds of cupcakes, and the instructions, while illustrated, were quite difficult to follow.
Nevertheless, some of the best cakes come from unlikely batters, so on to the taste. The bottom of the cupcake came away with the paper case and the internal texture resembled a solid crumpet. The overriding taste was sugar. Though baked for the right amount of time and at the right temperature, the middles were tough and doughy, and the bases (when they finally came away from the cases) were overdone. Maybe I over-mixed the batter, but I wanted to get rid of most of the lumps of flour that lingered. The cakes, however, didn’t linger. They ended up in the bin.
So it was with a substitute recipe that I arrived at my god-daughter’s house to give my chosen session a go. As you might have guessed, Harriet was a bit confused by having to listen to a Bible story before we started baking and she didn’t particularly want to answer questions about the story as we baked (it was all we could do to get the egg into the mixing bowl). However, she did love the baking and as a time to build relationships, it was great.
Unlike the recipe, the content of the story was good. The language level of the text and the length of the stories themselves were suitable for younger children. The stories, while retold, stick closely to the story in the Bible – there are no weird inclusions or flights of fancy. Jesus is frequently referred to in the Old Testament stories, sometimes called the ‘Forever King’, allowing children to begin to catch Jesus’ pivotal role in the story of God and his people.
The questions provided were, on the whole, a bit too much like comprehension, checking a child’s knowledge rather than allowing space for them to wonder. This seemed an opportunity missed, as the stories chosen are key narratives for our faith. Children need the tools (and the permission) to wonder what God is doing and saying, to wonder what it means to them and to wonder about who God is.
Although the storytelling and exploration side of this resource didn’t work so well in practice on this occasion, I think that with repeated use, Bake through the Bible would start to create family tradition and routine, fostering the discussion of faith in a family context. Many Christian parents are looking for ways of creating God-memories with their children, and this book could be a good starting point.
MAIN STRENGTH: Well-written, provides the opportunity to foster Bible exploration in day-to-day life.
MAIN WEAKNESS: Questions were too knowledge-focused. Terrible cupcake recipe.