When my now 6-year-old daughter was a toddler, it was no problem to get her to help in the kitchen. These days it’s much harder to tempt her away from her Incredibles LEGOS to come and cook with me. My 3-year-old son still loves to push a chair over to the counter to help me pour in ingredients whenever I’m baking, but even he is not as enthusiastic as he once was. That’s where I was hoping Cookshop’s Baking with Kids class could help us out. Cookshop is a new cooking school in Southeast Portland that offers a range of classes for kids, adults and families that build kitchen confidence.

I signed us up for a Sunday morning Baking With Kids class focusing on bagels, something we’d never attempted to do at home. When we got to the storefront, we saw lots of other families wanted to get in on the baking action, too. Around 15 kids total came out to make bagels. The class is aimed at kids ages 5 to 12, but younger kids were welcome as long as they were supervised by an adult (and there was no extra fee for the adult). Parents of older kids were free to stick around or leave and come back at the end of class. Since 3-year-old Cruz would be attending, I planned on rolling up my sleeves and pitching in.

Our instructor Meredith Mortensen, who is also the owner of Cookshop, smartly had some dough already prepped so the kids could get started right away. Shaping bagels turned out to be much easier than I thought. Mortensen showed us how to roll the dough into a ball, then use our thumbs to create a hole. In no time, my kids were rolling bagels like pros. Shaping (i.e. playing with) the dough was their favorite part. (Until it came time to top the bagels.)

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Mortensen then walked us through the process of mixing the dough with clear instructions, but when it came time for me and my kids to head to the smaller table and start making the dough, I realized I’d been more focused on keeping my kids in line than taking in the information. I wasn’t the only one. Another mom admitted she couldn’t remember what to do either — even though we had both just heard the instructions. But it was fine, we flagged down Mortensen and got a recap. We found the right bowl of flour to add to the stand mixer and had the kids take turns dumping in the salt, yeast and water, yielding a second round of bagel dough for shaping.

After the second round was shaped, Mortensen showed us how to “give the bagels a bath” in simmering water laced with baking soda. She did all the dunking of bagels to keep the kids from extremely hot water. And then she let the kids choose their toppings. I asked if Mortensen had any Kosher salt because Adela loves salt bagels; she brought out pretzel salt, which was even better. Adela was suitably impressed and specifically told her dad about that detail when we got home. Adela and Cruz also put poppy seeds and ground-up, freeze-dried blueberries and raspberries on their bagels. This was their new favorite part. (Until it came time to eat the bagels.) Once all the kids finished topping their bagels, Mortensen popped them in the oven.

Overall the class was quick-moving and fun, even if it felt a little chaotic since I was wrangling a 3-year-old. Given that backdrop, I very much appreciated Mortensen’s super calm and unruffled vibe. When kids got a little too close to the pot of boiling water on the stove or the super hot oven, she quietly, but firmly, gave helpful and specific directives, “When I have the oven open, please stay back by the island.” That calm demeanor is definitely something I will try to emulate the next time I am baking with my kids at home.

In the end, and perhaps predictably, my kids’ ultimate favorite part of the class was eating the bagels. When we got home we split them open, toasted them and slathered them with butter. (We even chowed down on some the next day, too, since Mortensen gave us the additional unbaked bagels to bake at home.) And all of us agreed they were pretty much the tastiest bagels ever. And I hope the next time I ask my kids if they want to bake with me, they will remember that something you make yourself tastes extra good and rush to the kitchen.

The details:

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Cookshop Baking with Kids classes are $24 for one child, or $40 for two. (Mini pies are on the menu for November’s Baking with Kids class.) Cookshop also offers a number of after-school and weekend family cooking classes. 2627 SE Clinton. portlandcookshop.com.

Get Cooking: More tasty classes for kids in PDX

From burgers to sushi, The Merry Kitchen offers a wide range of drop-off classes and winter break camps. You can also book a private family cooking session. Themerrykitchen.com.

Feed the Mass is a nonprofit that offers low-cost cooking classes. Check out their family sessions and “little chef” classes for ages 4 and up with a grown-up. Feedthemass.com.

Nic & Fig’s in Lake Oswego has classes for makers of all
stripes, but offers unique cooking classes for treats like sour gummies and “cheeseburger” cupcakes for ages 8 and older. Nicandfigs.com.

Denise Castañon
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