Young Chefs & ZeBot Bake Great Things in Silver Spring

by (in order of who spoke up first) Bryce (age 11), Michele (age 10), Oliver (age 10), Wiley (age 11), Clint, (age 11), Quinn (age 12) and ZeBot Zebra (age infinity – kitchen creds at

We’re baking up amazing things here in Silver Spring – and we want to share our expert kitchen observations and insights with you!

We think the best things about baking are:

The fun of making everything ourselves
Stirring ingredients and watching batter come together
Tasting different flavors and textures
Being proud that everything is really homemade
Not having to buy muffins and scones at the store
Eating all the great things we baked ourselves
Our families and friends enjoying the special things we bake

Here are a few of our favorite baking secrets:

Being creative is cool. You can customize recipes with your favorite flavors. Just for fun, we added a little bit of freshly grated orange zest to our scones. (We were snacking on oranges and thought it would be interesting to mix them into the batter we were making). When the scones were baked, the bright, fruity flavor perfectly complemented the crunchy sweetness of the caramelized topping.

Measuring is a science. You would think you could just scoop out flour with the measuring cup, but it turns out that’s not the best way to do it. Chef Sheila said that when you dip a measuring cup into a tin of flour, it compacts the flour and actually increases the weight relative to the amount of space it fills (so your measurements are a little bit off), which means your baked creations won’t have a light, fluffy texture. Instead, use a spoon to over-fill your measuring cup, then level it off with a straight edge like a bench scraper or wooden spoon.

Mixing is an art. When we were stirring, we realized how important it is to move the spoon across the bottom of the bowl and all the way through the batter, turning and folding so that all ingredients get completely mixed in. Otherwise you can have big lumps of flour or clumps of zucchini or other goopy stuff messing up your recipe! Little lumps of flour are okay in muffins–it’s important not to over mix. If you over mix, you’ll see tunnels in your muffins, and the top will look like an exploded volcano.

It’s fun to talk while you bake. We learned lots of interesting stuff from each other – like what people’s favorite flavors are, what our fellow cooks’ cats and dogs look like (please see below), and that avocados (which were in the fruit bowl next to ripe pears) are also known as alligator pears. In general, it was a great example of creative collaboration!

Teamwork is important. One of the best things about teaming up with other cooks is that everyone can take charge of a different task to make sure things get done properly and on schedule. It’s great that one cook can be measuring or stirring while someone else is keeping an eye on what’s baking in the oven.

Baking details are important. Here are some examples: Using a silicone baking mat helps your scone topping brown and caramelize perfectly without sticking to the baking sheet. A mini scoop makes it easy to put equal amounts of batter into each well of a muffin pan. And if you spray the top of your muffin pans with a nonstick baking spray, you can easily remove the baked muffins before they’ve totally cooled.

Hungry for more creative kitchen inspiration? Stay tuned – we’ll be back soon!

Click here for the recipe for Oatmeal Currant Scones and here for Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins.

Early Release Cooking Classes, Jan. 25 and 26


Something fun to do on the afternoon of an early release day from school Jan. 25 and 26

Chef Sheila will open her kitchen to children (ages 13-17) who love to bake cookies, muffins and quick breads on Thursday afternoon. As usual, she honors special recipe requests, so let her know what baked goods your child is eager to learn to make. We will divide up the baked goods to take home, along with recipes.

On Friday afternoon, boys and girls (ages 8-12) will try out their apple pie baking skills. Everyone will go home with a 9-inch flaky, buttery double-crust apple pie they will construct in class and bake at home. A Pyrex glass pie plate and recipes are included in the fee.

Email Chef Sheila to let her know about your child’s food allergies, sensitivities and restrictions: crye4(at)aol(dot)com.


THURSDAY, JAN. 25, 1:30-4:30 p.m., for ages 13-17: Cookies, Muffins and Quick Breads; FRIDAY, JAN. 26, 1:30-4:30 p.m., for ages 8-12: Apple Pie and Pie Crust Cookies EACH 3-HOUR CLASS COSTS $75


Blue-Ribbon Muffins

The August 7-11 cooking camp focused on baking for the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, in addition to preparing and eating a simple, healthy lunch each day.

Since only one person could take credit for each entry, we drew lots, because everyone helped to make all the baked goods. As a result, six campers competed with seven entries. Campers baked:

  • Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
  • Chocolate Fudge with Pretzels
  • Snickerdoodles
  • Banana Loaf Cake
  • Pecan Caramel Bar Cookies

It was so fun! We had a blast. Each day, we set aside the six most perfect specimens for the fair, and then we divided the rest for campers to take home and share.

Today Chef Sheila received an email from the mother of the 8-year-old girl, who won first place for muffins. YAY!!!

Here is a link to the recipe for Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins, from Chef Sheila’s cousin, Edith Benthem Bain.