is this cheesy? gougeres & early childhood education
so, in an effort to personalize, and diversify our blog, here goes! i am so blessed that my children aren't required by my work schedule to attend 'pre-school'! lusso, and having my awesome business partners, has given us all the abilty to work AND be moms. that being said i CHOOSE to send my boys for early childhood education. maybe a little because i need a FEW hours here and there to myself, but mostly because i think they grow and benefit from it. so i send them short week half days, which is lovely for both of us. they get a little structure to some of their days, and i get 2.5 hours a few times a week to actually get something done, or usually, to take a shower all by myself. LUXURY!
i am crazy about our pre-school. the Walter Ambrose Family Center is the early childhood education hub of the Webster Groves School District. it is AMAZING. while following the many federal and state rules and regulations, they also manage to do some amazing and surprising things. the most important, i think, is that they EMPOWER kids to explore. they loosely follow an Emillio Reggio based 'exploratory' and 'experiential' style of learning. (my words ;) not theirs!), which essentially lets kids guide what they are learning about, and learn through experiences and exploration. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach
So there are all these INCREDIBLE spaces, called ATELIERs, which in italian means 'a studio or design space, generally used by an artist or designer'.
i had the pleasure of working with 4 kiddos, aged 4 and 5 in the Kitchen Atelier this week. i have to admit i am JEALOUS of this kitchen, and also, that when i first heard about it i was a little leary. Kids using ovens and hot pans? but you know what? kids love it! you know what else? cooking is science. taking this batch of stuff, mixing it, heating it, cooling it, making it something else. science! how cool!
so most of you probably know I LOVE TO BAKE. but we can't always make sweet stuff in the kitchen... what? really? (hey i don't want the other parents to know i could survive on chocolate croissants...) so my challenge was to find something else, so next best thing for me? CHEESE! we made cheese snacks. 3 of them in fact. and i threw in all kinds of geography learning stuff too which i'll get to in a second, but the best part of it, was i got pre-schoolers to MAKE ME GOUGERES!
we made 3 snacks, the first and easiest, was Parmesan Cheese Crisps (made from italian style cheese). easiest recipe on the planet. take shredded parm, pile it up, bake it.
next easiest Cheddar Cheese Straws(made from english style cheese) this was fun too! Phyllo dough, paint with egg wash, sprinkle with cheese, fold like a blanket, bake it.
and lastly, GOUGERES! (made from swiss style cheese) butter, salt, water, boil. add flour. add eggs. add cheese. put it in a pastry bag - this is the part the kids liked! and squeeze it out. bake it, and VOILA! my absolute favorite cheese snack in the world. did i mention the entire school smelled like a FROMAGERIE! and lots of people coming in to check on what we were making.
then they got to share their cheese snacks with their friends and the staff.
moral of the story, y'all? if a 4 year old can make gougeres. so can you. here's an awesome recipe to get you started... (from the awesome peeps over at www.simplebites.net)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 5 Tbsp. butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ¼ cup grated gruyere cheese
- Pinch of fresh ground nutmeg (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Combine the water, milk, butter, salt, pepper and sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat and cook until the butter melts, 1-2 minutes.
- Immediately add in the flour and stir until a dough ball forms and pulls away from the sides of the pot. Continue stirring vigorously until the dough is no longer sticky and starts to clump into a ball.
- Stir enthusiastically for another minute or so, until the dough is smooth and glossy.
- Allow the dough to cool for 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs, one a time, fully incorporating each one before adding another. Scrape down the bowl each time. Add the cheese and nutmeg (if using) and stir to combine.
- Using an ice cream scoop, two spoons, or piping bag (we piped 'cuz it was fun!) fitted with a wide round tip, drop tablespoon-sized dollops of the paste onto prepared baking sheets.
- Bake for 15 minutes; rotate the pans from front-to-back and top-to-bottom, then reduce the heat to 375 and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the puffs are golden and crisp (ovens may vary, so begin checking them after 10 minutes).
- Let cool a bit, but serve warm!
and here's some great articles from NPR about early childhood education:
have some cheesey fun with your kiddos!