- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

When we think of parent-child tutorials, we often picture a dining room table covered with books and paper or two chairs pulled up in front of the computer. I like to include the kitchen in this vision of shared learning.

Baking, in particular, can be a window through which children learn about many subjects. One of these is science, and oven work is an excellent way to spark awareness of chemistry. It’s wonderful to experience cause-and-effect while you are feasting on steaming hot popovers, fresh from the oven and paired with a few chunks of exquisitely tender, tart and sweet roasted fruit.

Popovers are a wonderful quick bread, for lack of a bona fide category. Biscuits? No. Buns? Not really. Not muffins, either. Popovers are actually very much like Yorkshire pudding without meat. Children just love the magical air-puffs.

Popovers are a terrific choice for making with smaller children, since the batter is so thin that even the tiniest arms can stir it with ease. And the science lesson is especially accessible. We incorporate a lot of air into the batter when we beat it.

When the batter comes in contact with heat, large air bubbles form and grow inside the popovers, trapped and held in place by the outside crust. When we take the popovers out of the oven, extract them from the pan and prick them with a fork, we can sometimes even see the steam escaping from the hole.

Roasting is a dry cooking process that surrounds the food with intense heat, causing it to cook from the inside out, literally steaming in its inner juices. Because no additional liquid is added, the juices evaporate. What you end up with is a chewy, intensely flavored, sweet result — something like fruit that has been partially dried.

You can make homemade roasted fruit up to several days in advance and store it in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator. Or try the overnight method and eat it straight from the oven the next morning with popovers, on toast or plain.

Popovers

2 tablespoons butter

2 large eggs

1 cup low-fat or other milk

1 cup flour

Pinch of salt

Melt butter. Place a standard (2

-inch) muffin pan or a popover pan in preheated 375-degree oven to heat.

Break eggs into a medium-large bowl. Beat eggs with a whisk as you drizzle in milk. Keep whisking until smooth. Sprinkle in flour and salt, and whisk until reasonably blended. The batter will have a few lumps.

Remove pans from oven. (Warn children not to touch hot pans.) Brush insides of 8 heated muffin cups or 6 popover cups with melted butter. Use a plastic measuring cup with a handle to scoop batter and pour into each buttered cup. They should be about ½ full. If you have extra batter, butter and fill an additional cup.

Bake in center of preheated 375-degree oven for 30 uninterrupted minutes. Remove popovers from pan and serve immediately. Makes 6 large or 8 smaller popovers.

2/3Homemade roasted fruit

Nonstick cooking spray

Apples

Pears

Under-ripe bananas

Papayas

Pineapple

Stone fruits such as peaches, plums, apricots, cherries

Grapes

Spray a ceramic baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Cut fruit into fairly large chunks, leaving the peel on. (If the fruit is peeled, it tends to fall apart.) Place chunks of fruit in a single layer, either peel side down or on sides in baking dish.

Place dish in preheated 425-degree oven and let fruit roast for about 30 minutes. (Softer fruit, such as peaches and plums, will cook more quickly than harder fruit, such as apples or pears.) Check on grapes, which tend to leak sugary juices and stick after about 15 minutes, and gently loosen them with a spatula and/or shake the pan to keep them from sticking. You might want to add a second application of nonstick cooking spray at this point.

When fruit feels tender to touch or a fork slides easily into the flesh, remove dish from oven and transfer fruit from dish onto a plate or a platter with a rim.

A NICE LITTLE SAUCE

Ro

asted fruit usually leaves behind a glaze of flavorful juices in the baking dish. You can retrieve this delicious coating and turn it into a nice little sauce for the fruit. After removing the fruit, simply pour about cup fruit juice into the still-hot pan. (Apple juice works best for this, although orange juice or pineapple juice are also good.)

Scrape and swish it around with a wooden spoon to catch all the fruit that has adhered to the pan during the roasting process. Strain the whole thing into a small bowl and give it a taste. You can leave it as is or season with a few drops of vinegar and a little sugar or pure maple syrup. Pour this sauce directly over the roasted fruit.

1/4 OVERNIGHT ROASTED FRUIT

Overnight roasted fruit has a very different appearance from fruit roasted in the regular way. The latter is lush and colorful looking, especially with the deglazed sauce drizzled on top. This overnight roasted version has its own look, which is miniaturized and exquisitely reduced to its utter essence. And on the practical side, it’s ready to grab and go.

This is essentially the same procedure as for regular roasted fruit (recipe precedes), except that the oven is not quite as hot and the fruit is left in the turned-off oven overnight. This method calls for lining the baking dish with foil, which makes short work of cleanup. It also means you won’t have the opportunity to deglaze the pan, but the whole overnight premise is that your mornings are too busy to do so anyway.

In the evening, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a ceramic baking dish with foil and spray it generously with nonstick cooking spray. Cut fruit into large chunks, unpeeled. Arrange pieces peel side down or on sides in the prepared dish and place dish in oven. After 30 minutes open oven, pull out tray and use a small metal spatula to loosen any pieces that might have stuck. After pieces are loosened, just leave them in place. Turn off oven and leave tray in there overnight. In the morning you will have a wonderful result: beautiful, small pieces of fruit that are tender, chewy and sweet, about half dried but still moist.

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