Thursday, January 9, 2014

The things I do for these kids

I've got a reward system for my classroom that, in a round-about way, allows the kids to select from 4 different rewards: brownies, chew gum in class, eat snacks in class, or have a party during lunch. Being sixth-graders, the kids go for brownies as often as possible. I think it's mainly because they don't really understand what the other rewards entail, but whatever.

Anyway, I had a class that got the brownies reward right before the break, so the first day of the semester we started our morning with a healthy breakfast:

The kids are 1). blown away that I make my own food and 2). convinced that I make these brownies from scratch. One even said, "You have to give my nanny your recipe for brownies!" ...I got the recipe from my good friend Betty!
Since I cheat and use a brownie mix, you'd think this reward would be pretty straight forward and easy.


This is Kuwait. Nothing is ever straightforward and easy, it seems! Let me take you through my baking adventure.

It start with lighting the oven, which is an adventure in and of itself.

It's always a gamble whether the gas is going to light. Sometimes it takes two or three matches and then you just hope you don't blow up the whole kitchen!

So while the oven is preheating, I throw together the mixes. It takes 4 bags of mix to make enough for 1 class to have 1 brownie each student. The bags are about 1.5KD per bag, which translates to about $21 each time a class earns this reward. Being that this is Kuwait, I could get brownies delivered in less time it takes for me to make them at home, but that costs about 16KD (~$57).

Kitty supervises the whole operation. 
Once the batter is poured, everything is ready to go into the oven. What we've discovered over here is that the oven doesn't heat evenly, so everything always burns super fast on the bottom, but stays almost raw on the top. Golden brown doesn't translate with this oven. Thankfully, a bake-aholic colleague figured out a fix.

Ew. I'm just seeing the disgusting layer of dust in the broiler. I don't even know how to go about cleaning that.

See the can on the bottom of the oven? It's filled up with water that boils as the oven gets hotter. The steam somewhat evens out the temperature in the oven so things cook a little more thoroughly. It's not fail proof, the bottom still cooks faster than the top. But the steam helps things along.

So you'd think I could just throw things in the oven, set a timer and be done, right?!


Because of the drain in the floor of our kitchen, the stove is a little slanted, which means the batter slowly moves to one side of the pan.

It's Kitty's favorite toy in the kitchen. It makes mopping the kitchen floor so much easier....for our cleaning lady.
I probably could shove some shims up under there and call it a day. But that would be logical and would require shims. So I throw things in the oven, and set a timer for 10 minutes. I make sure to put things in the oven before it is fully preheated because it gives things the chance to bake a little more slowly. Keeps the bottom from burning as quickly. I rotate the pans every 10 minutes for two 10-minute cycles or until I see the bottom and the edges have cooked through but the middle is still pretty soupy.

Then I turn the oven down to about 200 degrees and let it bake for another 10 minutes. After that the bottom is juuust about burned but the middle is still not done. So I turn the oven off completely and leave the brownies in for another 10 minutes. THEN they are ready to come out of the oven.

They're still pretty chewy, but it does the trick! The kids love the brownies and work really hard to earn the class reward. Teacher friends will attest, having a class reward the kids deem worthy of their good behavior is worth all the KD and baking time in the world!

Vicariously yours,

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