Time: 2 hours

Note: An alternative is the "Bread in a Bag" activity which only takes about 30 minutes, see end of activity


How have baking methods changed over time and how does the nutritional quality compare? Often in exchange for convenience and saving time we turn to "quick-mix" baking since the older methods are sometimes perceived as more time consuming or difficult. However, quicker is not always better nutritionally or taste-wise.


In this activity, family members of at least two generations will work together to create two sets of baked goods, one using traditional baking utensils and recipes and the other using modern baking instruments and (prepared) mixes. Together, family members will examine how cooking methods and materials have changed over time. This activity can be done with any baked good that has a mix version. Muffins, especially fruit muffins, are a good alternative to cake and cookies.


General Objectives

  • Participants will engage in single family and multi-family conversations about cooking ingredients and their nutritional value.
  • Participants learn that quicker does not necessarily translate into healthier.

Specific Objectives

Participant will be able to:

  • create, as a family, two baked goods from different eras.
  • review and compare the nutritional value of those two food products.


Depending on recipe:

  • hand mixer (rotary beaters) (non-electric)
  • flour sifter
  • dough mixer
  • recipe and prepared mix for the same item -- try to use a nutritious product, such as bran muffins, most of the other muffin mixes have white flour, a lot of sugar, and no whole grains.
  • baking pans
  • kitchen facility with oven and sink, microwave, convection oven



Make sure that participants include at least one family member who knows how to bake a cake or cookies using a mix sold in supermarkets, and at least one person who knows how to work with all of the ingredients necessary to bake "from scratch." Consider grouping families if one family does not know how to bake.

Gather all of the ingredients and equipment needed to make a baked item from scratch and from a mix. Before they get started, family members should review the materials on the table to make sure that everyone knows what each tool is used for and what each ingredient is. Make only one recipe at a time to avoid confusion.


Have family members work together on each baking activity. They can divide the tasks for each recipe -- e.g, sifting flour, cracking eggs, and mixing.

Make sure that participating youths get hands-on experience with traditional baking utensils.

Taste Test and Discussion

After both recipes are completed and baked, have family members sample the items they made and discuss the pros and cons of each baking experience. Themes may include: time, cost, flavor, nutrition, artificial versus more natural ingredients, ease of use, ability to adjust for personal taste, moistness, crispness, etc. [Option: One way to help participants compare the nutritional aspects of the made-from-scratch and the pre-boxed items is to create sample Nutrition Labels for the families to compare both recipes.]

At the end of the discussion, put all of the baked goods out for everyone to enjoy!


Emphasize the idea that baking together can be a fun family experience. It can be a time to talk and discuss each other's lives. In past times the kitchen was where the women (although certainly today it can include men) "caught up" on each other's lives. Baking the old way can help a family find time to talk and improve their teamwork skills. While preparing the food, the generations can share family recipes and talk about how they cooked in previous generations.

Keep in mind that some resource stressed families might not have the appliances at home to do this activity. This is another consideration when determining whether to include this activity in your FRIDGE program.

Perhaps there would be interest in the group for some of them to get together and make "slow food" meals together in one of their homes! It might even inspire some of the families to start their own business. According to recent articles in the press (e.g., Mendez, 2005), there is a growing public demand for alternatives to fast food restaurants.

Alternative Activity

If there isn't enough time available to do the entire "Baking Now and Then" activity, consider the following simple cooking activity. Participating families could follow a simple recipe such as "bread in a bag" which is easy to make, not messy, and lots of fun.* They can make a loaf of bread or breadsticks or pretzel shapes. They can add seasonings -- cinnamon sugar, garlic, etc. Also, the recipe includes whole grains which we are emphasizing now. A quick mix muffin is not whole grain (a point that can be made with the "Baking Now and Then" activity). The bread and/or breadsticks can be baked in a toaster oven (easy to transport to workshops). A recipe makes a lot. The families could take home the extra "dough in the bag" and bake the rest at home.

* Get the "bread in a bag" recipe. On the left side of the page click on "Educational Materials." At the next page, click on WIN Kids Lessons. Scroll down and you will see one titled "Moving on with Fiber." It is a lesson with lots of activities and includes the recipe for making bread in a bag. The recipe is in Handout #3 WIN the Home: Bread in a Bag.

Contact Us

Matthew Kaplan, Ph.D.
  • Professor, Intergenerational Programs and Aging

Contact Us

Matthew Kaplan, Ph.D.
  • Professor, Intergenerational Programs and Aging