Article by Sally Hall
With winter upon us it is frequently necessary to stay in due to bad weather, wet weather or it just being so darn cold! Baking is a great way to entertain the little ones and gives you the added bonus of producing something yummy at the end of it, as long as you don’t mind being left with a little bit of mess!
Cookies are a great option as they cook and cool quickly meaning by the time you have enlisted the assistance of your little helper to clear up from making the dough, it’ll be time to decorate and make yet more mess. And you can pick up some great cookie cutters which make it even more fun. Throw some cranberries or raisins into the mix and you may even be able to persuade any fussy little eaters to eat some fruit too!
I won’t bore you with the entirety of my growing collection of cookie cutters; I openly and unashamedly admit that it is pretty extensive and bordering on the obsessive. But, a mummy has needs and in my case, it is cookie cutters! And whilst it is true that Dalton (my 3 year old) and I do bake a lot, I also use my cookie cutters for all sorts of other things including play-dough, templates to draw around and when Dalton went through a stage of refusing to eat meat, turning homemade hamburgers and chicken slices into dinosaurs which he was more than happy to decapitate and then eat!
And I really love to theme the shapes of sandwiches at parties, so ghosts and pumpkins for Halloween and hearts or stars for baby showers. Last year, Dalton had a knight themed birthday party and the sandwiches were all shield and dragon shapes, and the year before it was farm themed with all manner of animals stuffed to their edges with cheese, ham, jam and peanut butter. This year is mini-beasts and I have already bought the snail, butterfly and dragonfly shaped cutters ready to theme my sandwiches once more. I admit, it is a shocking waste of bread (unless you are super organised and blitz the leftovers into breadcrumbs ready for the freezer, but I have to admit I am not,) but you can always feed the ducks, and the sandwiches look so darn cute that I think it is worth the effort and the waste.
But back to the cookies; There is basic recipe below which has been adapted over the past couple of years to suit the tastes of my brood, but remember you can throw in anything you like.
If you are looking for something a bit quicker and easier – muffins are fab. Unlike the precision needed for cakes, you can chuck all of the ingredients into a bowl for muffins, let your toddler give them a good mix up, ignore the lumps, slop the mix into muffin cases and amazingly, no matter how much of a disaster the pre-cooked mix may look like, you will end up with beautifully risen, yummy muffins. Don’t ask me why they always work despite the lack of care, but they do and are therefore the perfect choice for giving your child a huge sense of achievement and you of course get to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Plus, the great thing with muffins is, even more so than with cookies, you can chuck in whatever you may have to hand, the perfect sneaky way to get that extra bit of fruit or fibre into your child’s diet without them even realising, or just use up the unloved strawberries left in the fridge or brown bananas in the fruit bowl. Just remember if you add a moist fruit, you may need to reduce your liquid content a bit so that your mix does not end up too sloppy, or give them an extra minute or so in the oven to cook.
So securely fasten an apron around their front and yours, roll all sleeves up and get baking! We have some beautiful aprons at www.dorothyandtheodore.com, and I defy you not to love the Mummy and Mini-Me rolling pins we have which can be personalised with your sous-chef’s name.
Basic Cookie Recipe
225g of room temperature Butter
125g of Sugar
280 g of Plain Flour plus more to roll out with
1 Egg yolk
2 tsp. of Vanilla Essence
1. Pre-heat the oven to gas Mark 4.
2. Weigh out the ingredients together and choose cookie cutter shapes.
3. Cream the sugar and butter together in a bowl until it is pale. We normally put ours in the food mixer and Dalton happily watches it whir around, but you can of course do this by hand if you prefer.
4. Add the flour, egg and vanilla essence gradually until it is all combined.
5. Transfer out onto a well-floured work surface. You will need quite a bit of flour especially with children as they tend to get hot sticky hands!
6. Roll out the dough until it is approximately 1.5cm thick.
7. Press cookie cutter firmly into dough. A palate knife or fish slice may help in lifting the shapes out of the dough.
8. Roll out any leftover dough and repeat step 7.
9. Place your cookies on a well-buttered baking tin making sure that they are well-spaced apart.
10. Cook for about 10-15 minutes or until they are golden brown.
11. Leave them to cool for a few minutes on the baking tray and then transfer them onto a wire rack for cooling. If you like your cookies softer, transfer them sooner, and if you prefer a crunchier cookie leave them on the baking tray a bit longer.
12. Decorate when they are cool. Hundreds and Thousands are of course a popular choice but don’t blame me if you are still clearing them up many days later!
13. Make a cuppa for you and a glass of milk for your sous-chef, and enjoy!
Sally Hall is mummy to Dalton aged 3 and Belle aged 4 months and is co-founder of www.dorothyandtheodore.com
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