I say ‘Christmas Cooking’ but if truth be told, what my kids really want is for me to do some cooking and then let them go mad with icing, lollies and anything generally filled with sugar and lurid colouring. And because it’s Christmas, I let them. I kind of think it’s a Christmas present to me, too: I get to use Christmas as an excuse to say yes to ludicrous amounts of sugar, mess and late bedtimes in the spirit of family festivities.
Anyway, here’s our top 5 things to ‘cook’ with your kids this December (as voted by our kids). One tip: I now always cover my kitchen bench in butcher’s paper when doing this kind of messy stuff with the kids – then just whip it off and throw it in the recycling bin. Because there’s only so much festive mess I can cope with!
These are really reliable, easy, tasty biscuits that lend themselves well to rolling out and hold their shape when cutting out. I usually make a double batch and stash half in the freezer. I’m not sure where I first got the recipe, but it was quite possibly a Nigella Lawson one that I’ve adapted. I let the kids cut out any shapes they want and then they ice and decorate. I like them all pretty in white glace icing with a few silver cashou balls. The kids disapprove of my meagre approach . . .
This is how their ones look:
Vanilla extract or paste
400g plain flour (or as much as you need to make it all hold together)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (I sometimes add a little more)
Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Mix in flour, powder and salt then knead briefly into a dough. I sometimes shape it into a disc and refrigerate to firm up – particularly if it’s a warm day. Then roll out reasonably thing, say 5mm and cut out shapes. These cook really quickly – around 10 minutes in my oven at 170 degrees. Cool on a rack then decorate.
Melted Snowmen biscuits
Using the above recipe, cut biscuits into round circles and bake. Cool.
Cover biscuits with white icing (icing sugar and water mixed to a thickish paste).
Put one white marshmallow on each biscuit and use black ‘writing icing’ to draw eyes on the marshmallow ‘head’. Use mini smarties or M&Ms to put ‘buttons’ on the snowman ‘puddle’ and use more writing icing to draw twiggy arms.
Cheats gingerbread houses
If you’re doing these for an entire kid’s class, you’ll need quite a few packets of Arnott’s Nice biscuits, as each ‘house’ takes 4 biscuits.
So, you’ll need: Nice biscuits (those rectangular ones covered in sugar), some thick, plain, butter icing, some white glace icing (for drippy looking snow) and lollies or silver cashou balls for decorating.
Sandwich two Nice biscuits together with the butter icing. Using more butter icing as ‘cement’, tent to further biscuits on top of these, to make the roof triangle. Drip the white glace icing over the roof gable to look like snow and sprinkle over decorations.
Mini chocolate puddings
Admittedly, grown ups love these ones too.
Either make a basic chocolate cake or just buy a chocolate sponge cake from the supermarket. Break it up to crumbs in a bowl and mix in a few tablespoons of golden syrup and sultanas (or any soft, dried fruit you like). I just throw in a big handful. Mix until it’s the right consistency for rolling into balls. Refrigerate these just until firm enough to handle.
Melt enough dark chocolate to cover the cake balls, then dunk the balls in and drain on a rack with baking paper underneath to catch the mess. When set, dollop a little melted white chocolate on top of each ball. My kids love this because they end up covered in melted chocolate.
Get the kids to put a cranberry on each one as the ‘holly berry’ and to chop up mint leaf lollies and put slivers on to represent the holly leaves. Or, you can just sprinkle more of the trusty silver cashou balls over the lot.
Festive fruit sticks
It doesn’t get much easier than this one. It’s also a good one to bring if you need to ‘bring a plate’ for the kids various Christmas parties.
Chop a banana into slices, and trim some strawberries. Thread onto toothpicks:
A grape, a slice of banana, a strawberry then a mini marshmallow. Little Santa fruit sticks!
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