Sweet treats and Christmas go hand in hand. You can make some rewarding recipes with little effort, some willing helpers and very little money. Here we bring you a few suggestions of how to bring Christmas to the kitchen this festive season.
A Warning To all Perfectionists
With all our suggestions below, it’s important to remember that the key aspect of baking as a family is the experience you have together. Perfection isn’t the aim here and, instead, as the supervising adult you should aim to let the children take on as many of the aspects of baking possible, provided they can do so safely. Therefore you’ll find that our suggestions below focus on things you can make together but that can easily be customised by eager young minds. If time is short don’t be afraid to do the lion’s share of the baking yourself, and leave the decoration for an after school treat!
Love them or hate them the royalty of the Christmas treat world are mince pies. Luckily they’re deceptively easy to make, as this recipe from the BBC good food guide shows. However, we’re interested in ensuring we maximise the family time involved so here are some great tips for mince pie merriment!
Let them get messy
Although there are points you need to take control during baking children of any age can help with key aspects of the process such as weighing, mixing, rolling and filling. It’s important as the head chef that you understand that the important thing is that they’re engaged. This isn’t the great British bake-off… or is it?
Let them get competitive
Once you’ve got the basic pies down there’s a lot of scope for creativity. You can decorate the tops of the mince pies with fondant icing (for a super-easy recipe try this one), leave the lids off completely, or cut out a variety of Christmas shapes from shortcrust pastry.
“This isn’t the great British bake-off… or is it?”
It’s what’s inside that counts
Innovation isn’t just limited to the decoration of the pies either. If you want to jazz up the contents you can try adding:
- Apple and Cinnamon
- Chopped cherries
And, of course, mince pie sceptics can substitute other flavours entirely – easy replacement flavours include peanut butter and chocolate spread!
Gingerbread houses have come to be synonymous with Christmas over the years and the good news is they’re not as difficult to make as you might think.
Once again the BBC good food guide has a great simple recipe for constructing one, but simple is a word used here with some artistic licence – you would need to be a confident baker. As always, however, there is an alternative:
Consider using pre-bought kits
Many supermarkets and grocers sell pre-baked kits, which takes the pressure off of the bake and the focus on the essence of a gingerbread house — the construction and the decoration.
A little discussion goes a long way
Once you’ve nailed your construction it pays dividends to discuss with children their plans for decoration. You could even get them to sketch their idea of what the house should look like beforehand. It helps to buy the decorating materials first so they know what they’re working with… Try and stick to simple recurring patterns if you can!
Just remember, however, that letting your young ones imaginations run wild is part of the fun, so don’t be afraid to be unconventional.
Decorating the easy way
All you need to decorate a gingerbread house is a selection of shop-bought sweets and a tube of icing, which you can buy from supermarkets. You may have had a tube if icing included in your kit if you bought one but you can also make your own icing if you like using a recipe like this one. When buying your sweets try to go for those that have interesting shapes like bears or football boots, or ones that come in a range of colours and shapes. Minimalism is against the spirit of gingerbread houses! (at least where kids are concerned)
An alternative gingerbread suggestion
If money is tight this year or you’re not confident about crafting a biscuit gingerbread house why not consider just crafting gingerbread biscuits? If your kids are still wanting to include a house element you can easily make one from cardboard or recycled boxes, and fill it with your delicious creations! For guidance on decorating the house why not get some inspiration from our crafty Christmas article?
“An absurdly easy and satisfying recipe“
An absurdly easy and satisfying recipe is Christmas cake pops. Easy to make and evocative of things such as Christmas pudding these can be themed in a variety of ways, and are simple enough for kids to get involved.
How to make them
You need a chocolate cake – either homemade, store-bought or leftover. You then crumble it in a bowl, add a little cinnamon for that Christmassy taste and roll it into equally sized balls (around the size of a ping pong ball is ideal). If it doesn’t stick immediately add a little water to moisten it.
Poke in a lollypop stick to make a hole, which you fill with cooking chocolate. Then leave the stick in the hole upside down to harden. When secure dip the pop in melted chocolate.
The world is your oyster! You can use hundreds and thousands, cholate vermicelli, nuts or even just dust it in cocoa powder. If you let them harden you could even use roll our fondant icing to make them look like robins or Christmas puddings.
This adorable recipe is super easy to do, with steps than can be undertaken even by the youngest of chefs. What’s more, if you prepare the decorations in advance this is a recipe that can be fit into even the schedule of parents with demanding work schedules, or active children who never seem to have a minute between clubs and activities.
In a similar vein don’t feel you have to do any of the baking portions if you’re truly stuck for time and resources. Simply decorating store bought biscuits can be transformative – such as this example where one enterprising individual has transformed store bought Oreos into mini festive puddings. Once again the most important aspect (other than the delicious part of eating them) is to let your children’s creativity shine!
We hope the above helps you to have endless hours of fun in the kitchen with you family but, if taking our advice leaves you bit overfed and stodgy, then why not take a look at our guide to getting outdoors this Christmas as an incentive to getting out and about and making amends!