When it comes to cooking with children I’d love to be at the Stephanie Alexander end of the spectrum and welcome children into the kitchen with wide, open arms. I’m afraid I’m more at the actress Jane Kennedy end of the spectrum. Jane wrote a column for Sunday Style magazine describing her internal grimace whenever her children ask if they can help in the kitchen and I belly laughed with empathy.
I know it is important to cook with children. I cooked with our daughter Isabelle, 20, nearly every weekend when she was younger. Now we are reaping the rewards when she visits and offers to cook dinners and desserts. I admire her ability to combine ingredients, take a recipe and make it her own with improvisation, and her enthusiasm for cooking from scratch. Her latest brownies were a taste sensation.
Our youngest, Gryf, loves to “help” in the kitchen and has been trying his hand at mixing, beating and baking since he was old enough to stand on a chair and reach the kitchen bench. I try to be enthusiastic and involve him in what I’m doing. Of course at four-years-old he is most interested in making sweets. On Sunday mornings he’s there on a stool “helping” mix the pancake batter with beaters. Birthdays are a favourite time because he can “help” make a multitude of dishes in a short period of time. Lately, I’ve discovered it’s more relaxing for me to “help” him make something he wants to make, rather than vice versa.
Leading up to Christmas Gryf was keen to make Gingerbread Christmas Biscuits so I found a handwritten recipe for Gingerbread Men given to me by a friend, Jodie. I love this recipe because it makes the most delicious gingerbread I’ve tasted (we sampled Jodie’s recipe at a playgroup Christmas party years ago). I also just enjoy looking at architect Jodie’s handwriting and notepaper. Isn’t it something?
I helped Gryf mix the biscuit batter and use a rolling pin to flatten the base dough. He chose a few different biscuit cutters, Christmas trees, angels, stars, and gingerbread men with ‘bites’ taken out of them, and was all smiles as he pressed the impressions into the dough. He loved decorating the biscuits with icing (the lemon gives it a lovely tang) and we found some silver cachous pearls in the cupboard to add some biscuit bling. You could play around with piping the icing onto the biscuits for a more decorative effect. Then you’re all set to bring a plate for end of year Christmas parties or share a homemade gift with friends.
Jodie’s Gingerbread Men
Ingredients: Biscuit batter – 125g unsalted butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup golden syrup, 1 egg lightly beaten, 2 cups plain flour, 1/4 cup self raising flour, 1 teaspoon bicarb soda, 1 tablespoon ground ginger. Icing – 1 egg white, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 1/4 cups icing sugar.
Method: Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Mix butter, sugar and syrup, add egg gradually. Sift dry ingredients into wet mixture and mix with a knife until just combined. Combine dough with hands and knead on board for a couple of minutes. Roll dough to 5mm thick and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Cut dough and cook for 10 minutes or until lightly brown (Jodie advises taking them out when they are only just turning brown otherwise they’re too crunchy). For icing, beat egg white until foamy. Add lemon juice and icing sugar gradually and beat until foamy. Enjoy.