How to survive Shrove Tuesday and a rainy afternoon during half-term.
Sometimes there’s a gulf between the anticipated bliss and the reality of baking with young children. So it’s best to be prepared; my preparations for baking with children extend beyond washing my hands and putting on a pinny and just short of dropping a couple of Mogadon.
It’s definitely a good idea to be in a relaxed sort of mood, one in which you will be as enchanted by the puffy clouds of icing sugar as your children.
The recipe for successful baking with children goes something like this – take one rainy day, a bombproof recipe and a clear diary.
Shrove Tuesday Pancakes
A sense of fun is definitely required for Shrove Tuesday, inevitably house hounds will capitalise on tossing fatalities so to avoid tears either brief the kids on the potential collateral damage or contain the dog.
Tastes vary in our house so our table groans with all manner of pancake condiments, lemon, sugar, nutella, jam, banana, and pear – whatever gets you through the bite.
Makes: Enough for even the largest family to lose a few and still enjoy a pancake or two.
250g plain flour
a pinch of salt
2 free range eggs
500ml, or so milk and another drop if required
Sunflower or other flavourless oil.
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, make a well and break the eggs in. Add around half the milk and using a balloon whisk, get whisking. Gradually draw the flour in from the edges and prepare for claggy mess to fly round the kitchen. Gradually add the remaining milk to the claggy mixture until you have a smooth batter.
Pour a tablespoon of oil into a non-stick frying pan; shimmy the pan to coat and pour off the excess oil until on a sparse film is left. The flame should be just below full and the pan barely smoking. A full ladle of batter makes a standard sized pancake, smaller ones may be easier for younger children to toss and catch. Tilt the pan and run the batter around the pan, it’s ready to flip as soon as it bubbles. Loosen by shaking gently or run a palette knife around the edges to encourage it. Flip and cook briefly before sliding onto a plate. I generally find the first pancake is a bit sticky and stodgy – a sacrificial offering. Gobble them up, then and there.
Bookstop Café Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cookies are absolutely brilliant for baking with children, kids can get right in there up to their elbows and knock seven bells out of the dough and they still taste yummy. This recipe returned with me twenty years ago from Queenstown, New Zealand. I baked variations of it every day in my café and taught the young students who worked for me – including a medical student (now a Pediatric Consultant) whose mother claimed he was un-teachable – how to turn out a perfect cookie with bite on the outside and a little bit of chew inside.
Take the basic recipe and run with it – throw in whatever you like.
Makes enough to fill whole families of tummies.
1 cup butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 free range eggs
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2½ cups oatmeal
100g bar of milk choc smashed into smallish chunks – not too small
1½ cups nuts – peanuts, pecans or hazelnuts work well.
Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one by one then sift in the flour and baking powder and mix. Add the oatmeal, choc chunks and nuts. Then little hands can get to work making golf ball sized dollops to lay on a greased baking tray before putting in the oven for around 12 mins. The cookies will spread so leave plenty room between them and take them out just as they begin to colour at the edges.
Pour a long glass of milk and enjoy.
White chocolate & apricot: Increase the flour to 3 cups, lose the oatmeal, replace the milk chocolate with white and substitute the nuts with apricots.
Honey, oatmeal and raisin: add a tablespoon of honey when creaming the butter, sugar and vanilla extract; lose the chocolate and the nuts, adding instead 2½ cups of raisins.
Half Baked Cakes Vanilla Cupcakes
Half Baked Cakes in Kelso bake the most incredible cakes. Their cupcake wedding favours have a lovely vintage charm and these weather themed cupcakes are a great inspiration for artistically inclined baking kids.
Butter icing is easiest for little hands in a robust icing syringe rather than an icing bag, which is messy and liable to burst. Ensure you have loads of edible glitter and bits and bobs to decorate the cupcakes, Lakeland and Hobbycraft are both good sources.
Makes: 12 muffins.
170g caster sugar
3 free range eggs, beaten
1tsp vanilla extract
225g self raising flour
1 ½ tbsp milk
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, gradually add the beaten eggs and the vanilla extract. Sift the flour and fold in gently. Loosen if necessary with the milk and divide between cupcake cases in a non-stick muffin tray.
Bake for 15 mins or until lightly golden.
Tip. Do not overfill the cases, once risen they should sit below the level of the cupcase to allow room for icing.
140g softened butter
280g icing sugar
1-2 tsp milk
a drop, or two food colouring
Beat the butter until soft, add half the icing sugar –beware the puffy clouds – then add the remaining icing sugar a spoonful at a time and the milk until the mixture is smooth and creamy.