If you don’t have kids, chances are you have a niece, nephew or family friend you could borrow for the day. Trust me; baking with little ones is a lot of (messy) fun! And it’s not just a means to an end, it’s also an interactive experience for both of you. The fact that you get to gorge on a homemade sweet treat at the end of it is an added bonus.
Before you begin your baking adventure, though, there’s something you should know: do not – under any circumstance – embark on any of the following recipe suggestions if you are a) in a rush, b) stressed or c) in a bad mood. Keep it upbeat and be enthusiastic. If you’re anything like me (an utter control freak in the kitchen), you’ll need to let that go for the morning/afternoon. This is all about getting the little nippers involved.
I always let Evie come to the supermarket with me to help select the ingredients and put (throw) them into the trolley. She loves being given options and making decisions for herself – whether it’s choosing a dress to wear that day or picking out a magazine when her reward chart is shimmering with gold stars. So she’ll decide, for example, the type of cookies we’re going to bake – are they going to involve Smarties, cranberries, white chocolate or peanut butter? (*please peanut butter, please peanut butter*).
We had a lot of fun choosing the ingredients this Easter, lingering in the chocolate aisle for a suspiciously long time. Our menu features: Cream Egg brownies, hot cross buns and chocolate nests. I told you the S word would be heavily involved.
As soon as Evie has her apron on, hands washed, and is standing on her step-up so she’s the same height as me, she gets into the spirit of things and is ready to go. She was very excited about the six Cadbury’s Cream Eggs I had lined up on the work top and helped me cut them in half (lengthways) ready to squidge into the brownies later.
The most delicious and fool-proof recipe I have come across for brownies (and I’ve tried a fair few) is Anna Jones’ in her book ‘A Modern Way to Eat’. In the introduction to her ‘salted caramel crack brownies’, Anna bravely states: “find me someone who doesn’t like these and I’ll deliver you a batch myself” – I think she’d be hard pushed.
First up, a little English lesson. I like to get Evie to look at the recipe and read aloud the ingredients (ok, so I had to help her with the word ‘muscovado’ this time, but it’s a good way of getting them to learn words they may not be familiar with). Next, maths. Kids love weighing ingredients on the scales and measuring teaspoons of this and tablespoons of that. I even manage to throw a bit of science in there occasionally, when explaining to Evie what baking powder and bicarb of soda is used for (with the help of Google, obviously).
Anna’s brownie recipe, which contains seeds from a vanilla pod (Evie couldn’t believe that her favourite ice cream contains this), is topped with a quick caramel that seeps through the brownie and creates a delicious crackling effect on top. Now, this isn’t in Anna’s recipe, but about ten minutes before they were ready, Evie delicately (yeah, right!) placed the Cream Egg halves, “yolk” side up, over the top, giving them the chance to melt and ooze. They were demolished by friends and relatives (and us, of course) the very same day.
The next afternoon, we started thinking about our chocolate nests. Annabel Karmel was my saviour when Evie was younger; giving me guidance on what baby mush was best for weaning, all the way through to pasta dishes and bakes that I still make for her today. So I thought I’d give Annabel’s ‘chocolate egg nests’ a go. Normally, I use Rice Krispies or Cornflakes, but for an authentic ‘nest’ look I opted for Shredded Wheat – good for getting some wholegrain in there, too. The little one enjoyed breaking off pieces of chocolate into the pan, along with the golden syrup and butter. Once we’d stirred in the Shredded Wheat, we spooned the mixture into rounds with a dip in the centre (created by Evie’s thumb). After chilling in the fridge, we filled them with colourful mini eggs. She took them into nursery and got serious brownie (nest cake?) points.
Easter isn’t Easter without a hot cross bun. Nigella Lawson’s version is packed full of spices – cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger – great for getting Evie to stick her nose into each and teaching her about ingredients other than just flour, sugar and butter.
From the age of about two, Evie’s always been able to crack an egg better than me. I’ve never needed to frustratingly scoop out bits of shell when I’ve got my little helper nearby. This recipe calls for eggs in the dough, the egg wash and the cross on the buns, so she was in her element. After proofing them overnight (Evie was a bit confused by this step, but it taught her that good things come to those who wait) and watching them rise, we were delighted with the results – golden domes packed full of dried fruit. We had ours while they were still warm with a cup of tea (Evie had Horlicks). I don’t think we’ll ever be able to buy shop-bought ones again.
Easter is a great time to bake and experiment with new recipes. Something I try to tell myself when baking with my daughter, though, is not to stress over the mess! Yes, there’ll be a massive clean-up mission at the end, but it’s worth remembering (WARNING! – cheesy line alert coming up)… the memories will last longer than the mayhem.
Don’t forget to share your ideas for Easter baking with kids in the comments box below.
Toni Waterfall – Cookery, Food & Drink A mum with a food-loving family and a part-time pescatarian lifestyle, I’m always searching for delicious and practical ideas to try in the kitchen. My all-time favourite chef is Gordon Ramsay, but I’ve never made a bad meal using a Jamie Oliver recipe. Spaghetti bolognaise is the go-to meal in my household, but I also enjoy cooking curries from scratch – especially seafood ones. I always say that balance and seasoning are crucial elements of getting a dish right. I’m constantly thinking ahead to the next meal and am an impulsive, daily supermarket shopper, as opposed to a weekly bulk buyer.