Gingerbread Cookies and Chaos in the Kitchen
I love baking, but while I am not a natural or instictive baker by any stretch of the imagination we do bake most weeks. Usually it’s flapjacks or maybe oatmeal cookies or fruity muffins, good healthy lunchbox treats. Recently I’ve become a fan of the Great British Bake Off on BBC, I can’t believe that I have only discovered it now, three years in. The premise sounds odd, get people to bake magnificent cakes in a tent in Somerset every weekend, eliminate contestants until someone is crowned winner. The programme has captured the imaginations of many and Wholesome Ireland’s blog has set up a challenge contest each week to mirror the programme. I’ve been too busy or too scared by the challenge to enter to date but the extra push I needed this week came when I saw that the categories included one especially for child helpers. I was sure to do well on that with so much enthusiastic help on offer in my kitchen.
I found a recipe that looked easy in one of our kiddie cookbooks and Ciarán and I took the opportunity to start the baking while Cathal napped.
I used the mixer, but he “knocked” the egg (“No shells at ALL Mammy, I’m very good at this”) and added it to the creamed butter and sugar and we let the mixer do its thing.
then he sieved the flour in
and did all the heavy work combining everything together with a wooden spoon and then his fingers – “this is too messy for you Mammy, I love it”.
We then let it rest in the fridge wrapped in cling film for an hour (actually longer as we went for a walk). When we took it out Cathal was ready to help so the boys got busy fighting over the rolling pin and bashing out the dough.
There was much consideration over which cutters to use, initially Ciarán chose “a gingerbread man and his cat and dog” but then when I asked what shape he wanted to use he took me literally and chose a circle and couldn’t be parted from it. Cathal took a shine to the gingerbread man cutter though so they still got made.
We baked them for about 12 minutes and then the hardest part of all, letting them cool before we could start decorating. Here, my confidence really overcame my common sense. I sat the boys at either side of the kitchen table, gave them a plate each and put all the decorations on the table, decorating pens, writing icing, sprinkles, Dr Oetker Polka Dots, multicoloured cereal balls, mini smarties, leftover snowmen from Christmas. The works, gaudy as you like.
It started out fine but degenerated into a raucous and rowdy event that involved a lot of me saying “calm down” and “no, don’t do that” and much cheeky laughter from the boys are they gobbled all the sprinkles, coloured their hands in with the icing pens and generally made a big mess. There were sprinkles in the grooves of the table “multicoloured cereal balls” all over the floor. The operation came to an abrupt end when an entire jar full of cereal balls was spilled and went everywhere and the hoover had to be pulled out, so there are a few undecorated cookies.
If you intend to do this with kids as young as mine (2 and 4) make sure to sit with them, supervise very closely and don’t turn your back for a second. In my “Hallmark moment” head I was clearing away dishes while they decorated, and that led to all hell breaking loose and them taking complete advantage of a frazzled Mammy. The divils.
Recipe: Gingerbread Cookies
(Recipe “Gingerbread Kings and Queens” from Baking with Tiny Tots” by Becky Johnson, called in it)
100g softened (room temp) butter
100g light brown sugar
A few drops of vanilla extract
200g self raising flour (and extra for dusting)
1 tablespoon ground ginger (except that I read this wrong and we only used a teaspoon)
Lots of fun things for decorating
We used Writing icing, mini smarties, Dr Oetker polka dots, sprinkles, and some leftover Christmas decorations from last year.
Cut the butter into small pieces and beat it and the sugar in a stand mixer until it’s smooth. Then add the egg and vanilla extract mix again til smooth. Sieve the flour and ground ginger into the mixing bowl and then mix it with a wooden spoon until it all comes together, form it into a ball with your hands and then wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for an hour.
TICK TOCK. ONE HOUR LATER
Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Take the dough out of the fridge. Flour your work surface (we used the very recently wiped table) and roll out the, dough with the rolling pin til it’s about 5mm thick, then cut out the shapes and place them on the lined baking trays. Cook in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Place on a wire tray too cool and when cool decorate as you wish. Be careful if you let small boys decorate, I learned the hard way.
FINAL PRODUCT PHOTO DISCLAIMER: I let the boys do the rolling, cutting and the only thing that I did was put them into the oven and watch them but still I overcooked some of them, for shame. These are not the prettiest photos, but the boys really enjoyed making them and eating them, and I have mostly recovered so I am publishing the truly awful photos to show what happens in real kitchens 🙂