I’m a Star!

This blog post (and the modest title!) comes to you from M, my 7-year old daughter …

I’m a Star!

Today I woke up in need to bake some cookies. I found a cook book full of treats and surprises and finally found a recipe that sounded very nice.

So I went to the work top and got all the ingredients out so I would be ready, but one of the ingredients wasn’t there. I searched the shops in need of this special ingredient but I couldn’t find it. I know, I thought. I’ll go back home and get into the spacecraft and whizz into space and ask the aliens for some stardust.

In I got, buckled myself in and typed which planet I wanted to go to. I typed in Mars. And……..

Zoom, off I went. I got the stardust and went back down to Earth again.

Right, I thought to myself. I’ve got all the ingredients I need so now it’s time to get baking.

needtobake

First I weighed the butter (5 oz) and then put the butter away in the big mixing bowl . Then I got out the stardust (golden caster sugar) and weighed it (5 oz) and put that in the big mixing bowl. I mixed it till light and fluffy. Then I went to get one egg and cracked it into the mixing bowl, then I got the lemon juice (two tablespoons) and tipped that in the big mixing bowl too. Then I mixed it all up.

crackingegg

After a while I got the flour (12 oz) and mixed that all up as well. Then I put it in the star chiller (fridge) for 10 to 15 minutes until it was firm.

After 10 minutes I got it out of the star chiller and placed it between 2 pieces of Clingfilm and slowly rolled it out. Then I got my star cutter and cutted some stars and put them on some trays ready to go into the star cosy (oven).

rollandcut

I put them in the star cosy for 7 minutes. When I took them out I left them to cool on a wire rack.

Now I had to make the icing for them. To make the icing, I got some icing sugar and some lemon juice and mixed them together and then got some twinkle sprinkles (sprinkles) and placed them on the cookies. Then ahhh, all the stars went zooming off to space ready for the night.

starcookies

Kids in the Kitchen

No sooner had we packed the Hallowe’en box back into the shed for another year than T was clamouring for the Christmas box to be brought inside.

“We have to make the house all Christmassy,” he announced on the first of November. I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to be picking up endless strands of tinsel, blobs of cotton wool and sprinkled glitter for the next couple of months, but 5-year-olds unfortunately don’t have a great sense of time scales . We eventually settled on a less than amicable compromise to dig out the Christmas box as soon as we hit December. T is currently getting his own back by repeatedly singing ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ at every opportunity. Lovely.

I wasn’t quite prepared however for how quickly November seems to be disappearing. Next week brings the turning on of the Christmas lights in Exeter, the school Christmas Fayre and only 30 shopping days left until jackpot. Regardless of the commercial pressure to start the build-up to Christmas as far in advance of the 25th December as possible (combined with the perhaps even greater pressure to do so coming from T), my diary is indeed careering uncontrollably out of its November pages.

My lack so far of a post in November is in no way indicative of the baking I have (or haven’t) been doing recently. In fact, I think I’ve attempted a greater range of  those out-of-your-comfort-zone sorts of recipes than I have ever done before in any given month. The only reason I haven’t blogged about them is because I’m sworn to secrecy. Seriously, the skies will split open and the hand of wrath will cast down fiery doomballs on me if I so much as let you peer through the glass in my oven door. You see, I’m having great fun testing recipes for Rose’s next book. But that means you’ll have to wait until it’s published before you too can taste the absolute sublimity of the recipes I’ve been baking. I can only promise you that it will be well worth the wait.

Of course, all of this also means that I haven’t had time to bake anything that I can actually talk about here on A Merrier World. BUT (and this is where the title of this post  finally comes into play) I confess to having turned my thoughts (perhaps hypocritically, considering my stance on T’s enthusiasm) towards baking for December’s holiday season as early as at the beginning of October …

Following the successful publication of my article on children’s lunchboxes in the North Devon and Exeter Families magazine, I contributed a second article for the November/December issue. This time, I waxed lyrical on a favourite topic of mine – kids in the kitchen.

I wrote about getting children involved in baking their own cookies to give away as festive gifts and included tips for helping children to achieve this as independently as possible. I also added a recipe for a basic chocolate cookie that can be used as a base for all sorts of imaginative extras.

I’ll stop prattling now and just give you the article instead. Hopefully, you won’t judge me too harshly for having brought this to you before we hit December …

 

In the Kitchen with Children

Everyone needs a festive cookie recipe up their sleeve, and what better way to celebrate the holiday season than to bake a special batch of cookies with your children for giving to friends and family? There are many varieties of cookies from oatmeal and fruit filled to mocha and peanut butter, but one of the most popular remains the simple chocolate chip cookie.

But don’t be fooled. A basic chocolate chip cookie recipe can be transformed into a truly seasonal treat  with a little imagination. Cranberries and pistachio nuts provide bursts of red and green, orange zest gives a festive aroma and white chocolate chips promise a scattering of snow.

Spend an afternoon baking with your children and they will be proud to parcel up their homemade treats to give away as presents (if you and they can resist the temptation to devour them all first, that is!).

Tips for Stress-Free Baking with Children

  • Supervise their handwashing before beginning to bake.
  • Collect together all the equipment you will need so that everything is close to hand.
  • Weigh out the ingredients in advance for younger children.
  • For older children, gather together all the ingredients they will need in advance but allow them to weigh out the amounts they need of each ingredient themselves.
  • Place each ingredient in an individual bowl (small plastic bowls work well for this) and ask your child to tell you what is in each bowl (my own children often confuse flour with sugar, for example).
  • Write out the recipe in a format that your child can understand. For younger children, this may use pictures and symbols; older children may be able to follow a simplified written version of the recipe.
  • Always use oven gloves when placing or removing baking trays from the oven.
  • Don’t be too worried by spillages or messy hands, but see them as a natural part of the baking process!
  • Don’t expect the finished cookies to be perfect – even the most badly misshaped cookies will still taste great!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

220g butter, softened
150g Fairtrade granulated sugar
170g Fairtrade light brown muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
360g plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
300g chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl.

Lightly beat the eggs together with the vanilla and add gradually to the creamed mixture.

Mix together the dry ingredients, then stir into the dough until just combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop large tablespoonfuls of the dough onto ungreased baking trays, leaving plenty of room for the cookies to expand during baking. Bake for 8-10 minutes in the pre-heated oven (9 minutes in my oven gives the best results for a crunchy-on-the-outside/soft-in-the-middle texture).

Remove the cookies carefully with a spatula and cool on wire racks.

Makes c. 30 cookies.

Seasonal colours variation: replace the plain/milk chocolate chips with 200g white chocolate chips or chunks and also stir in 100g dried cranberries, 100g chopped pistachios and the grated zest of 1 orange.

Spooky Spider Sandwich Cookies

Something strange happened today. A plate of perfectly innocuous Banoffee Nutella Sandwich Cookies …

… turned into this …

Aaaargh!

Run!

Spooky Spider Sandwich Cookies

8 oz plain flour
6 oz light muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
4 1/2 oz mashed banana (1 medium/large ripe banana)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking tray with parchment.

Mix all the ingredients together. The dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl it’s in with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Scrape out the dough onto a well-floured surface. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into circles with a 2 1/4 inch diameter cutter.

Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking tray. The cookies puff but don’t spread much, so it’s okay to put 10 to 15 cookies on a tray (assuming your trays are the same size as mine, ha!)

Bake for 7 mins, then remove to a wire rack to cool.

When cool, sandwich 2 cookies together with Nutella. Add Matchmakers for legs and Skittles for eyes to magically turn the cookies into spiders (use Nutella to glue the eyes into place).

Eat if you dare …

The Wooden Spoon Adventures

Let’s all sing …

Happy 5th Blogiversary to A Merrier World,
Happy 5th Blogiversary …

Hmmm. Maybe not. It doesn’t quite scan, does it?

But it really is my blog’s 5th birthday (despite the fact that the Choc Chip Cookie Brownie Cake above has seven candles. I was never very good with numbers).

Five years ago today, I clicked ‘publish’ for the first time and held my breath as my chocolate brownie tentatively announced my new, official status of ‘food blogger.’ Since that day, I have discovered friendships among an online crowd of passionate food bloggers and bakers, I have entertained Rose Levy Beranbaum and her assistant, Woody Woolston at home and abroad, and even conjured up a surprise at Dart’s Farm for two of my most loyal readers over the years, Melinda and Jeannette. My Great Pumpkin Cake seems to have spread far and wide across the internet whilst my Rainbow Cake and Unicorns post has inspired other Mums looking for party ideas for their young children. And WordPress tells me that this is my 150th post (gosh, how did that happen? A nice round, significant number like that? ;-) )

To celebrate this milestone (and five years is not so very short a time in terms of internet history), I’m sending a wooden spoon off into the big wide world to stir up some trouble.

Here’s the plan …

A few weeks ago, I snail-mailed a wooden spoon to one of my first-ever blog readers, Melinda. She had very generously agreed to come out of blogging retirement to write a post on her own blog about the adventures this wooden spoon would have with her when she used it to bake a tasty, local treat. She had also agreed to hound down, pester, cajole or bribe another willing food blogger to accept this wooden spoon afterwards and to take it on a further baking spree.

True to her word (for which I will be forever grateful), Melinda has introduced my wooden spoon to the delights of a Lemon Blueberry Buckle, nostalgically reminiscent of her roots in Oregon. She has also coined a new word – spoonee. Thank you, Melinda, for being such a wonderful first spoonee!  Next stop, Portland …

And so the wooden spoon’s adventures will hopefully continue, passing from baker to baker around the globe and whipping up a storm of regional specialities.

If all goes well, I will chart the Wooden Spoon’s Adventures here on A Merrier World by building up a page of links to all the delicious recipes the spoon has met on its culinary travels.

As for the lavishly-named, seven-candled Choc Chip Cookie Brownie Cake … here’s the recipe as a special birthday present from me to A Merrier World and its readers :-) .

Choc Chip Cookie Brownie Cake

Cookie Base
3 oz butter
2 oz caster sugar
2 1/2 oz light muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium egg
5 oz plain flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
5 oz chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl.

Gradually beat in the vanilla and egg.

Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread the cookie dough in the base of a 9″ springform pan. Put in the fridge while making the brownie batter.

Brownie
3 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
5 1/2 oz plain chocolate
4 oz butter
1/4 tsp coffee granules
5 oz caster sugar
2 oz light muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir in the coffee granules.

Turn off the heat and whisk in the caster and muscovado sugars until completely combined.

Take the bowl off the pan of hot water and whisk in 1 egg, the egg yolk and vanilla.

Whisk in the second egg, but be careful not to overbeat at this stage.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the top and fold in with a spatula.

Pour the brownie batter over the chilled cookie base.

Bake for 25 minutes until the brownie is just setting. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Rolo Cookies

Mum let us (M&L) use the kitchen again. We are going to make chocolate Rolo cookies.

Here’s what we need …

8 oz butter
8 oz caster sugar
2 egg yokes
2 tablespoons milk
9 oz plain flour
1 oz coco powder
3 packets of Rolos (which gives you some left over … to test, just to make sure they’re okay)

We weighed the butter to the right amount and put it in a big mixing bowl with caster sugar.

Now we needed to cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.We started it slowly and got  faster.

Then we separated the egg yoke from the egg whites  and put the yokes into a bowl.

We beat up the egg yokes a little bit with a fork.

L checked the recipe and we added the milk to the eggs yokes. Then we put them in the big mixing bowl and beat them all up together with the sugar and butter.

Then we sieved the flour and coco powder into the big mixing bowl. We did it without getting too messy.

We mixed everything together and scraped the sides of the bowl down. It turned into a sticky dough.

We used our hands to get the dough into round balls and placed them on the trays. We had to space them out.

Our hands got quite messy. It was so tempting to lick them but we didn’t.

Then we placed the rolos on top. Some of them we pushed down too far and they made a hole in the cookie and we said that we wouldn’t do that again.

We had to keep on looking at the recipe to see what to do. The recipe told us to put the cookies in the oven for 12 minutes (at 180 degrees C).

In the oven they spread out lots and stuck together. We cooled them for 5 minutes on the baking trays and then used a spatula to put them onto wire racks.

L says, “Welcome to Cookieworld!”

M says, “You can tell which ones are mine – they’re the ones that are all crumbled up!”

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