School’s out for the holidays, kids are excited and with all the preparations involved in making Christmas a happy and delicious occasion, time is short.
The solution? Get them to pitch in and help create the Christmas feast and treats.
I have it from a very reliable source that the Big Man In Red likes cookies, especially shortbread. And that on Christmas morning, a hot-from-the oven scone wreath will make the junior baker a hero.
Besides helping to wrap presents, kids can make them, especially if they're edible in the form of jars of nuts and bolts – a favourite Christmas snack. Various amounts of adult help are needed for all three recipes, but think of the time as an investment in holiday memories, and cooking skills for the next generation.
Chocolate Chip Shortbread Mounds
Here’s a recipe that suits small fingers. There’s no rolling, no cutting and the amount of dough suits a young baker with plans to impress Santa. Perfect for Santa’s plate with a glass of milk.
- 1 cup (250 ml) salted butter, at room temperature;
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) vanilla
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) cornstarch
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) granulated sugar or icing sugar
- 1 3/4 cups (425 ml) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) chocolate chips, mini size if available
- Icing sugar
Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a bowl, mash butter with a wooden spoon, or beat with a mixer until lighter in colour. Beat in vanilla, cornstarch and sugar. Stir in flour, using your spoon, then your hands if necessary to blend ingredients until smooth. Mix in chocolate chips.
Scoop out dough using a heaped teaspoonful into small rough mounds. Place mounds about 1-inch (2.5 cm) apart on prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about an hour.
Bake in centre of a 275F (140C) oven until firm to touch and light golden on bottom, about 40 to 50 minutes. Arrange touching each other on a rack set over parchment paper; dust top of mounds generously with icing sugar. Let cool.
Layer with waxed paper in airtight containers and store at cool room temperature for up to two weeks or freeze for up to one month.
Yields about 40 mounds, plenty for Santa and sharing with company during the holidays.
Merry Cherry Scone Wreath
What makes this easy recipe ideal for a tween or teen baker is that the wreath is totally make ahead, and that it will emerge from the oven to the oohs and aahs of all assembled. Nothing like a little appreciation to encourage help in the kitchen!
- 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp. (12 ml) baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) salt
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) cold butter, cubed
- 1 cup (250 ml) well shaken buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (75 ml) cherry jam
- 2/3 cup (150 ml) sliced or slivered almonds
- 1/3 cup (75 ml) icing sugar
- 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) milk, approximate
- Drop almond extract, optional
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. With a pencil and bottom of a 9-inch (23 cm) pan, draw a circle on paper; turn paper over.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until mixture becomes crumbly. In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk and one of the eggs until smooth. Drizzle over flour mixture, tossing with a fork, until a soft ragged dough forms.
Flour your hands lightly; form dough into a ball. Scrape dough out onto a lightly-floured counter and knead gently, about 10 turns. Shape into a rectangle. Sprinkle counter again with flour; roll dough into a 16x10-inch (40 x 25 cm) rectangle. Chop any large chunks of cherries in jam; spread evenly over surface of dough, leaving a 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) border along one long side uncovered. Sprinkle almonds over jam. Starting at long side covered with jam, roll up the dough. Pinch edges to seal.
Using a serrated knife and wiping blade often, cut roll into 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick slices. Arrange slices, cut side up and overlapping on prepared baking sheet, using drawn circle as a guide.
(Make-ahead: Freeze until firm. Remove from baking sheet and wrap in plastic wrap. Enclose in a large freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for up to one week. Unwrap and return to baking sheet; thaw in refrigerator and add 10 minutes to baking time. For eating on Christmas morning, let wreath thaw overnight in fridge.)
In a bowl, whisk remaining egg until foamy. Brush over wreath. Bake in centre of a 400F (200C) oven until golden for about 15 minutes. Let wreath rest on baking sheet for a few minutes; transfer to a rack to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, stir together icing sugar, milk and almond extract, (if using.) Drizzle over warm wreath.
Makes 12 servings.
Tip: Marmalade or raspberry jam are both good substitutes for cherry jam.
Nuts and Bolts Two Ways
A present for a neighbour? A friend? Or anyone who likes a crunchy snack, either with the traditional Worcestershire sauce flavouring, or a Tex-Mex taste.
- 3 cups (750 ml) cereal circles such as Cheerios
- 3 cups (750 ml) mini wheat squares such as Shreddies
- 2 cups (500 ml) dry roasted peanuts or mixed nuts
- 2 cups (500 ml) pretzel sticks
- 1 cup (250 ml) sesame sticks
- 1 cup (250 ml) mini snack crackers such as Penguins or Goldfish
Worcestershire Sauce Flavouring:
- 3/4 cup (175 ml) butter
- 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) each celery salt, garlic salt and onion salt
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) paprika
Measure round and square cereals, peanuts, pretzel and sesame sticks and snack crackers into a large bowl. In a microwaveable bowl, microwave butter with Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, garlic salt, onion salt and paprika on low just until butter is melted. Drizzle evenly over cereal mixture; toss very well to coat all the pieces. Scrape into a large roasting pan. (A large foil turkey pan is ideal.)
Bake in centre of a 250F (120C) oven until fragrant, slightly darkened and very crisp, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours, stirring mixture every 20 minutes. Let cool; package in airtight containers and store for up to 2 weeks.
Makes about 12 cups (3 L) nuts and bolts.
Tex-Mex Flavouring: Replace Worcestershire Sauce Flavouring with following ingredients:
- 3/4 cup (175 ml) canola oil or melted butter,
- 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) chili powder,
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) garlic salt,
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) each ground cumin and paprika
- 1/4 tsp. (1 ml) hot pepper sauce