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Posts from the ‘Cooking with Kids’ Category

Perfect Christmas Sugar Cookies

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Is it even Christmas without cookie decorating?

I know it’s not really a thing in Ireland. The Irish I’ve spoken to about this largely believe an iced sugar cookie, or even gingerbread cookie, is a bit too sweet. I wholeheartedly disagree with this.

In Ireland, kids leave Santa mince pies as a snack. Mince pies! I wholeheartedly disagree with this.

The longer I reside in Ireland, naturally, the more Irish I become in my through process. I’ve noticed this. But there are some things I’ll never let happen; Christmas is a nostalgic time of year. When you think of your happiest times as a child, it’s generally Christmas most of us think of. I definitely do.

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When I was little, my brothers and I always went to Christmas Eve church service with our parents. Then we would go to our neighbour’s for a visit, then when I got a bit older I would go to spend time with my aunt and her family before heading home to my bed.

In the morning, as a kid, we could go down to see what Santa brought us but we were never, under any circumstances, allowed to touch the wrapped presents under the tree until my parents and my grandma, who was confined to a wheelchair, would get up and join us.

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I think my favourite Christmas was the one where I got my cat, Belle. My dad brought her over to me after we had opened all of our gifts. I couldn’t figure out why there was a basket for a pet under the tree and assumed it was for our dog. When my dad went out Christmas morning and came back with a kitten, I was over the moon with happiness.

“Santa got caught in a storm last night and had to leave her at the Scherzinger’s,” he said.

Belle would go on to live for a whopping 22 years, despite (or maybe in spite of) my mother not being a cat person. She was a great cat.

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It’s been hard to adapt to Irish Christmas traditions because my happy Christmas memories are all Canadian. But since my daughters have gotten a bit older, it’s gotten easier to adapt to Irish Christmas. I am at peace with having to make both turkey and ham for Christmas dinner (though I refuse to make Irish trifle, with canned fruit cocktail, jello and store-bought sponge cake). We have started our own Christmas traditions with the kids and it gets more fun every year.

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This year, as always, we will be making loads of gingerbread and sugar cookies. We’ll invite a bunch of kids over to the house and let them go crazy with the royal icing and sprinkles. Their parents will hate me, but it’s all in good fun.

Here’s my recipe for the perfect sugar cookie. A good sugar cookie, in my opinion, should have defined edges, taste better with age (I even like them straight from the fridge or freezer) and it absolutely MUST BE ICED. If the cookie is too sweet, you’re doing it right.

Christmas is all about being too sweet.

Enjoy!

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Perfect Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter

A pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  • Whisk flour and baking powder together in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt.
  • In a stand mixer (paddle attachment) or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg and mix to combine. Add the vanilla and mix again.
  • Add the flour mixture in by the cup, slowly, until everything is combined. Dough will be crumbly at first and then comes together.
  • Gather the dough by hand. Knead a few times to smooth out the dough.
  • Shape into two discs and wrap in plastic. Chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180˚C and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness, then cut into shapes.
  • Transfer to the baking sheets and bake for 7-10 minutes (you don’t want them to brown too much around the edges – you still want them to be fairly white in colour).
  • Cool and decorate with royal icing, sprinkles or piped buttercream.

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Simple Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Maeve turned three last August. These days, she seems to change without me or her dad noticing. Every now and then she makes me stop in my tracks and admire the little human being she is becoming.

Last night over dinner, she started to sing a song. This in itself is not unusual – she is constantly singing. The song choice wasn’t even surprising. She has been regaling us with Christmas carols since November, and Christmas being over for weeks has done nothing to stop her from singing them. It was the language in which she was singing that made me pause and ponder.

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She was singing Away in a Manger in Irish. My little baby. Broken, badly mispronounced Irish, but Irish nonetheless. I thought she was singing in gibberish – Pat corrected me. I knew her playschool teachers had been teaching the students some Irish words, but I thought “bed” and “tree” were the bulk.

I am so proud. Not just of her, but of our community. Our local school is extremely small and fights for numbers as the population dwindles but it has great staff and a fabulous playschool attached. Maeve races in every morning and barely stops to say goodbye.

She has learned so much from her patient, gentle teachers. At three, she has become a truly integrated member of society – a society I didn’t even know existed ten years ago. It makes me really happy.

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OK, maybe having her back at playschool five days a week after a long, shack-happy Christmas break makes me happy, too. Gotta stay honest.

Anyway, yesterday was her first day back. When she got home, I asked her if she wanted to do some baking. I already knew her answer. She always wants to do some baking.

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She asked if we had any chocolate chips for cookies. We didn’t; we had something even better. I had reorganized our massive bookshelf while she was in school (I know!) and found THREE WHOLE BARS of Belgian milk chocolate I had purchased on my weekend away in Brussels that we had somehow forgotten to eat (I know). Coarsely chopped, the creamy, aromatic chocolate was perfect for our chewy cookies.

But, you know. Chocolate chips are fine, too. If you can’t get to Belgium.

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In other news, cookies are a great way to introduce your small child to baking. Mostly because:

  1. It’s really difficult to screw up a cookie. Even when they’re bad, they’re still good.
  2. If the child wants to mix, mix, mix, you won’t end up with a tough, overworked mess. Cookie dough is very forgiving.
  3. Cookies taste good. Everyone likes ’em.
  4. If your kid insists on cracking the eggs herself, you can pick half a shattered eggshell out of cookie dough more easily than, say, cake batter (half the batch eaten and we haven’t found any pieces yet!).

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Ciara was eating chocolate overseeing the cookie-baking from her highchair, in case you were wondering. She’s a tough boss, but luckily she approved of the final product.

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Simple Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup/250g softened butter

1 cup/250g soft brown sugar

1/2 cup/125g white sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup/250g rolled oats

2.5 cups/625g plain flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp flaky sea salt

1 cup/250g chopped chocolate or chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375∘ F (190∘C). No fan. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, cream the softened butter with the brown and white sugar. You want the butter to be completely combined with the sugars.
  • Add the vanilla and eggs. Mix until well combined.
  • Add all of the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix. The dough will be slightly sticky, but if you think it’s too sticky you can add more flour (if you like a more robust cookie – I like mine thin and chewy).
  • Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips.
  • Drop cookie dough by the spoonful onto the baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  • Cool baked cookies on a wire rack before eating. They’ll keep for days (but definitely won’t last long if your husband, father-in-law and children are anything like mine). You can freeze them, too – they’re great homemade treats to add to lunchboxes!

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