Baking mad

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I’m guessing I’m not alone here, but it’s not yet half way through half term and I’m fast running out of non screen-based ways of keeping the kids entertained. You can tell things are getting pretty desperate when the words ‘I know, let’s cook something together,’ inadvertently pop out of my mouth, followed by an instant wave of regret.

I like the idea of getting the kids in the kitchen. I know all about the benefits – how recipe reading is good for comprehension, how weighing and measuring helps with their maths and that all that stirring, spooning and chopping is brilliant for manual dexterity. I know too how important it is to get kids interested in food from a young age, to broaden their minds and palates, and from a practical point of view, to give them a small repertoire of basics so they do not starve  – or have to subsist entirely on Gregg’s steak bakes – when they eventually leave home.

In my Cath Kidston-beflowered imagination, there they are in the kitchen, pinnies artfully splattered, proudly holding up their sweet creations, with an adorable dusting of flour in their hair and an endearing smear of chocolate on their cute button noses. The reality, however is more like this: Watch it, that’s hot. No not that knife – too sharp. Did you actually wash your hands? Sieve into bowl, not on to floor. (Under breath) FuckFuckFuckFuck. Now you’ve gone and got shell in it. Did you just wipe that on your jeans? What do you mean your arm aches? (Rarely under breath) You bloody idiot! No you can’t lick the spoon yet. What do you mean you’ve had enough? Where are you going?

They also never want to cook anything that doesn’t contain chocolate, which is fine, I get that, I was a kid once. But then, once baked, they eat one morsel then decide that actually they’d rather have a Waitrose essential custard cream instead. (I always thought the ‘essential’ moniker was a little inappropriate for a custard cream, until I had a teenager who I’m pretty sure would get the DTs without his half-pack a day). So despite having spent the past 25 years trying to convince myself that I do not have a sweet tooth, I end up hoovering up whatever’s left, with the inevitable lard-arsed consequences.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the problem here is me. I am an impatient, intolerant control freak and I must learn to LET. IT. GO. Take a step back. Remove my bitch-face from the situation and leave them to it. After all, aside from redecorating the kitchen in icing sugar, cutting off their little cack-hands or burning down the house, what’s the worst that could happen?

Crunchie and cranberry rocky road

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I tested this new laissez faire approach with some success the other day when the 9yo decided he wanted to do some baking. We made the best brownie/cookie hybrid EVER from the rather marvellous New York food blog Smitten Kitchen (click on link for recipe) and a batch of rocky road, and I only shouted at him once.

The great thing about rocky road is that you can throw anything you like into the mix. I had some fun size crunchies knocking about (another misnomer – what’s fun about something yummy being over in two bites?) so I bunged those in, and my lot aren’t keen on raisins so I used cranberries instead which worked well against all that sweetness. I would say marshmallows really are essential here because I think they are revolting – the devil’s earplugs – and thus are the only things that deter me from scoffing the lot.

  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 125g butter
  • 150g rich tea biscuits (you could use digestives or ginger snaps if you prefer)
  • about 120g crunchie bars
  • large handful dried cranberries
  • large handful of mini marshmallows
  • pinch salt
  • icing sugar to dust
  1. Melt chocolate, butter and syrup in a pan over a low heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Put biscuits in a freezer bag and smash up with a rolling pin. You want rubble rather than dust.
  3. Put biscuits in a large mixing bowl, then give the crunchie bars the same treatment (I SAID RUBBLE NOT DUST YOU COMPLETE DUNDERHEAD!).
  4. Add to mixing bowl with the cranberries, marshmallows and salt then pour over melted chocolate mixture, reserving about a quarter of it for later. Mix until everything is well covered.
  5. Pour mixture into a small, lined baking tray, press down and level out. I used a tray that was 26cm x 16cm and about 3cm deep. Pour over remaining chocolate mixture and spread over with a spatula.
  6. Refrigerate for a couple of hours until firm then cut into slices or squares and dust over icing sugar.

Recipe adapted (quite drastically) from Nigella Express. Addition of crunchie inspired by baking blog Jane’s Patisserie.

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