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In my younger days, baking was a way to chill out on a rainy afternoon with the radio on and all the time in the world... Now I have a daughter (Annabel, 3) the vibe is just a little different (and rather less relaxing), but it's a great way to spend time together and create something delicious.
Here's what I've learned along the way:
1) Keep it simple
Biscuits are great for short attention spans as you can make them in stages: weighing and mixing; rolling out and cutting shapes; and decorating.
We tried these simple and delicious spiced biscuits using gingerbread cutters.
Get them involved at every stage, including using the weighing scales as this is a great way to practice counting.
2) Easy decorations
The joys of sprinkling chocolate stars and fudge chunks onto this butterscotch date loaf cake should not be underestimated... simple yet satisfying.
3) Don't get too precious
Sure, our Malteser cake didn't look as dainty as Jo Wheatley's beautifully styled version...and Annabel got so excited pressing the Maltesers into the ganache that a section of the top layer cracked... but she was proud of decorating it by herself for her grandma's birthday.
Also, try not to worry about the mess – it's all part of the fun. And they've washed their hands first, so you can't get too cross about little fingers sneaking into that irresistible butter and sugar combo.
4) Just go for it!
Sometimes I break rule no 1 with a big project – like Miranda Gore Browne's amazing chocolate biscuit house! Here, having a second pair of grown-up hands was a bonus (it was a two-man job monitoring the bowls of sweets), but once the basic structure has set, you can let them loose. I was surprised how careful Annabel was when she was putting on the roof buttons – and playing with Paddington!
5) Make sure they help with the washing up!
Playing with bubbles is often as much fun as baking!