University of Illinois Extension

Food for Thought - University of Illinois Extension

Holiday Baking with Kids

Creating memories can add to the holidayfun. Children helping with holiday baking and cooking projects canbe good family time.

Here are some ideas to make the holiday baking experience fun and safe for everyone:

  • Set a time when everyone is rested.
  • Make sure everyone starts with clean hands.
  • Let children help choose recipes - either family holiday favorites or something new to start a tradition.
  • Gather all of the equipment and ingredients needed.
  • Make sure the task for each child is appropriate for their age and skills. Counting measures of flour can get the smallest child involved.
  • Have paper towels and cloths or sponges ready to wipe up spills. Clean a little as you go, to save a large clean-up job at the end.
  • Supervise use of knives and oven carefully.
  • When decorating cookies, have lots of supplies and let creativity and imagination go free.
  • Be patient. Don't get upset if the end product isn't exactly like you might have made. Remember, the important thing is for the family to spend holiday time together.

A History of Gingerbread

Gingerbread has been baked in Europe for centuries. In some places, it was a soft, delicately spiced cake; in others, a crisp, flat cookie, and in others, warm, thick, steamy-dark squares of "bread." It was sometimes light, sometimes dark, sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy, but it was almost always cut into shapes such as men, women, stars or animals.

Of all the countries in Europe, Germany is the one with the longest and strongest tradition of flat, shaped gingerbreads. At every autumn fair in Germany, there are rows of stalls filled with hundreds of gingerbread hearts, decorated with white and colored icing and tied with ribbons.

Popular in America, gingerbread making has its origins in the traditions of the many settlers from all parts of Northern Europe who brought with them family recipes and customs.

Some people make very fancy gingerbread houses at this time of year. Others make gingerbread people. These projects take lots of time and practice to make them very special.

Here is an easy version of the popular gingerbread man.

Easy-to-Do Gingerbread People

A gingerbread-man cookie cutter
Several slices of whole wheat bread
Peanut butter
Dried cherries, cranberries or red hots

Cut a gingerbread man shape out of the soft part of the bread with the cookie cutter. Try to get more than one shape out of each slice of bread.

With a knife, spread peanut butter over the cut shapes.

Use raisins and dried cherries, cranberries or red hots to make the eyes, noses, mouths, and buttons on your Gingerbread People.

Crispy Christmas Treats

2 Tablespoons margarine or butter
4 cups miniature marshmallows
6 cups crisped rice cereal
About 5 drops green food coloring, optional
Assorted edible decorations:
Red and green chocolate candies
Red and green sugar sprinkles
Red-hot candy
Cinnamon drops
Peppermint candies
Silver balls
Red and green decorator's frosting

Melt the margarine, add the marshmallows and stir until they are completely melted. Remove from the heat. If desired, add the green food coloring to the melted marshmallow mixture. Add the cereal and stir until well-coated.

Generously coat a 10"x15" jelly roll pan with nonstick spray. Firmly press the cereal mixture into the pan. Let set for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut with cookie cutters into desired shapes. Decorate with edible items.