Christmas Baking with Little Helpers (including three great recipes to try this year!)

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When I was about eight years old my cousin gave me an apron, a chef’s hat, an oven mitt, and a Disney cookbook for Christmas. I’d already been baking with my mom and grandmother for years but this stylish ensemble gave me the confidence to start going for it independently (much to my family’s happy sweet teeth!).

Baking is one of my favourite ways to relax. I love to whip up a batch of cookies and share it with my friends and family and it’s my go-to for potlucks. For most of the year I stick with tried and true family favourites like chocolate chips cookies from the classic Purity flour cookbook (they make them with shortening y’all! They are the BEST cookies) or peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips (we like chocolate here).

 Shortbread cookies dipped in melted chocolate chips and sprinkles

Shortbread cookies dipped in melted chocolate chips and sprinkles

HOW TO INVOLVE KIDS IN BAKING FESTIVE COOKIES

I’ve been including my kids in baking since they were infants watching me in the kitchen, to toddlers adding ingredients, to preschoolers helping to measure and mix, and now as elementary school kids they’re doing nearly everything with me supervising and double checking measurements (cause nobody wants a cookie with a cup of salt instead of sugar).

Even if you’re baking newbies though a basic shortbread or sugar cookie dough recipe is all you need to get started (even buy the pre-made kind at the store in a tube if you want to focus on the cookie decorating part with your kids). This type of cookie is wonderful for little helpers as it only takes a few minutes to mix up and roll out. Then hand the cookie cutters to the kids and they will have a blast cutting out their favourite shapes! They’ll be thrilled with the responsibility as they’ll have been training for years with all their play-doh work!

This year I had the kids cut out circle shapes, and after they’d cooled we dipped them in melted chocolate chips and added some festive sprinkles (trust me, you can never have too many sprinkles).

Kids also love to use those gel or icing writers you can find in the baking section of the grocery store to make designs on the cooled cookies. Hand them some red and green colours, along with a couple sprinkle shakers (and a broom!), and whatever they end up with will look festive!

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Another holiday favourite around here that the kids help with are snowball style cookies. The ones above are from the Company’s Coming Cookies cookbook (these are always a bit hit at parties) but they’re essentially chocolate cookies rolled in powdered sugar and baked (you can also do this with the same basic shortbread dough).

Kids can help mix up the batter and help roll them into little balls. Then they can swirl them around in a bowl of powdered sugar to coat the cookies before they go in the oven (warning though, eat them over a plate after they’re done as the powdered sugar gets everywhere, but it’s so worth it!).

 Photo credit: Laura Snow

Photo credit: Laura Snow

THREE FESTIVE COOKIE RECIPES TO MAKE WITH YOUR KIDS THIS YEAR

Recently I attended an event at the Superstore on Joseph Howe Drive and they were kind enough to give us some baking tips and share some of their brand new custom recipes. I love trying out new cookie recipes, especially over the holidays for entertaining, so of course I was the first one behind the counter eager to get my hands in the dough! They had three cookies there to sample and two stations for us to put the finishing touches on cookies.

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The first cookie I worked on was the Two-Toned Chocolate Coconut Cookie seen above (recipe can be found in the link) from President’s Choice which was really delicious and perfect with a cup of tea. I’ve never attempted to make these log style cookies that you slice and bake before but Kathy Jollimore (she’s the local food stylist and columnist shown above) gave me a few tips and showed me what size was best to slice them.

I love that you can make these type of cookies ahead of time, freeze the raw dough, and then pull it out the day company is coming, slice some up and, voila, fresh cookies!

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I think these would be wonderful to make with preschoolers, especially if you have one of those wavy choppers you can buy from the PC Cooking School folks (perfect stocking stuffer for your little chef!). The kids can slice off each cookie with their wavy chopper and place it on the pan.

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At the event I also taste tested and spread the filling in the scrumptious Orange Sugar Cookies with Crunchy Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream above (recipe in the link) that Kelly Neil, a local food photographer and columnist, created.

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These little sugar sandwich cookies have the new crunchy chocolate hazelnut filling in the middle which were divine. If you’re not too fussy about aesthetics (and finger licking kids) this would be a wonderful job for toddler age and up to fill the cookies with the prepared buttercream! You could use one of those tiny cheese plate spreaders or toddler sized dull knife so they only get a small amount of the filling for each cookie.

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The third cookie recipe we tested is another one from Kathy Jollimore and it’s the Double Chocolate Coconut Chip Cookies shown above piled high on the plate (again, recipe in the link) stuffed full of chunks of the new PC Milk Chocolate Toasted Coconut Bar. RIGHT??? These drop cookies (the kind my seven year old can mix up almost independently now) were a huge hit with the bloggers (in fact I nearly knocked someone over when I realized there was only one left on the plate and I hadn’t tried it yet lol). They kind of taste like a cross between chocolate chunk cookies and macaroons!

I was also gifted some of their Non-Stick Carbon Steel Textured Cookie Sheets shown in the photos that I’m going to use this week when I do some more Christmas baking. I had never heard of textured baking sheets but it makes so much sense - it keeps the air flowing around the cookie while baking, keeping them crispy and perfectly baked. If you have a baker on your list this year, these pans would be a wonderful gift idea, I know us bakers are always keen to receive something new and fun to bake with!

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Just be warned, if you have these cookies set out for guests, there’s a good chance your little helpers will sneak over and, well, help themselves!

Happy baking everyone!

*Note this was not a sponsored post however President’s Choice did gift me some product and sample cookies (yum!) and I was inspired to write this post to share the recipes with you. I only partner with companies that I love and whom I believe bring value to local families.

Do you have a favourite holiday cookie that you love to make? Do you stretch your skills at Christmastime and try some new recipes or stick with old favourites?