Saturday, 21 April 2012

Cooking with Pre-schoolers

Cooking with children is so rewarding for you and for your little one as they embrace new foods they may not have wanted to try and gain more self confidence with the responsibility and satisfaction of being the one to make their own food.  Cooking with pre-schoolers was at first, for me, a really bad idea.  I was still trying to get things ready as flour was poured all over the table and total culinary chaos ensued.  After beginning to do cooking classes with Kids Pantry I have a much more successful and less chaotic approach.  Preparation.  Patience.  Portions.  If you have a child who happily heads off and plays by themselves, that's golden, if not make sure you set your child up with something they aren't going to get into too much of a mess with while you prepare everything.
Get out as many small bowls as you can to put ingredients into individually.  If there are a bunch of wet components that you can mix together that require whisking then do that during preparation time ie melt butter and mix into milk with eggs to be poured into dry ingredients and mixed by your child.
The process of cooking is rewarding for your child if they can do it with as little intervention from you as possible.  So make their jobs achievable.  Once everything is prepared your child should have the skills to with limited or no assistance
  1.  taste the ingredient,
  2.  pour it into the main mixing bowl, 
  3. cut up something easy to cut with a child safe knife, safety knife
  4. mix together and
  5. pour into tin, cake moulds, spoon onto baking paper, roll into a ball and squash with a spoon.
I still go to these classes because the teachers are inspirational, endlessly patient.  Don't forget to get them to wash hands before and after cooking.  It's never to early to give them some task so they feel they're helping clean up afterwards.

Tip:  find a recipe you don't need to whisk too much and can be successful with by just adding one at a time into a single bowl without creaming, whisking to peaks or rubbing together until it resembles bread crumbs.


  1. Recipe One: This is not the best recipe to start with but it was a really tasty one. It violates the one and only tip in the Cooking with Children post.

    Chocolate cookies
    250 g plain flour, sifted
    40 g cocoa, sifted
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    200 g sugar
    100 g butter (room temperature)
    1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla essence
    2 eggs
    150 g roasted almonds, chopped

    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
    2. Mix the butter and sugar together using a mixer until smooth.
    3. Gradually add the eggs while mixing. Set aside to divide up for your children.
    4. Add the vanilla essence, flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa. These should all be in individual portions for your child to add themselves.
    5. Mix using a tablespoon or wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft dough.
    6. Take spoonfuls of the mixture and form into balls.
    7. Dip each ball in the chopped almonds and place it on a greased oven tray.
    8. Bake for 15 minutes and leave to cool on a wire rack.

  2. Chewy Anzac biscuits

    Makes about 24


    1 cup (150g) plain flour
    1 cup (90g) rolled oats
    1 cup (85g) Ward McKenzie desiccated coconut
    3/4 cup (155g) brown sugar
    125g butter
    2 tbs golden syrup
    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    2 tbs water


    1. Get out 4 small bowls multiply by the number of children. One large mixing bowl and tablespoon per child.
    2. put the divided quantities of oats, plain flour, coconut and brown sugar into the bowls.
    3. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
    4. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Put the butter, golden syrup and 2 tbs water in a small saucepan. Stir over a medium heat until melted.
    5. It's time to get your children to put on their aprons and wash their hands. Place their bowls at their spot on the table.


    1. Get your child to sift the flour into their large bowl.
    2. They can now pour in the oats, coconut and brown sugar and stir.
    3. The melted butter and golden syrup should still be warm, give it a little more heat if it has gone cold. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda. This is fun to watch if you can be bothered doing it so your children can watch.
    5. Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture and get them to stir until combined.
    6. Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls. Place on the trays, about 5cm apart.
    7. Press with a fork to flatten slightly. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
    8. Set aside on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack so it cools completely. I don't have a wire rack so I just slide the baking paper onto the counter top.

  3. Mini Leek tarts (low salicylate)

    Note: These are great to make with any combination of filling. Leek and cabbage, bacon, smoked salmon, fetta.

    This one takes a fair bit of preparation, make the short crust pastry and saute the leek before inviting your toddler or preschooler to join in unless you have some other jobs for them to do in the kitchen while you do this part.

    Short Crust Pastry Ingredients

    2 cups (250g) plain flour
    1 pinch salt, to taste
    125g butter, cut into pieces
    1 egg
    2 tbsp water or more if needed

    1 large or two small leeks
    2 rashers of bacon (finey chopped)
    or 3 slices of smoked salmon
    or quarter of chinese cabbage (finely sliced)
    2 tbsp unsalted butter

    Egg Custard
    4 large eggs
    1/4 cup cream

    1. rub the butter into flour and salt using finger tips until they resemble bread crumbs.
    2. crack the egg straight from the fridge into your mixture, add chilled water and bring together with a fork and then roll into a ball by hand.
    3. Cover the bowl and put it in the freezer while you prepare the filling and egg mixture.

    4. Slice leek and any other filling you need to cook.
    5. Add butter to the fry pan, then leek and bacon or cabbage. Once starting to brown, looking translucent and golden it's ready to put in a container to be spooned into tin by your preschooler(s).
    6. Crack eggs into the number of bowls you have or leave for your child to do.

    1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Children must wash hands thoroughly before starting.
    2. The dough is ready to be cut into a large tablespoon size to be rolled into a ball and then pinched out into a circle, rolled with a child sized rolling pin or pressed straight into the mini muffin tin. It needs to be pressed in this enough to cook through.
    3. Get your child to spoon a teaspoon or two of the filling into each muffin mould. If you are adding fetta have your child pull it apart with their fingers and add to the tin at this point.
    4. Then it's time to either crack the eggs or go straight to whisking them together with the cream.
    5. Spoon the egg custard mixture into the moulds until it covers the filling.
    6. Place in the oven and cook for approximately 15 - 20 minutes or until the egg has cooked through and pastry is golden brown.

    enjoy! These are still delicious the next day.

  4. Shortbread (Melting Moments)

    This is a perfect recipe to make melting moments with, this shortbread will melt in your mouth.

    2 cups of plain flour
    2 tblsp rice flour
    250g butter
    1⁄2 cup of castor sugar


    1. Get out 4 small bowls, multiply by the number of children and divide ingredients between them. One large mixing bowl and rolling pin per child.
    2. put the divided quantities of plain flour, rice flour, butter and castor sugar into the bowls.
    3. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
    4. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
    5. If you are making melting moments prepare the piping bag. Place your piping tip into the bag, place entire bag into a cup and fold excess bag over the edge of the cup, this prevents the problem of having batter, dough, whatever getting stuck to the sides of the bag, it will also make it easier for your child to spoon the mixture into the bag. Multiply number of prepared bags by number of children.
    6. It's time to get your children to put on their aprons and wash their hands. Place their bowls at their spot on the table. Clean hands and put on aprons.


    1. Get your child to sift the castor sugar, plain flour and rice flour into their large bowl.
    2. Get them to add the softened butter and work it in using their hands. This might take some time and should combine to a very soft and malleable dough.
    3. If you are going to pipe them onto the tray you can take the opportunity to finish working the dough together if your child's hands have gotten too tired to combine it properly. Otherwise you can get them to go and wash hands and cut themselves a nice big piece of baking paper to roll their dough out with while you finish combining ingredients. This might not be an issue with your children but mine want complete ownership of their cooking project.
    5. If you are making melting moments and using a piping bag, just get your child to pipe small amounts onto the baking paper, leaving approximately 1.5cm between each biscuit. Otherwise you can get your child to roll the mixture out to approximately 1.5cm thick and use cookie cutters to create their biscuits. My favourite option is to roll portions of the dough into a log and cut with a knife. You can place them on the baking paper and squash them down leaving them no smaller than 1.5cm thick with a diameter of approx 1-2cm.
    6. Place in the oven for between 10 and 20 minutes. I prefer to take them out when they are just starting to brown around the bottom but a beautiful white across the top.
    7. Set aside on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack so it cools completely. I don't have a wire rack so I just slide the baking paper onto the counter top.

    Melting Moments filling:

    vanilla bean
    100ml thickened cream
    1/2 cup icing sugar

    Slice the vanilla bean and peel open, scrape your knife across to get all the seeds and place into your bowl.
    Pour in the cream and combine. Sift in the icing sugar and whisk until thick and fluffy.