I was walking through a Christmas shopping “wonderland” the other day with all the crowds, all the employees frantically trying to restock the shelves and all of the “elves” standing by, ready to pillage through. Needless to say, it was one of those stores which immediately cause increased holiday stress. I try not to fall victim to this kind of stress, so I usually avoid those types of stores, but it was on my way and I did find two things which couldn’t be found elsewhere.
As I am pushing the cart through, dodging all the oncoming traffic I hear the holiday music end and the in store advertisements start… I hear “blah, blah, blah, blah… because mom says we’re not just baking, we’re making memories.” Initial, unstoppable reaction… eyes rolling to the back of head, and I’m a baker. I LOVE to bake, I have plans to hand decorate cookies for each teacher, for goodness sake I have filled decorating bags waiting for me at home! So, if this was my automatic reaction to the daunting task of creating “positive Christmas baking memories” with my young children. What would be the reaction of someone who WAS NOT a baker?
It prompted action on my part and the need to share with all of you out there. Whether you love to bake or are baking-challenged, kids love to help in the kitchen, so we need to make sure we have recipes they will be successful with and do everything possible to avoid adding stress to a busy time of the year. I say if they have some cookies they can complete on their own they will feel a great sense of accomplishment. The cookies I am sharing are also surprisingly popular at every party I have served them at even though they are simple, no oven, treats. Before I had my little assistants I always used them as fillers on cookie platters I would give to friends and family.
The first is a salty and sweet treat. When I first saw it at my bank I had to ask my friend who worked there what was the center part, since it first appeared to be a perfectly piped circle of chocolate but I knew it wasn’t. It was a slightly melted chocolate kiss… brilliant! All you buy for this treat I call “Nutty Pretzel Kisses” is a bag of chocolate covered peanut candies, a bag of chocolate candy kisses and pretzel shapes. For the pretzels, I originally saw it made on small, square pretzels. When I was unable to find them one year, I used small twist pretzels. This year I happened to find a large container of Christmas shaped pretzels, they make the treats adorable and even more festive. The directions are as simple as it comes, place pretzels on a microwave safe plate with unwrapped kiss on each one. Heat in microwave for one minute. It always surprises me that it takes that long but sometimes I even have to add an additional ten seconds. You will know it is melted enough when you can easily press the chocolate covered peanut candy in it when it comes out. The chocolate kiss presses down into a ball shape which holds the candy in place perfectly. All that is left to do is to allow the chocolate to set again and the enjoy! Kids can complete this entire treat without your help if necessary.
The other easy cookie treat is also a no-bake sweetie. For this one you will need a package of white chocolate candy coating (also called bark) and a box of bite size peanut butter cracker sandwiches. Place the white chocolate bark in a microwave safe bowl, heat until melted and stir mixture. Then you simply pour in crackers by the handful to cover with candy coating. Use two spoons to pull each one out of mixture, making sure it is covered completely and put on wax paper to dry. My kids love to add red and green sugar or sprinkles on top before they dry. They are an unbelievably easy cookie and i guarantee you that people will ask for the recipe. Then they will not believe you when you tell them, happens everytime!
These are kid friendly recipes, even my three year old had a great time making those “memories” with these. Once we finished, she walked over to the sofa to watch the Christmas special on TV and was sound asleep in five minutes. My older two kept baking. They did such a good job with those two recipes we moved on to the made from scratch specialties I bake each year. I drew the line at their assistance with rolling out the sugar cookie dough. Only because my rolling pin is actually quite large and could be used as a weapon in a pinch. Also, while I did want them to have positive baking memories, I also wanted to give these cookies as gifts and since I didn’t want to have to make spare batches I had to roll them out evenly. Just being honest. Thanks to the first two recipes they didn’t feel left out or like I didn’t think they could do anything. It was alright with them and my oldest took a break snuggled up to her sister on the sofa and it took ten minutes for her to be sound asleep. My son and I started making snickerdoodles, our favorite cookies. We stayed up another hour just mixing the dough, watching the Christmas specials and rolling our bite sized dough balls in a cinnamon-sugar mixture he made. We were able to get one batch baked and enjoy them before we snuggled up for a good night’s sleep. I don’t know about them but it was certainly a memory I will treasure. Happy baking!