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Last week my granddaughters were keen to bake Christmas cookies to give to some of their classmates on the last day of the school year.
I leafed through my sizeable collection of community recipe books, gathered at school fairs and second hand bookshops and a great source of kid friendly recipes. In the Bayswater Primary 1998 school recipe book I found Stephanie’s Jam Drops. They looked simple to make, didn’t need any ingredients that weren’t already in the pantry, and we could make them look Christmassy with bright red centres if we used berry jam.
The dough was easy to mix. It was late afternoon but the weather was still warm and humid. It soon stuck to our fingers in large blobs, and refused to be shaped into perfectly round balls.
We solved the problem by putting the dough back in the fridge to harden for a few minutes and flouring our fingers before attempting to roll them again. They balls went on an oven tray lined with baking paper and then we were ready to poke holes with the handle of a wooden spoon.
Filling small holes with a ¼ teaspoon of jam without letting some dribble over the top of the biscuit proved a more challenging task but eventually a tray full of slightly untidy looking jam drops went into the oven for 12 minutes at 220 C as stated.
The timer was set. It had been a long day so I snuck off for a glass of wine. The girls went off to watch TV. After 12 minutes out came a tray of biscuits all joined at the edges. The jam had also oozed out of the holes and made an ungainly sticky mess all over the cookies. There were charred edges.
Faced with this disastrous result I hastened to defend my reputation as a Domestic Goddess by explaining that making mistakes is all part of the journey and that baking a new recipe can be an exercise in problem solving. The moral of this unfortunate tale I said, was not to waste a whole trayful, but to bake 2 or 3 biscuits on their own first when trying a new recipe.
For the next batch we used our thumbs to make larger holes. We spread the cookies further apart, lowered the temperature by 20 degrees and kept a watchful eye over them as they baked to make sure they were not starting to burn. It worked. The jam stayed put, and the biscuits were an appealing light golden brown. As a final touch Miss 8 suggested we sieve some icing sugar over the bikkies to make them look pretty.
We broke the first batch apart and nibbled around the charred edges. With their jammy centres and light but crispy exteriors they were moorish. And there were plenty of good ones to wrap up for their friends who were greatly appreciative as their parents seldom bake cookies.
Fired up by success they are keen do bake more. Now that the summer holidays have arrived my plan is to take them to Millie’s kitchen store in Ponsonby where there’s a treasure trove of Christmas bake ware to choose from. Every aspiring young baker deserves to spend time in a place like that to choose a cookie cutter of their own.
For me baking with them will be a welcome diversion from the stresses and strains of trawling around the shopping malls searching for just the right Christmas presents and buying all the ingredients for Christmas feasting.
For them making a batch of cookies to give away to some of our old friends who live on their own and don’t bake will help to get the message across that the true spirit of Christmas is one of generosity and bringing good cheer.