The holidays are the perfect excuse for getting hands on with your kids in the kitchen. If you're able to embrace the mess and suspend all notions of perfection, everyone can have a blast.
The trick to keeping the mood festive is to pick projects that are fast, easy and taste great. Drop cookies are an excellent choice because they are simple to make and usually taste good no matter what they look like.
This simplified focaccia (Italian flatbread) is another great choice. It calls for just a few inexpensive and common ingredients, has plenty of opportunities for the kids to pound and smoosh the dough, and is all but impossible to mess up.
This recipe calls for topping the focaccia with rosemary, salt and olive oil. But you also could make a sweet version, topping it with butter or canola oil and sprinkling it with cinnamon and sugar.
One tip for cooking with kids - always use bowls that are larger than needed. This helps keep the ingredients in the bowl when little hands get a little too excited about mixing.
Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours (20 minutes active)
Makes one 8-inch round focaccia
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt, plus additional for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
1/4 cup warm water
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. This is a great opportunity to let the little ones practice their measuring skills. Plus, they love dumping the ingredients into the bowl and mixing them.
Add the olive oil and water, then mix some more. Once the dough starts to come together, let the kids use their hands to gather and press together the pieces of dough.
Sprinkle the counter with a bit of flour, then transfer the dough to the counter. Knead the dough about 10 times by pressing the dough, then folding it onto itself and pressing again.
Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a circle. Lightly coat an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray, then place the dough in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place (near a heating vent or radiator) for 1 hour.
After 45 minutes, heat the oven to 375 F.
When the dough is ready, it should be risen and slightly bubbly. Have the children use their fingertips to gently poke dimples over the surface of the dough.
Drizzle the dough with a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle it with salt. Pull the rosemary leaves off the stems, then scatter the leaves over the dough. Bake for 12 minutes. The focaccia will not be browned when it is done.
Remove the focaccia from the pan, then cut into wedges.