Sweet treats to make with kids this Valentine's Day

With Valentine’s Day in mind, top chef Rachel Allen shares three recipes that are fun for children to make — and eat. By Arlene Harris

Homemade cards and cakes are among the most precious gifts a parent can receive from their child — and with Valentine’s Day on the horizon, children will love getting their hands dirty and creating some sweet treats for mum and dad, particularly as they will get to eat most of the spoils themselves.

Celebrity chef, author, and mother of three Rachel Allen knows all too well the joy of baking with little ones and shares her favourite child-friendly recipes as well as a few words on why we should all try to make a mess with our kids this weekend.

Rachel Allen

“I have always really enjoyed baking with my children as it’s the best way to get them interested in cooking and the food that we eat,” she says. “I used to adore helping my mum bake when I was much younger. My sister and I used to create great treats and often pretended we were on TV with our teddy bears lined up as the audience.”

Baking with children is always worthwhile, she says. “And it’s a great way to get them creatively excited.”

Her children have always loved cooking and baking, and her daughter Scarlett is a dab hand in the kitchen.

Rachel Allen's daughter, Scarlett

“Whenever there’s a birthday coming up we get thinking about what cake to make but at the weekends it might just be something simple like flapjack,” she says.

“Double chocolate chip cookies are probably Scarlett’s (aged 10) favourites and it’s great how you can bake as many as you want and then keep the mixture in the fridge (for up to three weeks) to bake a few whenever you need them. They are crisp, chewy, buttery, and unashamedly chocolatey.

“We always loved millionaire’s shortbread at home and it’s still a recipe I adore. Crumbly buttery shortbread topped with sweet gooey toffee and melted chocolate — what’s not to love?

And it’s important not to worry about the mess, it’s part of the fun, but getting them to help you clean up is also good and with older kids it’s not bad to show them how to clean as you go.

MILLIONAIRE’S SHORTBREAD

Makes approximately 20

For the shortbread:

  • 250g flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 175g butter
  • For the toffee layer:

  • 100g butter
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 2 x 397g tins of condensed milk
  • For the topping:

  • 300g chocolate, milk or dark
  • 75g white chocolate
  • METHOD

    Pre-heat the oven to 180C/ Gas mark 4. Lightly butter a 23x33cm Swiss roll tin, or line with parchment paper.

    First make the shortbread. Mix flour and caster sugar in a bowl, or food processor, rub in the butter then bring together to almost form a ball of dough.

    Press the dough into the prepared tin and using the back of a tablespoon, level it out so that it is even. Pierce the dough lightly all over with a fork then bake in the oven for 20 minutes until light golden all over. Set aside and allow to cool.

    Next make the toffee layer. Place butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and melt.

    Add in sugar and condensed milk and stirring, bring to the boil. Continue to stir, reducing the heat to low if necessary for about 20-30 minutes until it reaches the soft ball stage. To test, take a half teaspoonful blob and drop into cold water. If the mixture stays together and forms a soft ball, it’s ready. If it doesn’t, then cook until ready.

    Pour the hot toffee mixture over the shortbread, spreading it out evenly, and allow to cool.

    Meanwhile, melt the chocolate by placing in a bowl sitting over a saucepan with a few centimetres of water, over a medium heat. Once the water comes to the boil, turn the heat off and allow the chocolate to slowly melt.

    Pour over the set toffee. Next swirl over the melted white chocolate and set aside in a cool part of the kitchen to set.

    Cut into fingers or squares to serve. Stored in an airtight container, they will keep for up to five days.

    DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

    Makes 20 large cookies

  • 225g butter, softened
  • 325g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 175g dark chocolate (55–70% cocoa solids), chopped into small pieces, or dark chocolate chips
  • METHOD

    Pre-heat the oven to 180C/ Gas mark 4

    Line three baking sheets with parchment.

    Place butter in a large bowl and beat until very soft. Add sugar and beat until mixture is pale and fluffy.

    Crack in one egg at a time, beating between additions.

    Add vanilla extract; sift in flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Then add the chocolate and fold in to combine. Alternatively, place all the ingredients except the chocolate pieces/chips in a food processor and whiz briefly until they come together, then fold in the chocolate.

    With wet hands, form the dough into balls each the size of a golf ball. Arrange on prepared baking sheets, placing 6–7 balls of dough on each sheet and leaving space for the cookies to spread.

    Bake for 10–14 minutes or until cookies look slightly cracked on top. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then remove using a palette knife and place on a wire rack to cool down completely.

    FLAPJACKS

    Makes about 15

  • 325g butter
  • 2tbspn golden syrup
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 450g rolled oats
  • METHOD

    Pre-heat oven to 180C/ Gas mark 4. Line the base and sides of a 23x33cm Swiss roll tin with parchment paper.

    Place butter, golden syrup and vanilla extract in a medium sized saucepan and put over a medium heat. Stir to melt butter and mix with golden syrup.

    Add in caster sugar and mix. Then add rolled oats in a few batches, stirring to mix.

    Tip mixture into prepared tin and spread out evenly. Place in centre of preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and caramelised.

    Take out of oven and let sit, in the tin, for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

    Let cool completely before taking them out of the tin with a palette knife.


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