Making Gingerbread

This weekend I decided it would be fun to make gingerbread with my (almost) four-year-old. I thought it would be a relatively easy task that would engage and teach them how to make something (which they can then eat).

In my web development career, I make things (websites) and often have to follow instructions (documentation) to make (implement) something I haven't made before. This is a similar process to cooking or baking with one big difference; there is no undo.

I had anxiety with this project because of a few reasons. Firstly, I haven't really done much baking nor had I made the recipe before. Secondly, I had to act confident to let my little helper learn and have fun. And as mentioned above, the lack of an undo!

I pulled up a recipe on BBC Food and we went to the shop to buy the ingredients. On the way home I realised I didn't have any cooking scales, mixer or fun cutting shapes. Luckily I was able to borrow a set of scales from a neighbour and found a few cutting shapes hidden in a cupboard – I had also prepared a few lids to make some basic shapes.

The next morning he excitedly kept asking about "gingerbread, gingerbread, gingerbread" so I pulled up a chair and we started. He followed my instruction, which I in turn was reading from the website. Aside from a little mishap with turning on the wrong stove, everything seemed to go to plan. I had to Google tsp to see which spoon I needed and I almost missed the different tbsp quantity for one of the items.

  • Measuring out the golden syrup.

  • Messily using hands to mix the flour.

  • Mixing the warmed ingredients.

After we had mixed all the ingredients together, we put the gingerbread mix into the fridge for the prescribed thirty minutes. The next step in the process was to roll the gingerbread out, cut the desired shapes and decorate.

  • Carefully rolling out the gingerbread.

  • Cutting out shapes.

  • Decorating with Smarties.

This was definitely the best part for my little helper. He loved the rolling pin and managed to get a decent flat shape. But the most fun was creating the shapes and then decorating them with Smarties.

I put them in the oven and waited tentatively for the timer to stop. One recipe I read said eight minutes but another said thirteen. With the lack of "undo" in the back of my mind, I decided on the shorter timer and kept an eye on them. They seemed to come out OK, although I hadn't left enough space between them, they looked good. The proof is in the eating.

After they cooled down, both my son and I sampled our handy work. He seemed to like them and they tasted fine. We shared our freshly made cookies with two neighbours and he timidly explained that he'd help make them.

The next morning, he kept asking to make more, so we did. I had enough ingredients to make another batch and we'd even been out to buy some new classic cutting shapes. So I pulled up the chair and we started the process over again. I now had a little more confidence in what I was doing but still had to read the recipe in detail.

  • Rolling out the gingerbread, again.

  • The new cut-out shapes, ready to go.

  • Oven baked cookies.

I'm sure there are lessons to the story, such as how we are often putting on an act – especially for children – about how much we really know. But overall we just ate some tasty gingerbread cookies.