8-year-old Sophie and 4-year-old Juliette both adore cooking and luckily so do I, so we often while away a wet Sunday afternoon turning the kitchen into a flour-covered disaster area ! I was therefore really excited when asked to test one of the gingerbread kits from Splat cooking. We often make a Hansel-and-Gretel-style gingerbread house at Christmas-time but I love the fact that Splat offer a wide range of kits that can be used at other times of year. We got the Easter-themed bunny hutch.
As they say on the website, "Available to order from January 2010. This is a DIY Gingerbread House Kit which makes a really cute little bunny Hutch which measures approx 10cm high x 11cm long x 8 cm wide, with two different options for the hutch, either a Swiss Chalet style hutch or a proper rabbit hutch type hutch." The "small print" (it's not small, you can't miss it ! ) that you need to notice is : "Please note this kit does NOT contain ready-made gingerbread, just the recipe and template which you have to cut out, also it does NOT contain the green food colouring or the black foodwriter pen to mark the Bunny's eyes and whiskers, it's up to you if you would like to add these on, they can be purchased from local shops and supermarkets." If you look around the rest of the Splat Cooking website, you'll find loads of other things you'll want to add and some of the prices are very reasonable - I noticed lots of cute cookie cutters for less than 50p each so I highly recommend a thorough look around the shop before placing an order.
Gingerbread House template - ready for you to cut out
Silver Cardboard Disc
100g Royal Icing Mix
2 x Icing Easter Eggs
2 x Icing Characters, eg, rabbit, chick, nest with eggs, etc
5 x Chocolate Mini Eggs
1 x Packet of flower shapes
100g White Sugarpaste
1 x Small Packet of White Hologram Glitter
Disposable Piping Bag
Pieces of Cellowrap and Ribbon to finish your house off professionally
I felt I could have done without the cellophane and ribbon, which ended up being thrown away, going against my eco-friendly minimum-waste values, but it is environmentally-friendly biodegradable cellowrap, in keeping with the company's green ethics and focus on recycling. It does give you the possibility of wrapping the finished kit in a pretty package to give to a granny or auntie as a special homemade gift. But let's face it, if the kids are doing most of the work, you won't get a "professional" look however hard you try or however much cellophane you use ! I found this also slightly went against the very kid-friendly cooking instructions, which I loved. First instruction : "wash your hands" ! A bit further down, "Break the egg into a small bowl. Remove all the bits of shell" ! It's great for kids to feel that their "mistakes" are quite normal and par for the course and increases their confidence no end. Sophie was very proud of the fact that she only got two bits of shell in the bowl !
The gingerbread recipe is easy to follow and made a mild, not overly "hot" gingerbread that both the girls liked. Definitely an improvement on the last lot of ginger biscuits that we made following my dear old nan's recipe and that neither of them liked "because it set their mouths on fire" ! I didn't have all of the ingredients listed ... or rather, I did, but the brown sugar had gone into huge lumps and the golden syrup had set rock hard ! So we replaced half of the golden syrup by runny honey and used a sieve to crush and get rid of lumps from the brown sugar. But it all came out fine ! The girls loved the "making do" mentality of it not having to be perfect and got stuck in, mixing and kneading with their fingers.
As the cooking instructions suggested we would, we had enough cookie dough to make the required pieces for the hutch and also about 20 ginger cookies, so the girls got out their animal cookie cutters and had a blast. The only bad thing was the extra washing up this generated ! At this point, with the last batch of cookies in the oven, baby brother Pierre woke up and wanted feeding so we had to put the bunny hutch to one side until the next day.
Next day, as soon as Sunday lunch was eaten and tidied away, both girls immediately asked if we could decorate the hutch. They absolutely loved all the edible decorations, funky edible glitter and mini eggs, as well as the sugar paste, which I split in two so they could make one rabbit each. I gave them three silver balls each, from my kitchen cupboards, to make eyes and noses on the rabbits and I think it would be good for these to be included in the kits.
The royal icing was a bit of a pain ! It was incredibly gooey and stuck like glue to the paper piping bag and my fingers, but didn't always want to stick to the gingerbread ! The quantity of icing was too much for the size of the piping bag so it all splurged everywhere when I squeezed the top ! Also, the girls were too impatient to wait for the recommended hour for the icing to dry on the main hutch structure before adding all the decorations so I was a bit worried the whole thing was going to fall apart !
I must admit that it works out quite expensive for what it is, especially as you have to add in the cost of the ingredients for the gingerbread, but the girls did really enjoy making it and we got two half days of entertainment out of it. When I asked them what they thought I should write for the review, Juliette said "it's really pretty" and Sophie said "it's great fun to make and it looks very yummy". They said I should definitely give it 5/5 but as the mummy, counting in the value-for-money aspect, I've been mean and deducted one point! For a special occasion (Easter, Christmas, ...) or to keep the kids occupied during the holidays, it's a great kid-friendly project.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £11.50
for more information and to buy online : http://store.splatcooking.net/