aka Cinderella Mice.
In the Bakefulplay household, bread is the domain of the man of the house. He loves dough. He loves the science of it, the amorphous nature of it and its magical transformative properties. The summer holidays means he has time to indulge in this passion and since the biggest small is deep in a princess phase, he thought he'd develop a bake she could really enjoy too.
I love watching them bake together. It just affirms what a happy activity baking can be. They have all sorts of chats whilst she gleefully pokes and prods the springy dough, modelling worms, hedgehogs, buns, flowers and in this case, Lucifer the cat and the cheeky Cinderella mice from the old school Disney movie.
These little mice are deliciously cheesy and the perfect size for packed lunches or afternoon snacks. The recipe makes a lot of dough, you could either half the ingredients or simply half the dough after the first prove, pop it in the fridge and use it for another loaf or project another day. At the request of biggest small, we made Lucifer the cat with ours - this toddler has a worrying love of a bad guy! It's best to use the spare dough within 48 hours, but you could 'feed' it with flour and water and it will keep expanding and getting more like a sour dough tase after a little while.
500g strong, white bread flour - extra for dusting
7g easy-bake / fast-action yeast
100g any hard cheese - we used a mix of Pecorino and Cheddar.
2tbsp olive oil
Jug full of water (this goes in gradually and you judge how much by eye)
Seeds and rosemary sprigs for finishing touches - get creative and use whatever you've got.
Clean spray bottle filled with cold water (optional)
Bread needs two proves, a long prove when you first make the dough and a shorter one once you've shaped it into rolls, loaves or mice! Our little one bakes so often that she's quite used to waiting for things to happen, but to get a nice rise and prevent problems of impatience you can make the dough the day before you want to bake, meaning the little ones only need to get involved at the fun stage of rolling and shaping. If you do this before lunch or naps then the hour's prove will fly by.
You can easily bake these on a normal baking tray, but you will get and even more pleasing rise if you can replicate the heat of a baking stone by heating a deep, ceramic casserole pot when you pre heat the oven and bake the rolls in there.
Making the Dough
1. Tip the yeast, salt and grated cheese into a large mixing bowl and roughly stir together with your hands. Little ones love this. Let them enjoy the sensation. It can't be over mixed!
2. Add the oil and roughly mix through the dry ingredients before adding water a little at a time as you squdige the contents into a dough. Stop when the dough has picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl and is malleable and tacky, but not wet. At this stage it shouldn't be able to stick to your fingers too much. If you accidentally add too much water, just add a little more flour.
3. Leaving the dough in the bowl, stretch the dough and fold it back into itself a few times. This process needs to be repeated as many times as you can be bothered at intervals. Mr Bakefulplay likes to do it every ten minutes for an hour. The dough usually comes and sits on the sofa with us whilst we watch TV or hangs out on the end of the ironing board! Cover the bowl with a tea towel in between stretches. You will notice that the dough gets stretchier and fluffier each time you do it.
4. After the last stretch and fold, gently shape the dough into a big ball, leave it in the bowl, cover with cling film and put it in the fridge overnight. You'll need to take it out of the fridge at least an hour before you want to use it the next day.
Shaping the mice.
1. Tip the room-temperature dough onto a floured work surface. Don't forget to minimise your clean up afterwards by laying down a silicone mat or big piece of greaseproof paper to work on.
2. Cut the dough into as many bits as you want to use for rolls plus one extra for making tails. Shape these into balls and place on a baking tray covered in cling film to prove for an hour. Our balls were about the size of snooker balls. Whilst this is happening, pre heat the oven to its maximum heat and if you're using a baking stone or ceramic pot, pop that in there to heat up too. If you're using a normal baking tray there's no need to heat that is it won't retain the heat in the same way.
3. Shape the balls into mice by pinching a nose, adding rolled out strips of dough for tails, seeds for eyes (or paint these on later with food colouring) and make two little snips with scissors to form ears. Use rosemary sprigs for whiskers. These will go black in the oven and look more the part. If you want to, score three stripes down the back of each mouse to allow some steam out and make the rise to be more consistent. It also gives a sort of fur impression! You'll get the best effects with a really sharp knife, but let your little one have ago with a toddler safe knife.
4. Spray the tails of the mice with water so they don't burn. Transfer to baking stone or ceramic pot (if using) and put them in the oven for 20-30 minutes. You can spray the mice again after 5 minutes if you want to be sure of a perfect bake. Once they've turned golden and more or less uniform in colour, they're probably ready.
5. Cool on a wire rack or chopping board. Enjoy.
If the mice seem like a bit too much faff for real littlies, you might like to adapt the bake and make hedgehogs instead. Follow all the same steps, just pinch the nose and use scissors to make snips all over the body for spines. You can add seeds for eyes in the same way or paint them on with black food colouring afterwards.