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The benefits of baking 'bark'

12 December 2021

The benefits of baking 'bark'

Sharing a few fun hours in the kitchen to make budget-friendly Christmas treats. Photos Tegan Austin.

Words Simone Worthing

Majors Cathryn and Mark Williamson are Salvo officers (pastors) and award-winning bakers. They make mouth-watering cakes, biscuits, and slices – as well as a range of healthy and budget-friendly family meals. Cathryn has also developed the Salvos Kids in the Kitchen program, a 10-week course for children in grades three to six that teaches them to cook 10 different dishes in a clean, safe, and family-friendly kitchen.

As Christmas approaches after a challenging year for most, the Williamsons chat with Salvos Magazine about Christmas cooking with the kids and how to both enjoy the goodies and prepare some as extra-thoughtful homemade gifts.

Salvos Magazine: What makes baking a good Christmas season activity?

Cathryn and Mark: Christmas is a special time of the year, and it’s exciting to do something special to celebrate. It may be preparing a special meal together. Maybe it’s baking something to package as gifts. Maybe there’s something your family has as a Christmas tradition, and so you’re continuing that tradition.

SM: What are some of the benefits of families cooking together?

CM: Christmas is often the time that extended family and friends come together and connect with each other. If this is not possible, cooking together allows for family connection in the home. Cooking together also enables everyone to be involved. Kids can help with choosing the recipe, reading the instructions, helping with preparation, and cooking. Even younger kids can be given tasks to do!

SM: With the tough couple of years we’ve had financially, are there some homemade baking goodies people can make as gifts that are budget-friendly?

CM: There are so many great ideas for homemade gifts, and they don’t need to cost a lot. A quick search on the internet will result in hundreds of recipes. Start with simple recipes or tried-and-tested favourites.

One simple idea that can be packaged as gifts is ‘Christmas bark’. It’s just melted chocolate spread thinly on some baking paper and decorated with Christmas-themed extras like crushed candy canes, red and green M&Ms, sprinkles, or pieces of gingerbread. Once it is set, break it up into pieces and package as gifts.

Decorated gingerbread shapes are another simple, cost-effective gift.

A little bit of creativity and some melted chocolate can transform baked Christmas goodies. For example, drizzle chocolate over biscuits or dip truffles in chocolate before sprinkling with nuts.

There are also many cost-effective packaging ideas out there – second-hand shops have an amazing variety of items such as jars, coffee mugs, baskets, gift bags, and boxes. Fill these with your goodies, wrap in cellophane, and add a festive ribbon!

"Children can be involved in making these gifts at any age."

SM: What makes these homemade gifts extra special?

CM: Homemade gifts let the receiver know they are loved. Rather than choosing something store-bought, the giver chose to put time into creating something special just for them.

SM: How can we encourage children to help bake and prepare these gifts?

CM: Children can be involved in making these gifts at any age. Choose appropriate tasks for them to do. Measuring, weighing, and mixing can be shared. Even the washing-up afterwards can be a shared experience!

Encourage creativity. Kids can also be involved in packaging gifts by putting them into bags, jars or boxes. Handmade gift tags will also add a special touch.

SM: What do you love about baking?

CM: The main thing we love about baking is the end result – there is something to eat! We also enjoy the process of mixing ingredients to create something that looks and tastes completely different to the separate components. And we get to be creative and add our own ideas.

SM: Do you have any tips for cooking in general and Christmas cooking in particular?

CM: Don’t leave it to the last minute. There are things that can be done beforehand. Christmas baking doesn’t need to be time-consuming. Don’t be too ambitious. Use simple recipes.

Relax and enjoy the season! And, most importantly, don’t forget the real meaning of Christmas among all the busyness and celebrations.

Christmas bark


1 packet chocolate melts, decorations (for example – red and green M&Ms, crushed candy canes, sprinkles, mini marshmallows, chopped gingerbread).


Line an oven tray with baking paper.

Place chocolate melts in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 20-second increments, stirring in between, until almost melted. Stir until smooth.

Spread chocolate (as thinly as possible) on prepared tray . Sprinkle with decorations.

Refrigerate until hard. Break into pieces. 

Package as desired. Store at room temperature.

*Note: We have found Nestlé chocolate melts work well for this recipe as they set hard.




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