Cookbook author Deanna F. Cook doesn't want you to worry about making a mess.

This holiday season, Cook — author of the cookbook "Baking Class: 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Bake!" (Storey Publishing) — wants you to get the kids involved.

"Let kids have fun in the kitchen," Cook said. "Don't worry about the mess, although be sure they help with the cleanup. Enjoy the process of baking together."

If you're new to letting little chefs help in the kitchen, the author suggests having them do simple jobs at first — measuring flour or rolling out the dough — and eventually they'll move on to being able to bake almost an entire recipe (more time for you to perhaps, enjoy the holidays?).

"You just need to stand by if they need help," she said.

Have your aspiring bakers make classic cut-out cookies and decorate them, or homemade breads are also fun to make, she said. Or, you can try these mini apple pies, which Cook said are great homemade gifts for friends or teachers.

"Even if the apple pies come out lop-sided, they will still be proud," she said.

And even more important than the final outcome of each recipe is the time spent together learning an important life skill that will, literally, serve your children for a lifetime.

"Baking is one of the sweetest parts of childhood," Cook said. "Many happy childhood memories are made in the kitchen."

Teeny Tiny Apple Pies

Makes 12

These tiny treats will fit in the palm of your hand. These are made with apples, but you can use raspberries or blueberries instead.

Here's What You Need

1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped (or 1 cup berries)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons orange juice

2 unbaked piecrusts (see page 108)

1 tablespoon butter

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

Here's What You Do

1. Mix the chopped apple, sugar, cinnamon, and juice in a bowl. Set it aside for about 10 minutes to get nice and juicy.

2. Roll out the piecrust between two pieces of plastic wrap.

3. Cut out twelve 2 -inch circles with a round cookie cutter or rim of a glass. Press each one into a cup of a mini muffin pan. You don't need to grease the cups.

4. Add 1 rounded tablespoon of filling to each cup. Dot with a tiny piece of the butter.

5. Gather the dough scraps and roll them out. Use tiny cookie cutters to make decorative shapes or cut thin strips for lattice toppings.

6. Add a top crust with slits, a cut-out shape, or a lattice top. Crimp the edges together with a fork or your fingers.

7. Beat the egg with the milk in a small bowl. Brush the mini pies with the egg mixture. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until the crusts are golden-brown.

8. Let the pies cool for just a few minutes in the pan, and then carefully remove each one by running a sharp knife around the edges and popping it out of the pan.