Making edible gifts
Lately I really just want to hit the pause button on life, on the world – hole up in my house for several days straight, and make yummy food. Decadent food, holiday food. Unfortunately, no such button exists so I carve out my little episodes of baking bliss where I can. These are some of my favorite recipes for giving.
Homemade gifts bring double the fun. They bring happiness not only to the recipient, but also to the giver. Setting aside an afternoon to make holiday treats for those who love and support you is a gratifying endeavor. They also have the added benefit of economy. Most of these recipes can be made for less than $10 and will make 4-5 generously sized gifts each.
These recipes are straightforward and all are fun to make with children. Kids will enjoy mixing the granola and caramel corn (grown-ups can assist with stirring it as it bakes), rolling shortbread dough into logs and cutting it into rounds with a butter knife, stirring chocolate and rolling truffles. These recipes also ship well, making them perfect additions to holiday care packages or gift baskets.
Breakfast treats make a thoughtful hostess gift. As your host is cleaning up and putting away glassware, they will happily remember your gift of festive holiday granola, and perhaps some locally roasted coffee or fancy tea. Wine gets lost in the moment or is not the right pairing, but breakfast lasts forever.
(If nut allergies are a concern, omit almonds and pecans and add 1 cup sunflower seeds.)
• 5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
• 1 ½ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
• 1 cup slivered almonds
• 1 cup chopped pecans
• 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
• ¼ cup flax seed
• 2/3 cup brown sugar
• 2/3 cup pure maple syrup or honey
• 2/3 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as safflower or canola
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 ½ cup dried cherries or cranberries
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine oats, pepitas, almonds, pecans, coconut flakes and flax seeds in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine brown sugar, maple syrup or honey, salt and cinnamon and mix into a slurry. Pour the slurry over the oats and mix well to combine. Transfer to three greased baking sheets and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, for 45-60 minutes until golden brown. Cool, then store in an airtight container. Yield: about 3 quarts
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 pound good quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
pinch of salt
• cocoa powder, chopped toasted nuts, and toasted coconut for rolling truffles
Bring cream to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Turn off the heat and add chocolate. Whisk slowly to melt chocolate. Mix in salt. Pour mixture into an 8-inch x 8-inch baking dish and refrigerate for at least one hour. After the mixture has chilled, scoop out teaspoons and roll into a rough ball with your hands, then roll in cocoa and/or nuts. Refrigerate until firm. Serve at room temperature. Will freeze well for up to three months. For a grown-up treat, add up to two tablespoons dark rum, bourbon. Yields about 50 truffles.
Cheddar Pecan Shortbreads
• 1 cup whole wheat flour
• 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• ¼ teaspoon cayenne
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
• 2 cups grated good quality cheddar, like Cabot
• ½ cup cold buttermilk
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 cup toasted chopped pecans
Add flour, cayenne, salt, butter and cheddar to the bowl of a food processor. Add the milk and Worcestershire and pulse to combine. Add pecans and pulse just to combine. Empty the contents of the food processor onto a piece of plastic wrap and using the plastic wrap form the mixture into a ball. Divide the ball in two and roll each half into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. At this point the logs can be frozen for up to three months.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Unwrap the logs and slice into ¼-inch-thick rounds and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced one inch apart. Bake until golden, about 12-15 minutes. Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight container for up to one week. Baked shortbread freezes well for up to one month. Yield: about 4 dozen
• ¾ cup popcorn kernels
• ½ cup butter
• 1 cup brown sugar
• ¼ cup dark Karo syrup
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
Preheat the oven to 250. Pop the popcorn. Transfer the popcorn into a large mixing bowl, taking care to sort out any unpopped kernels. Bring the butter, brown sugar, Karo syrup and salt to a boil in a large sauce pan. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda – the mixture will foam up. Add the mixture to the popped popcorn. Transfer the mixture to a greased baking sheet and bake at 250 for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. When cool, package in an airtight container. Keeps well for about one week.
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