Finding a perfect gift at Christmas for a friend or loved one that is both meaningful and well liked is no easy feat. On many occasions I have tirelessly walked up and down the high street in search of that one perfect gift and more often that not I’ve returned home disappointed or even worse – giftless!
More recently however I have traded in the hours and expense of panicked gift shopping in favour of something I love – cooking – and I have to tell you that within your kitchen cupboards are the best gifts one could ever receive. What better gift can there be, for example, than giving homemade truffles to a chocolate lover in a fabulously decorated box or some freshly made biscotti’s to complement a coffee lover’s morning coffee? The whole idea of making a gift from scratch is incredibly refreshing. I have always found that food wheter savoury or sweet, has a way of connecting people unlike any other gift you can find.
The possibilities are endless and the results, priceless…
Homemade fudge is superior to the shop bought version. You will need a jam thermometer for this recipe, but it’s a good tool to have in the kitchen anyway and it isn’t exspensive.
350g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place the milk and cream in a heavy-based saucepan, add the sugar and butter, and bring to the boil over a medium heat.
- When the mixture comes to the boil, reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove
- from the heat and leave to cool.
- The mixture needs to reach ‘soft-ball’ stage, which is at 115°C. Once this is reached, stir in
- the vanilla extract.
- Beat the mixture with a whisk until it reaches a thick consistency. Pour the mixture into a greased tray
- and leave to set.
- Cut into squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Chocolate Pistachio Truffles
Melt in the mouth chocolate truffles. Now who wouldn’t want to receive these as a gift? There are so may variations, so this is a great recipe for making in large quantities as you can split the mixture and add different flavouring.
200g good-quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
100ml double cream
150g pistachio nuts, finely chopped
cocoa powder, for dusting
- Slowly melt the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water until it is smooth and glossy.
- Gently heat the cream in a heavy-based saucepan until warm.
- Pour the warm cream onto the melted chocolate and mix well until fully incorporated.
- Mix in 100g of the pistachio nuts. Set aside to cool and firm up (you can refrigerate the mixture to speed up the process if desired).
- Once firm, take teaspoons of the mixture and roll into walnut-sized balls, then leave to set on a tray lined with greaseproof paper.
- Once set, place another 50g of the finely chopped pistachio nuts in a bowl and roll the truffles in the nuts.
- Finally, dust with cocoa powder.
Variations – there are so many variations for this recipe. Try replacing the pistachios with hazelnuts or nibbed almonds. To spice this up, replace the hazelnuts with 4 cardamon pods or 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Also try adding 1 dessertspoon of bourbon, Grand Marnier, rum or the zest and juice of an orange.
Christmas Cookie Dough
Cookie dough makes a delicious and thoughtful gift all year round. Patterned wrapping paper, stationery and cheerful scraps of paper look so lovely wrapped around logs of cookie dough that have been bundled in waxed or greaseproof paper.
makes 3 rolls of cookie dough
250g butter, softened
120g caster sugar
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
80g white chocolate
70g dried cranberries, chopped
- Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream together with a wooden spoon until pale in colour.
- Sift the flour and baking powder, then add the white chocolate and dried cranberries. Bring the mixture
- together to form a dough.
- Cut the dough in three. Roll each third into a sausage shape. Wrap in greaseproof paper, cover with another wrap of Christmas gift-wrapping paper and tie at both ends with some pretty ribbon.
- Write a little note on a card to say that the cookies should be cut into 8 pieces and then cooked for 10–15 minutes in a preheated oven at 180°C.