One of the most memorable Christmas gifts I ever received was a box of red velvet cupcakes. Frankly, they weren’t the most Instagram- worthy nor the yummiest little things but receiving something a friend had slaved over for hours was the real present. Here are some edible gifts to experiment with; with about a month to go before Christmas, you’ll have more than enough time to perfect this for your company or family party!
Ingredients: Milk or semisweet chocolate; classic toppings including dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, candied orange peel, cranberries and cherries, or toasted nuts including hazelnuts, pecans, almonds and pistachios; and contemporary toppings such as cereal, candied ginger, and dried fruits such as pineapple, blueberries and strawberries, or toasted pumpkin seeds and pine nuts.
1. Line a chilled baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour warm (not hot), melted chocolate into the prepared pan.
2. Spread the chocolate evenly to about 1⁄8 inch thick using a small offset spatula. Sprinkle toppings on the chocolate and place in the freezer to set, approximately 20 minutes.
3. For even-sized pieces, cut up bark before it sets completely. If you like a more rustic look, allow the bark to harden completely before breaking it up into pieces. Store in a cool, dry place.
Ingredient: Fine sea salt
Celery salt: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Place leaves from four heads of celery on two parchment-lined baking pans and bake until dry, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely. Using a spice grinder, and working in batches if necessary, pulse the leaves until coarsely ground. In a medium bowl, combine ground celery leaves and 1 cup fine sea salt.
Lime-ginger salt: Spread lime zest from about six limes on waxed paper; let dry overnight. In a medium bowl, combine lime zest, three teaspoons ground ginger and 1 cup fine sea salt.
Curry salt: Using a mortar and pestle, crush 12 medium bay leaves until coarsely ground. In a medium bowl, combine ground bay leaves with 1/4 cup garam masala, 1/4 cup curry powder, two teaspoons ground cumin and 1/2 cup fine sea salt. Label and divide the salt into jars and tighten the lids to seal.
Ingredients: 8 cups mild honey; and 10 sprigs rosemary, rinsed and dried
1. In a medium saucepan over low heat, cook honey and six sprigs rosemary just until honey begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes.
2. Using tongs, remove and discard rosemary sprigs and any stray leaves. To decant, divide honey among four clean 16-ounce jars. Let cool completely, about 40 minutes. Insert a fresh sprig of rosemary into each jar, and tighten lids to seal.
Ingredient: 12 bottles (750 ml each) vodka
1. For each infused vodka, use a twogallon pitcher to combine four 750-ml bottles of vodka and specified flavorings; steep as directed.
2. To decant, use a funnel to divide the finished vodka among four clean 750- ml bottles, then seal with corks.
Hibiscus-infused vodka: Steep hibiscus tea bags, tags removed, in vodka for four hours; strain, then decant. Cucumber-lime-infused vodka: Peel one seedless English cucumber. Refrigerate peel, and slice cucumber into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Cut the peel of one lime into strips. Add cucumber rounds and lime peel to vodka; steep for 24 hours. Strain, then decant. Add three or four pieces of cucumber peel to each bottle before corking.
Horseradish-infused vodka: Slice eight ounces horseradish root into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Add horseradish rounds and two teaspoons whole black peppercorns to vodka. Steep for 24 hours. Strain, then decant. Slice remaining once ounce horseradish into matchsticks. Add five or six matchsticks and three or four peppercorns to each bottle before corking. (Recipes and photos from www.countryliving.com)