Gift-giving: Susan Semenak's home-cooked ideas
Published Monday, December 10, 2012 1:10PM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 10, 2012 1:33PM EST
Homemade gifts have heart. Who wouldn’t be smitten with a box of handmade chocolate? You don’t even have to be a domestic diva to come up with these easy-to-make, artfully-presented artisanal treasures.
White Chocolate Peppermint Bark
Makes 2 pounds
- 2 pounds good quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 6 peppermint candy canes, chopped into small pieces
In the top of a double boiler, melt white chocolate. Remove from heat. Add peppermint pieces and stir to combine. Spread onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until set. Break into pieces and transfer to individual cookie tins or confectioner’s boxes (available from craft stores and baking supply shops.)
Big Cluster Maple Granola
Makes 7 cups
The homemade stuff is packed with healthy ingredients and less cloyingly sweet than store-bought. It’s also remarkably easy to whip up in large batches, perfect for gift-giving.
This is a recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (Alfred A. Knopf) by the New York food blogger Deb Perelman.
- 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
- 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup toasted wheat germ
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg white
- 1-1/2 cups dried cherries or other dried fruit
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Combine all ingredients but the egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly.
Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout. Spread it in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola, breaking them up as little as possible. Rotate the pan if the granola is baking unevenly.
When it is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. Cool completely then break up granola into clusters. Sprinkle in the dried fruit.
Store at room temperature in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks, or longer in the freezer.
Makes 4 250-ml bottles
Even imported blackberries available at this time of year work in this jewel-toned liqueur, which makes a beautiful gift presented in a stylish bottle along with a set of liqueur glasses for serving it in.
Make sure the bottle has a tight-fitting cork.
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 4 cups fresh blackberries, washed and drained
- 1 1.14 L bottle vodka
In a saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil. Simmer rapidly for 10 to 15 minutes, until slightly syrupy. Remove from heat.
In a large, wide-mouthed jar, combine sugar syrup and blackberries, crushing to release the juice. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator or in a cool, dry place for at least two weeks to allow flavours to develop.
Using a funnel lined with a triple layer of cheesecloth, strain into well-washed decorative bottles, pressing the fruit to get as much juice out as possible.
Cork bottles tightly and wipe clean.