Give a little bit of love from the kitchen

12/18/2012 8:21 PM

12/18/2012 8:51 PM

Let’s face it: You could easily buy a present for everyone on your list. But it doesn’t have the same heartfelt ring as a gift from the heart.

So bake up a batch of cookies, make some fudge or get the children involved with one of the pretzel projects featured here. Then start a new tradition by giving a little bit.

Cut fudge into small pieces and bake cookies into bite-size morsels. Place your homemade gifts — just one item is enough — into small packages set off with a colorful ribbon or a handmade card. Give just enough for a few sweet tastes.

Sometimes less is more, especially when it has everyone looking forward to a gift from your kitchen again next year.


Santa hat pretzels

Instructions

You'll need mini pretzels, mini marshmallows, melting white chocolate and red sugar crystals for this recipe.

Carefully melt chocolate in microwave in 30-second intervals according to package directions. Be careful: White chocolate burns easily, turning brown. You can melt it in a double broiler.

Dip top of pretzel in melted chocolate. Immediately stick marshmallow on right side of pretzel and sprinkle on red sugar crystals before the white chocolate cools. You should be able to visualize a Santa hat. Refrigerate for 10 minutes until candy sets.


Pistachio Brigadeiros

Ingredients

7-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons double cream

1 teaspoon light corn syrup

1–2 tablespoons almond paste, preferably Fabri

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1 cup finely ground pistachios

Instructions

Place the condensed milk, double cream, corn syrup, pistachio paste and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

As soon as it starts to boil, turn the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly while the milk thickens into a dense fudge, about 8 to 10 minutes. You know it is done when you tilt the pan and the whole fudge slides as a piece, leaving the burnt bits on the bottom of the pan.

Slide the mixture into a bowl, without scraping the bottom of the pan. Leave to cool at room temperature. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Scoop the mixture by the teaspoonful and, using your hands, roll each into a little ball, (¾-inch) in diameter.

Place the ground pistachios in a bowl. Roll 4 to 6 brigadeiros at a time in the nuts, making sure they cover the entire surface. Store in an airtight plastic container at room temperature for 2 days or up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Eat them at room temperature.

This recipe is from "The Brazilian Kitchen: 100 Classic and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook," by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz (Kyle Books, $19.95).


Citrus salts

Makes a generous 1 cup

Ingredients

1 cup coarse salt

3 tablespoon citrus zest

Instructions

Mix salt and zest in a bowl. Spread on baking trays and air dry overnight. Package in small containers for gift-giving. Use as a finishing salt on fish, beef, poultry or vegetables.

Let's face it: You could easily buy a present for everyone on your list. But it doesn't have the same heartfelt ring as a gift from the heart.

So bake up a batch of cookies, make some fudge or get the children involved with one of the pretzel projects featured here. Then start a new tradition by giving a little bit. Cut fudge into small pieces and bake cookies into bite-size morsels. Place your homemade gifts — just one item is enough — into small packages set off with a colorful ribbon or a handmade card. Give just enough for a few sweet tastes. Sometimes less is more, especially when it has everyone looking forward to a gift from your kitchen again next year.


Peppermint pretzel bites

Instructions

These easy, colorful treats require a bag of waffle pretzels and 1 to 2 bags of Hershey's peppermint kisses.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread pretzels flat on a cookie sheet. Place an unwrapped piece of candy on each pretzel, and then place the cookie sheet in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes. When the candies look glossy and soft, take the sheet out of the oven and place a waffle pretzel on top. Gently press down. Refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes or until firm.

These are fun for children to make.


Dipped pretzel sticks

Instructions

Cover the table with butcher paper and set out jimmies, chopped nuts and dried fruit in small bowls and let the kids go crazy. You'll need 1 bag of pretzel rods, 1 bag of semisweet chocolate chips, and chopped nuts, sprinkles and dried fruit.

Melt chocolate in microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring until smooth and liquid-like. Dip one end of each pretzel stick in the chocolate. Pull out the stick, turning each to remove excess chocolate. Dip in cup of topping or lay flat on wax paper and sprinkle topping over chocolate. Refrigerate 15 to 20 minutes until candy sets.


Fortune cookies

Fill each of these cookies with a personalized message of good will and give them to your family and friends for the holidays, new year or any other significant event.

Bake the cookies in small quantities, because you have to work very quickly to fill and shape them once they come out of the oven before the delicate

mixture becomes dry, brittle and impossible to fold.

Ingredients

¾ cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of ground ginger

Pinch of salt

3 large egg whites

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with nonstick parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, ground ginger and salt. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients, then add the melted butter, and blend until smooth. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Draw 2-by-2½-inch circles on each sheet of parchment paper and spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture onto each circle. Using either the back of a spoon or a palette knife, spread the mixture in an even layer to fill the circles. Bake 1 sheet on the middle rack of the preheated oven and the other on the shelf below for about 6 to 8 minutes, until the cookies are starting to turn golden at the edges.

Working quickly, remove one sheet of parchment paper from the oven at a time, leaving the other baking sheet inside and, using a palette knife, carefully and quickly lift the cookies off the parchment paper. Flip the cookie over, lay your fortune message in the middle, and fold the cookie over it in half. Bring the points of the cookie together to make the fortune cookie curl and leave to cool in a muffin pan (this will help them to keep their shape). Repeat with the remaining cookies.

Once you have used up all of the mixture and all of your cookies are baked and shaped, slide the muffin pan into the oven for another minute to brown them evenly.

Leave to cool in the pans before packaging in takeout boxes. Stored in an airtight container, they will keep for up to 3 days.

This recipe is from "Gifts from the Kitchen: 100 Irresistible Homemade Presents for Every Occasion," by Annie Rigg (Kyle Books, $24.95).


Fantasy fudge

Ingredients

3 cups sugar

¾ cup butter or margarine

1 small can (5 ounces) evaporated milk (about 2/3 cup — do not use sweetened condensed milk.)

12 ounces Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate, chopped

1 jar (7 ounces) Jet-puffed Marshmallow Creme

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

Line 9-inch square pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Bring sugar, butter and evaporated milk to a full rolling boil in 3-quart saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 4 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Add chocolate and marshmallow creme; stir until melted. Add nuts and vanilla; mix well.

Pour into prepared pan; spread to cover bottom of pan. Cool completely. Use foil handles to lift fudge from pan before cutting into squares.

This recipe, from www.kraftrecipes.com, is courtesy of Gene Lieb, publisher of the Los Banos Enterprise.

Lieb learned to make fudge from his mom.

"It has been a tradition that I have followed since I was 12 years old," said Lieb, who is now 49. "Over the years I have experimented a bit with different types of chips and whether I put walnuts in my fudge or not but, for the most part, it's been the same recipe every year thanks to Kraft Foods. It's printed on their marshmallow cream bottle.

"And so I can't take credit for it, but it usually turns out pretty good each year. Feel free to substitute whatever chips you find from white chocolate to mint to peanut butter to dark chocolate to traditional milk ... they all work. The only one I haven't tried yet is butterscotch ... maybe next year."

Lieb offers a few tips:

5 ounces of evaporated milk works out to be º cup, which means 1 can of evaporated milk is enough for two batches of fudge.

"I use a 9-by-9 aluminum pan and just butter the pan — bottom and sides. When it cools, I cover it with foil and put it in the fridge. After a night in the fridge I remove the foil, turn it upside down on a cutting board and gently push down on the bottom of the pan and it will peal out of the pan fairly easily. Then I cut it into squares — you choose small or large squares.

Lieb does not use a candy thermometer. "Once it starts boiling really well, I time it for 4 minutes while it's still boiling the entire time — stirring continuously so that nothing sticks. In fact, I stir the mixture from the moment I turn on the burner to the time I pour it into the pan. I never want it to stick.

The nuts are optional.

The 1 teaspoon of vanilla is important to give the finished fudge the right shine.

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