Christmas is the season of giving, and no gift is more welcome than something personal from your own kitchen. Pack your creation in a pretty holiday tin, canister, or gift jar, and you’re ready to make merry. The following are some of my favorite holiday treats, all perfect for giving.
The flavor contrasts here are sophisticated and marvelous. I wouldn’t hesitate to serve these brownies to the most discriminating dinner guest. The bittersweet chocolate layer is deeply flavored with the addition of unsweetened cocoa powder and espresso. The caramel is just shy of burnt with a complexity that pairs beautifully with the chocolate. The periodic hits of sharp, creamy lemon chevre filling are surprising and delightful. Every bite brings a different combination of the elements.
Chewy gooey bittersweet chocolate brownie, pools of dark caramel, and luscious chevre-cream cheese filling. Your co-workers will swoon.
If you have tasted the preservative-laden candied citron available in the typical grocery store, you understand why you must to make your own and then treat your best friends. It’s simply incomparable with a cup of tea or espresso; so much sensational flavor in such a tiny, guilt-free bite.
Once you taste these spicy caramel-coated nuts, you will not want to be without them. With five variations, choose your favorite nuts and try your hand with the professional’s super-easy caramel making technique.
If you plan to invite a few friends over for tea and nibbles this holiday season, do infuse your favorite tea with this heady blend of spices. While you’re at it, have someone read aloud the heartwarming little story, A Cup of Christmas Tea. I guarantee you will all feel blessed by the Spirit of Christmas.
I love making this tender, tangy tea bread in small loaf pans so that we can eat one right away and give the rest as gifts. Wondrously, this bread is actually better in all ways the day after it is baked. It is a festive and welcome accompaniment to the holiday festivities. Treat yourself!
This fudge is what holiday dreams are made of: sweet, creamy, delicious, unusual, and memorable. Make it the traditional way or the easy way with marshmallow cream. Both methods are included. Either way, your friends and family will clamor for it every year.
Congo Bars take Blondies to the Wild Side. There is nothing demur or sophisticated about either of these ultra-chewy, lip-smacking bar cookies. They are unabashedly hedonistic, indulgent, and sensuous. Which of course strikes just the right note for all those holiday parties.
This is NOT mildly flavored, American-style hot cocoa, which is typically made with cocoa powder, or sometimes with chocolate syrup. Rather, it is European-style drinking or hot chocolate, which is made with high-quality bar chocolate. Once you have had hot chocolate made in this way, you won’t settle for anything else. It’s the stuff of which dreams are made.
This is the quintessential Northwest panforte nero, my personal rendition of the Italian Christmas confection, containing Northwest fruits and nuts, and both cocoa and black pepper. The honey-caramel is enriched with butter and the usual flour amount is reduced to only what is necessary to coat and separate the chopped fruit. The result is divine, and although the directions say to serve a very small sliver, no one EVER eats only one or even two slivers. You will end up hiding this, even from yourself. Oh the joys of Christmas!
This creamy, dreamy caramel sauce, which is fairly firm at room temperature or saucy when heated, makes an exceptional gift. Try it warmed over the best vanilla ice cream you can get. Add roasted, salted peanuts, Caramelized Banana and either chopped bittersweet bar chocolate or finely crushed espresso beans for an uncommonly good, altogether grownup holiday sundae.
Pumpkin Spice Hot White Chocolate
This Hot White Chocolate is in the style of European drinking chocolate, which is made with whole milk (and sometimes part cream) and melted high-quality bar chocolate. If you plan to do the whole cut-your-own-tree thing, be sure to pack a thermos of this creamy concoction, spiked with espresso or Meyer’s dark rum. Throw in a canister of whipping cream, and you will be a HERO.
Imagine a distinctive, dark caramel sauce with the additional flavor and acidity of tart green apples. I love it over vanilla bean or sweet corn gelato, with warm-spiced roasted apples, alongside pumpkin bread pudding, with beignet or ebelskiver, over delicate cottage cheese pancakes or Swedish flespannkaka (small, crepe-like pancakes with bits of rendered salt pork) , and most especially with Spiced Pumpkin Sour Cream Upside-Down Cake with Caramelized Cranberry Hazelnut Topping and Orange Cream.
This Pumpkin Butter uses both brown sugar and maple syrup as sweeteners, but neither to excess. The finished butter is richly spicy but only moderately sweet, making it a very versatile addition or accompaniment to other dishes. When you gift this, be sure to include the recipe for Spicy Pumpkin Butter Gingerbread Beignets.
This buttery nut brittle is unlike any I have ever experienced. The flavor of wildflower honey almost supersedes that of toasted hazelnuts, but not quite. The taste buds dance from one flavor to the other and back again, helped along by a generous dose of sea salt, both in and on top of the brittle. The gentle yet pervasive background flavors of vanilla and exotic spices will keep you and everyone else coming back for more. A very special gift.