Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

Gourmet Girl - December 17, 2014

You can never go wrong with homemade edible gifts for the holidays...

Homemade treats make the best holiday gifts. They're simple to make and fun to present in gaily wrapped tins, jars and glasseline bags. You probably have a favorite family recipe that would make the perfect present, whether rum balls rolled in confectioner's sugar, bizcochitos sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar or lebkuchen spiced with cinnamon cloves, lemon zest and almonds. Bring them as a hostess gift to a holiday party, or deliver them to your favorite friends on Christmas Eve. Guaranteed to please!

Photo by: Megan Eaves

Gluten-Free Biscochitos (Makes about 9 dozen: Recipe courtesy of Revolution Bakery)
5-6 cups all purpose gluten-free flour

6 teaspoons xanthan1 pound lard
1 stick margarine
Dash of salt
1 ½ cups sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon anise, crushed
4 teaspoons baking powder
6 eggs
2 1/3 cups orange juice
A hearty splash of Muscato
Cinnamon sugar, for dipping

Combine flour with xanthan and let sit for about 15 minutes.

In large saucepan, melt lard and margarine together. Let cool. Blend with salt, sugar, cinnamon, anise, baking powder and eggs. Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time.Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to325 degrees.

Roll out dough and cut in the traditional fleur-de-lis shape, or in the shapes of reindeer, snowmen, circles , holly leaf and other shapes. Dip the top of each bizochito in cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake for 10 minutes, and watch to make sure they don't turn brown. Cool on wire racks. Then arrange bizcochitos  in holiday tin, lined with parchment paper, or in glassine bags tied with ribbon.

 Photo by: Dana Moos

Rum Balls
2 boxes Nilla wafers
¼ cup rum, plus more
½ cup honey
2 cups ground walnuts
Confectioner's sugar, for rolling

Grind wafers until fine. Grind walnuts until fine. Mix all ingredients together, except confectioner's sugar. Add more honey and rum if mixture is too dry. Once mixture holds together, roll into balls the size of walnuts, then roll in confectioner's sugar. Store in sealed containers for 2 days. Place in glass jars and wrap the top with colorful ribbon.

Photo by: thebittenword.com

Lebkuchen
These are German cookies, based on a recipe my mother-in-law, Helga Langan, uses every year.
3 eggs
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2/3 cup candied orange & lemon peel, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4  teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2-1/2 cups almonds, finely chopped
4 teaspoons corn starch
Whole almonds, for decoration

Beat eggs and sugar until thick and creamy.  Stir in almonds, corn starch, peels and spices and beat until thick.
Spread mixture on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Decorate with almonds. Let set 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Place cookies on baking sheet and bake for about ½ hour, until dry on the outside and moist on the inside. Place in holiday tins lined with festive parchment paper.

Photo by: Alan Sheffield

Holiday Orange Peels
3 oranges, peeled.
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate

Cut the orange peel into strips and place in boiling water  for15 minutes, Drain and rinse.

In medium saucepan, combine sugar with 3 cups water over medium heat. Stir in orange peel strips, lower heat to simmer and cook until soft, about 45 minutes. Drain and toss orange peels in sugar.  Place on wire rack and dry for 8 hours.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate over a double boiler. Dip orange peel strips in melted bittersweet chocolate and place on wax paper, to harden. Place in glasseline bags tied with holiday ribbons or in clear glass jars.

Photo by: Bryan Ochala

Holiday Marshmallows (Makes a dozen)
2 1/4-ounce powdered gelatin packets 
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
Seeds from 2 vanilla beans

In medium mixing bowl, combine gelatin and ¾ cup water.

In separate bowl,combine  confectioners' sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle half of the cornstarch mixture in an 8-inch square pan.

In medium sauce pan, heat corn syrup, sugar, and salt in 1/2 cup water over medium-high heat ,for 6 to 8 minutes.

Combine syrup with gelatin mixture andvanilla bean seeds in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium high until thick and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Scrape into the pan and spread evenly with a buttered spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining cornstarch mixture. Let dry overnight, then slice into squares.

Photo by: Staci Flick

Sea Salt Caramels (From The Food Network)
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cup light corn syrup
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder.
Sea salt

Line an 8-inch-square pan with foil and brush with oil.

Melt butter in saucepan  add sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally,for 15 minutes, or until a candy thermometer reaches 248 degrees. Pour into the prepared baking pan and let cool. Cut into squares and sprinkle with sea salt while still warm. Place in glass jar and wrap top with colored ribbon.