Enter the first in a brief series of posts we’ll be doing this week to show you what sorts of edible goodies we’re gifting this year. The holidays have sort of crept up furtively this year, and it seems that I, their unsuspecting victim, have fallen prey to the disorienting sense of time that makes the calendar pages fly by at an escalating rate relative to one’s increasing age. All television commercials announcing how many shopping days left until Christmas have fallen on my deaf ears. All talk of holiday vacation off from work has not impressed upon me the urgency with which my holiday baking must now be accomplished. And no, I am not one of those people who sits down at Thanksgiving to test out Christmas cookie recipes and let them hibernate in the freezer until gift-giving time arrives.
Nevertheless, I have managed to whip up a few treats and wanted to show them to you in case you, too, are in a time-crunch for hostess gifts or holiday potluck contributions. And even if you’re not, maybe you’ll keep some of these ideas in mind for next year! (Oh, but if you’re looking for food-related gifts of a less caloric nature, try these).
A couple days ago I told you about the cinnamon swirl bread I made. Those made gifts for a few people.
And to package them up, I placed them in a clear plastic bread bag and then put them in some crafty bags:
…which I made by gluing a thin strip of holiday-themed paper to the front of the bag and affixing a label created with a rubber stamp.
Other bags contained chocolate bread – a unique creation that is not quite bread and not quite cake but makes an excellent afternoon snack with jam and wine, or included on the hors d’oeuvres plate. I made mine using the recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, but you can read another commentary about the magic of chocolate bread here.
Paired with a jar of locally made strawberry or raspberry jam, this makes a very nice gift bag indeed.
And if you’d like to go more of the candy route this year, these caramel pecan clusters (suggested by one of my readers, Danielle), are super quick and easy.
Caramel Pecan Clusters
Heat your oven to 325F. You’ll need:
– whole or chopped pecans
– soft caramel candies (one for each cluster you want to make)
– sea salt or fleur de sel (or any other snazzy gourmet salt you’d like to try)
– chocolate chips (optional)
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Group a small amount of pecans together on the baking sheet (I got about 6 clusters per sheet).
2. Smoosh each caramel using the bottom of a measuring cup or a glass. Place one smooshed caramel on top of each group of pecans.
3. Bake for 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with salt. If you want to incorporate chocolate, place a couple chips on the top at this time and let them melt together.
4. Move this batch to a cooling rack and into the freezer while you make the next batch (about 10 minutes). This allows the caramel to set again, preventing everything from sticking together when you try to move the clusters.
All told, I made about 30 clusters in 30 minutes which is incidentally the same rate Danielle said she worked at when she tested the recipe. She even had her dad smoosh the caramels for an efficient, assembly-line style production. What a great project to involve the whole family! Thanks, Danielle!
I packaged 8-10 clusters in a bag to insert into my crafted paper bags.
So whether you receive one of these gifts or just read about them in this post or create them for your family and friends, I hope you’ll find these ideas useful and inspiring, but above all, borrowing words from Paula Deen, I wish you love and best dishes…
…from the kitchen of Jessalyn. Happy holidays! Stay tuned for more last-minute treats, and feel free to share the delicious delectations you are baking up this holiday season.