This is the weekend I begin to think of the edible gifts I can make to give with the usual bottle of bubbly we bring to friends. These tidings of joy — inexpensive, quick and festive — are especially fun to prepare with any children who happen to be around. And while it’s better to give than receive, I always look forward to the cranberry-nut bread baked yearly by our business partner, Dennis Sweeney, the box of Pittman & Davis pears from Texas sent by Diana and Bryan; the world’s best dry-roasted peanuts sent by our broker from North Carolina, the bittersweet chocolate bark made by my best friend Dale, and the Middle Eastern pastries from Dearborn, Michigan that my father used to send to everyone he knew. These are the gifts we rarely give ourselves.
Eight years ago I wrote a cookbook called Christmas 1-2-3. Tiny and beautifully designed it looks like an edible gift itself! (I think it may still be in print and would make a great stocking stuffer!) Featured within are many ideas for edible presents. My favorite is White Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch and you will find that recipe below. Equally simple to make is Pignoli Brittle, Apricot Sweetmeats — filled with almond paste and pistachios, Peppery spiced pecans, and Foie gras kisses. These can all be made up to two weeks in advance and ready for holiday partying. Equally compelling comestibles (from my other books) include Chocolate-Pecan Fudge, Chickpea Flour Cookies, and “Sugar Candy” — a recipe I found in the Alice B. Toklas cookbook, published in 1954. Alice, of course, was lover, confidante, and constant dining companion to the celebrated writer Gertrude Stein. “During the war there was a shortage of sugar, however this simple candy remained a staple of our household,” commented Alice. I found making this confection a bit like watching paint dry, but the results were worth it! (recipe below) Top each piece with a small candied violet and wrap in cellophane.
If there are edible gifts that you love to give, or receive, do let me know. I will be sharing those, and other recipes, in the holiday countdown.
White Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch
8 ounces white chocolate
2 tablespoons white creme de menthe
1/3 cup coarsely crushed candy canes
Melt white chocolate in top of a double boiler over simmering water. Add creme de menthe, stirring until smooth. Spray a 7-x-7 inch pan with cooking spray and pour in mixture so that it is smooth. Press crushed candy canes into mixture, distributing evenly. Chill and cut into squares. Line a box with colorful tissue and fill with candy. Makes 16 pieces
Alice B. Toklas’s Sugar Candy
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon brandy
candied violets, optional
Put the first three ingredients and a pinch of salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Heat the mixture until it just begins to bubble then reduce the heat to low. Stir almost constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is the color of coffee with cream. This will take 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the flame and pour into a lightly oiled square pan so that the candy is 1/2-inch thick. Cool and cut into small squares. Place a small piece of a candied violet on each, if desired. Makes 24 to 32 pieces.