“Like the final act of a play or the crescendo of a symphony, we expect a good
chocolate sweet to leave us speechless, craving for more.”
Suzanne Ausnit, 20C American editor
NB. Remember that chocolate must be kept at a cool but not cold temperature (it can develop a white film if kept in the fridge which is too cold for its delicate oils). Always use the best quality chocolate for confectionery – never cooking chocolate (you can add a tsp of vegetable oil if it is too stiff to handle). Do remember, also, to double the recipe because you will undoubtedly much quite a bit in cooking these.
Cost: not as cheap as other presents but at least half the price of bought chocolates. Advantages are that you can buy milk/dark/white and use as you or your recipient desire and you can buy organic/fair trade as you please.
Ease: chocolates are quite a bit easier than you might imagine, are fun to do, fairly quick and don’t cause that much mess. Needs limited equipment unless you’re getting fancy then you might need a visit to the cake decorating shop on Gloucester Rd or ‘Kitchens’ on Whiteladies Rd (who sell the small silver ‘cups’).
Other: these are great for mums, dads and nans, particularly as you can put their favourite centres in, so no arguing over the strawberry cremes! Make boxes (or buy a set of coloured round boxes from… eek… IKEA) and tie with attractive ribbon etc. Definite wow factor with any homemade chocolates.
As an alternative to the above, mould chocolates using ‘CEP’ or metal moulds (available from Kitchens in Clifton or on loan from me). Simply melt chocolate in a bain marie and smear it round the side of each mould. Then chop up fudge, turkish delight, fondant or put in a vodka soaked fruit and seal up with more chocolate. Let cool then pop out and put in fancy boxes.
Spices and essential oils, I am reliably informed, can be put in chocolate, although care must be taken. Put 1 drop of organic geranium oil in 1 litre of dark chocolate with some chopped candied orange peel (always buy it whole and chop it yourself as it’s much better quality) and stir. Set in moulds or pour out on cold surface and chop into squares when cooler. Alternatively, try sea salt chocolate (1 tsp in 100g melted dark chocolate) or black pepper (1/2 tsp crushed black pepper) or a few drops of infused chilli oil in chocolate.
Grate a 100g bar of dark chocolate, mix a tbsp of vanilla sugar (see flavoured sugars) or a little nutmeg, ground cinnamon etc and put in bag with nice ribbon, instructing drinker to stir 2tbsps into hot milk.
Cost: fairly cheap.
Ease: pretty easy
Other: good for after big christmas dinner
These are so easy a child could make them, which is precisely why I have included them… children love cooking at any time of year but these might be good presents for nan and grandad from your little sprog…
Buy marzipan and food colouring
Squash into small fruity shapes
Paint with food colouring and clean/new artists brush (roll strawberries in sugar for seed texture)
Serve in petit four cases (avail in supermarkets or kitchen shops)
Alternatively you can make sugar mice out of bought white icing using a piece of string and 2 silver balls for a tail and eyes.
Cranberry or Peppermint Cremes
Using the recipe below, try variations (eg adding 70g of dried, sweetened cranberries to the mixture).
Fondants and Fudge:
Pastry and Biscuits
These can be arranged to make a great present, though of course they need to be made/kept fresh.
Sugared Nuts (note these recipes contain nuts!)
2 x tbs of sugar with 2 x tbs of boiling water, dissolve, stir cup of nuts through and put on tray in oven 170C for about 10 mins, stiring often. These can be packed into a pretty jar.
Hot ‘n’ Spicy Nuts (a la Jamie Oliver)
More for eating at christmas than giving as a present as they are best eaten fresh
½ tbsp olive oil
255g/9oz shelled and peeled almonds
1-3 small dried red chillies
2 generous pinches of sea salt
Add olive oil and almonds to hot frying pan. Fry/toast almonds until golden brown, shaking the pan regularly to colour them evenly and accentuate their nutty flavour. Crumble the chilli to taste and add the sea salt. Toss over and serve hot on a large late.