Posted on December 06 2021
Christmas is a time for giving, and nothing is better than a homemade gift. You can always buy a box of chocolates for someone, but making up your own gift boxes in the kitchen is easier than it sounds and will impress family and friends.
At the simplest level, consider making tiny packages of dried fruits and nuts. Vacuum seal your fruits and nuts in a zipper vacuum seal bag and place a custom designed label on the bag that you can print at home. Or use small paper cases for the fruits, or lay the ingredients out on a tray or mat and cover with clingfilm to make an attractive presentation. Then simply tie up with some ribbon and stick a little rosette, an artificial flower or even a Christmas tree bauble on to it to make it look extra special.
You can go further without much effort. Get some marzipan and use it to stuff dates. If you feel creative, you could even make little marzipan fruits or figures, using some food dye to make them look real. Little marzipan squares or rounds with a nut pressed firmly into the top are also easy to make.
"Bliss balls" make great presents for health-conscious friends and are very easy to make. Mix together nuts, dried fruit and seeds, perhaps adding some cocoa or peanut butter, and blitz all the ingredients in a food processor, then form the sticky mixture into balls and roll in cocoa or grated coconut. The key to success is having enough moist, sticky fruit, such as dates, to make the ingredients cohere.
Chocolate-coated fruits are slightly messier and more complicated to make. Melt the chocolate in a microwave, and dip the dried fruit into it. You can also spoon melted chocolate on to waxed paper to make small discs (if it's been properly melted, it should spread out evenly) and then press a dried fruit or nut firmly into the top. Marzipan fingers half-dipped in chocolate are another fairly simple sweet to make. Dark, milk and white chocolate can be used to vary the visual appeal of the sweets.
For the more accomplished cook, small biscuits and fruit cakes make great Christmas gifts. However, remember that the recipient may not want to eat the whole packet at one sitting, so concentrate on recipes that will last for at least a week, rather than, for instance, cupcakes that will spoil in a couple of days. Or you can consider vacuum sealing them as well. Here are tips on how to vacuum seal bread.
Florentines are easy to make. Crushed nuts and chopped dried fruit and citrus peel are mixed with melted butter, sugar and flour and spread out on waxed paper; when the biscuits cool they become crunchy, and can then be coated on one side with melted chocolate.
By putting together your own gift packages, rather than buying what you see in the shops, you can save a good deal of money. More than that, your friends and family will know you made a personal effort. What gift could be more personal or given with more love?