Naughty and Nice: Festive food gifts

Recipes for the perfect last-minute Christmas gifts

If you’re stuck for last minute Christmas presents ideas and can’t face going to town, then why not think about making your own homemade food gifts. When wrapped up or put in a gift box, the simplest of homemade treats can be made into Christmas gifts, while leaving you a bit of change to spare for a few Christmas Eve drinks.

Most of the recipes below require basic baking ingredients, with a few extras that are all available in the supermarkets. I allocated myself an afternoon (a break away from revision) to make all of these in one go; it only took a couple of hours. As well as baked goods, you could think about making jams and chutneys, or even homemade oat biscuits, breadsticks and grissini.


Fruit and Nut biscotti

Photo Credit: Grace Marsh

Photo Credit: Grace Marsh

These biscuits will last for a couple of weeks if stored in a cool, dry place, making them a great Christmas gift. You can substitute the nuts and dried fruits with others, for example you could use dried morello cherries, apricots, hazelnuts, cashew nuts. You can also vary the amount of fruit and nuts that you add depending on your preference.

Ingredients

  • 350g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Zest of two clementines (or one orange)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 90g raisins or sultanas
  • 90g dried cranberries
  • 80g blanched almonds
  • 70g shelled pistachios

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°c. Line two large baking sheets with greaseproof or baking paper. Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder until fully combined. Add the beaten eggs and the orange zest. When the mixture is too hard to mix with a spoon, use your hands to combine everything together.

2. Knead the dough together. If it’s too dry, add a little water, if it’s too wet, add a little more plain flour.

3. Next add the dried fruit and nuts, combining everything so the fruit and nuts are as evenly distributed as possible.Form the dough into a ball then split into four equal parts.

4. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute. Roll each piece into a long sausage shape approximately 30cm or so long. Put two on each tray, ensuring that there are well spaced apart. Bake for 25 minutes until lightly brown and firm to touch.

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5. Remove from the oven, transferring to a wire rack. Leave to stand until cool enough to be handled. Turn the oven to 140°c.

6. Peel the piece away from the greaseproof paper and using a bread knife, cut each pieces into 1.5cm slices on the diagonal.Space the biscotti apart, flat on the baking trays.

7. Put them back in the oven, baking for 15 minutes, before turning over and baking for another 10 or 15. If they are looking nicely browned after 10 minutes, take then out of the oven.

8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Put them in a boxes or wrap in cellophane and ribbon to give as gifts.


Marzipan fondants

Photo Credit: Grace Marsh

Photo Credit: Grace Marsh

These taste much better than shop-bought marzipan sweets, and are very easy to make. The recipe makes 12/13 but you can double the quantity or increase the quantities very easily.

Ingredients

  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g caster sugar
  • ½ egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp of almond essence (optional, but adds a deeper almond flavour)

For the icing:

  • Icing sugar
  • Juice of ½ clementine or orange
  • Water

Method

1. Mix the ground almonds and caster sugar together until completely combined. Add the beaten egg and almond essence if using. Mix ingredients to form a thick paste, use your hands to bind everything together. If the mixture is too sticky, add a little icing sugar until it is easier to combine.

doughmixture2. Knead the dough for a minute or so on a surface dusted with icing sugar. Roll the dough out into a rectangle shape and to a thickness of your choice, depending on how big you want the pieces. I used a thickness of around 1.5cm. Using a sharp knife, either chop the dough into rectangle shaped pieces or cut out pieces using a cookie cutter of your choice.

3. Line a tray or plate with baking paper and place the marzipan pieces on top. Leave to set for at least an hour.

shaped 4. You can leave the marzipan plain as it is with a dusting of icing sugar, cover with icing or even melted chocolate. I mixed up a quick mixture of icing sugar, the juice from half an orange, and a few tsps of water until it made a very thick paste. Spoon the mixture on top, and then decorate with nuts, crystallised fruit pieces or simply dust with icing sugar. I used shelled pistachios.

5. Once this is done, leave the fondants to set completely overnight. Store in a cool, dry place. They will keep for a couple of days.


Spicy mixed nuts

Photo Credit: Grace Marsh

Photo Credit: Grace Marsh

These can be made in 15 minutes and are delicious. I used a bag of mixed nuts but any nuts would work in this if you have a particular favourite. Use your imagination with the spices that you use. I used a mixture of what I could find in the cupboard, and they worked well together. Chilli flakes or powder, garlic powder or jerk seasoning would be a nice addition. Quantities can be easily changed also.

Ingredients

  • 175g mixed nuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (add more if you would like the final result to be stickier
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar or demerara sugar
  • ½ tsp Thai 7 spice
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of ginger
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • Salt and black pepper to season

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180°c. Line a baking tray with greaseproof or baking paper.

2. Combine the nuts and oil together, and then add the spices. Season with salt and paper. Finally mix in the sugar. Toss everything together until the nuts are evenly coated.

3. Put on the baking tray, spreading to a single layer. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring half way through.

4. Leave to cool the pack into a box or bag to give as a quick and easy gift.


Dark chocolate flavoured truffles

Truffles are one of the simplest things to make and fantastic as you can add flavours such as fruit zest or juice, liqueurs, or essences to jazz them up.

Ingredients

  • 150g dark chocolate (the better the quality, the better the end result)
  • 150g double cream
  • 25g unsalted butter, cubed into small pieces
  • Liqueurs, fresh fruit juices, essences of your choice
  • Cocoa powder, icing sugar, chopped nuts or melted chocolate to dust and coat the truffles if you would like

Method

1. Roughly break the chocolate into pieces and put in a large mixing bowl. Combine the double cream and butter in a saucepan until the butter is completely melted and the cream is simmering. Don’t leave it for too long otherwise the cream will cook.

2. When done, pour the cream and butter mixture into the chocolate, stirring until completely mixed together. It should be a smooth, shiny mixture.

3. Add flavourings of your choice. I split the mixture into three bowls, adding peppermint essence to one, the juice of ¼ clementine in another and cherry brandy liqueur in the final bowl. Leave plain for simple chocolate truffles.

4. Cover with a towel or clingfilm and leave the mixture to set for at least 3 hours.

5. When set, use a melon scooper or spoon to make individual truffles, or alternatively, coat your hands in a little bit of oil, and shape. At this point you can dust or coat the truffles if you would like –cocoa powder, icing sugar or grated chocolate are good choices. Make sure you do this immediately after shaping the truffles. Decorate with nuts or candied fruit as you like. Put them on a tray or plate covered with baking paper and chill.

6. Store the truffles in the fridge or put into boxes and give them as gifts.

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