If you are not one of those organized cooks (and I am certainly not this year!) who already has all their holiday baking and cooking completed, here are three easy recipes for homemade gifts of food that you can prepare at the last minute.
None call for hard-to-find ingredients and each requires 15 minutes or less of prep plus a few minutes more to bake or extra time to chill. Chocolate Glazed Toffee, Orange Spiced Pecans, or Chocolate Honey Sauce with Fleur de Sel would each make a thoughtful present for a host or hostess, or for teachers, neighbors, friends, or others whom you’d like to remember during the season of giving.
The nuts and toffee can be packaged in cellophane bags, tins, or coffee mugs, while the chocolate sauce is best in a glass container. Wrap in ribbons and add a personal note and that’s it. Homemade with love—the best kind of holiday gift!
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Orange Spiced Pecans, Diana's Chocolate Almond Toffee, and Chocolate Honey Sauce with Fleur de Sel
Orange Spiced Pecans
My assistant, Emily Bell, shared this recipe. The nuts are particularly fragrant due the aromatic mix of spices and have a touch of heat from cayenne and a hint of sweetness from a small amount of sugar.
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tsp grated orange zest
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander (see note)
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups pecan halves (about 10 ounces)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp Kosher salt
1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Have ready a rimmed baking sheet.
2. Melt butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over low heat. When hot, add orange zest, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, and cayenne pepper and stir until spices are blended into the butter, 30 seconds or more.
3. Add pecans, sugar, and salt, stirring to coat nuts well in the spice mixture. Spread pecans on the baking sheet, and bake until nuts are lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and cool. (Nuts can be prepared one week ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.)
Makes 2 cups
Note: Make sure your coriander is fresh and aromatic. If you don’t have it on hand, you can buy a small amount in bulk at stores like Whole Foods.
Diana’s Chocolate Almond Toffee
This recipe comes from my assistant, Diana Tindall, and requires three easy steps. First, you make the toffee in a saucepan using sugar, butter, and almonds, and then spread it in a baking sheet. Next, you sprinkle chocolate chips over the warm toffee until they melt, and add a dusting of crushed walnuts. Finally, you chill the mixture, and break it into chunks.
Nonstick vegetable spray
1 1/2 sticks salted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup sliced almonds
12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely ground (See note.)
1. Spray a 10-by 15-inch rimmed baking sheet generously with nonstick spray.
In a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add sugar, and stir with a wooden spoon, until sugar and butter are combined and mixture is thick. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is a rich deep golden brown and has a thick consistency, 12 to 15 minutes. Don’t worry if the butter seems to be separating from the toffee; it will eventually reabsorb. Stir in the almonds and carefully pour the hot mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with the wooden spoon or a metal spatula
2. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the toffee, and with a metal spatula, spread the chocolate as it melts into an even layer. Sprinkle walnuts over the chocolate, and press the walnuts with the spatula so they stick to the toffee. Refrigerate toffee (in the baking sheet) until cool and completely set, one hour or longer.
3. Place two large sheets of waxed paper or parchment, slightly overlapping, on a work surface. Invert the pan to release the toffee onto the paper. With a rolling pin, break into irregular pieces. Store toffee in an airtight container. (It can be prepared two weeks ahead; keep at cool room temperature or refrigerate.)
Makes about 7 cups.
Note. Put walnuts in a self-sealing bag, and pound with a rolling pin or meat pounder until coarsely ground.
Chocolate Honey Sauce
This sauce is not cloying sweet and has a nice accent of sea salt. Attach a note saying that that the sauce is best used within 4 to 5 days and should be kept refrigerated. It can be drizzled over scoops of vanilla, chocolate, or coffee ice cream or slices of pound cake.
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, broken into small chunks
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tsp fleur de sel (or sea salt
Place chocolate, butter, and honey in heatproof bowl set over but not touching a saucepan of simmering water set over medium heat. Stir constantly until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth and dark, only a few minutes. Stir in fleur de sel. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. (The sauce can be made 4 to 5 days ahead. Reheat in top of a double boiler, stirring, until smooth and warm.)
Makes about 1 1/2 cups