Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Edible gifts that don't require hours in the kitchen

By JANINE GILBERTSON December 01. 2015 11:50PM
Chocolate-dipped pretzels topped with colorful candy sprinkles, paired up with homemade nonpareils, make a sweet gift for a recipient with a sweet tooth. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

If you’re in the spirit of giving treats this holiday season, there are plenty of Christmas confections that make simple yet elegant gifts. If you can melt some chocolate and add some sprinkles, you’re in business.

There’s no need to spend hours in the kitchen baking batches of cookies and layering on the frosting. Although that can be fun, the cleanup from baking can be lots of work, and any little helpers who start off excited to help end up eating half the cookie dough and frosting and contributing to the overall mess.

So if you’re short on time and want to make something homemade but a little less involved than cookies, read on.

One of my absolute favorite things to make and give as gifts are homemade coconut macaroons. In fact, the first time I came across a recipe for macaroons I was surprised at how little effort was involved.

You mix a bag of shredded coconut with condensed sweet milk and egg whites, drop little mounds of the mix on a baking sheet and stick it in the oven. They always come out moist and chewy. Dip the bottoms in some melted chocolate and you have a cookie worthy of the finest bakery.

Another remarkably simple treat to present as an elegant, high-quality edible gift is a homemade nonpareil. These are fabulous because you simply melt down a quality chocolate and spoon it onto parchment-lined baking sheets to cool and sprinkle them with white or colored nonpareils, also known as candy caviar. They look decadent packed into a lovely gift box with a homemade label.

Chocolate dipped pretzels are another great treat to make and pack as a little present. And if you want to try something a little different, you can dip the pretzels in chocolate and sprinkle with nonpareils or crushed candy canes. They add a fun pop of color, which makes them seem a little more special for this time of year.

You can experiment with different kinds of chocolate too, such as dark or white chocolate, and maybe add some contrasting chocolate drizzles. This year I plan to try a batch of these with crushed hot-chocolate candy canes — a new flavor I found in the holiday aisle at a local department store.

Peppermint bark is another easy treat that’s always delicious for the holidays. Melt some white chocolate and add crushed candy canes, spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and let it harden. Break off pieces and package it up and you’re done.

The last few times I’ve made peppermint bark I’ve tried to get a little fancy and used smaller bits of crushed peppermint candy and poured the chocolate mixture into chocolate molds.

I’m thinking those hot-chocolate candy canes might work well in this recipe, too.

Chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate

14-ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut (such as Baker’s Angel Flake)

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (Not evaporated milk)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg whites (from large eggs)

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces higher-quality semi-sweet chocolate, such as Ghirardelli, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Set two oven racks in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the shredded coconut, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Scoop a generous amount of mixture onto a tablespoon into mounds on the prepared baking sheets. Space mounds about 1 inch apart.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden and the bottoms and edges are golden brown.

Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at medium power, stopping and stirring at 30-second intervals, until just smooth and creamy. Dip the bottoms of the macaroons in the chocolate, letting any excess drip back into the bowl, and return the macaroons to the lined baking sheets.

Place the macaroons in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to allow the chocolate to set. The cookies keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week.

Homemade nonpareils are elegant gifts and easy to make. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Nonpareils

16 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1 teaspoon pure vegetable shortening

1/2 cup white or colored sugar beads

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the top of a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth.

Spoon the melted chocolate in half-dollar sized circles onto prepared baking sheet. Cool for 20 minutes; sprinkle with sugar beads. Let nonpareils harden in a cool place for 4 hours before serving.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels with Sprinkles

2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 tblsp heavy cream

2 (10 ounce) packages of pretzels

1/4 cup of white or multi colored nonpareils or sprinkles



Melt the chocolate and heavy cream in a double boiler until smooth. Dip the pretzels, one at a time, in the chocolate and set on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Cover with nonpareils or sprinkles and allow to set until chocolate has cooled and hardened, about an hour.

Nothing says holiday treats like candy canes. Here they’re crushed and used as a central ingredient in white chocolate peppermint bark. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Peppermint Bark

2 cups of crushed peppermint candy canes

2 lbs white chocolate

1/2 tsp peppermint flavoring, if desired



Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Stir in the crushed candy canes (add peppermint flavoring at this point if desired.) Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle).


Food

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