- Virginia Johnson
Want to make a lovely hostess gift or start a delightful family tradition? Gorgeously photographed and utterly useful, Alison Walker’s Handmade Gifts from the Kitchen has recipes that are both elegant and inspired. You can make your own Candy Canes, Marzipan, Baklava, and Cherry & Almond Biscotti. Or, go British with Turkish Delight (shades of C.S. Lewis), Rose Creams, Vanilla Caramels, and Tiffin.
While time and a candy thermometer may be necessary for some of these recipes, you’ll get quick, delicious results with other choices. Smoked paprika gives its delicious flavor to Smoky Nuts. Garam masala enhances Spicy Seeds. Hazelnut or Whiskey & Ginger Truffles require a bit of setting time in the refrigerator but are actually rather simple to make, and even simpler are Lemon and Fennel Oil, Flavored Salts, and Rosemary Grissini (breadsticks).
You’ll also find directions for making liqueurs. If you are giving to someone who likes to cook, look at instructions for compiling a Christmas Cookie Kit, a Spice Kit, or a Hot Chocolate Kit. If you’d like to go really fancy, you can include Raspberry and Vanilla Marshmallows from her recipe.
The following sample recipe is an after-dinner nibble that is perfect for the holidays and easy to prepare. It can also be made with other good-quality extracts, such as orange, cinnamon, or coffee:
Chocolate Peppermint Crisp
Preparation: 20 minutes, plus setting
Cooking: 5 minutes
Makes: 9 oz.
7 oz. semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
¼ cup light brown sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 ½ tsp peppermint extract
Sunflower oil, for greasing
1. Put the chocolate into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Let melt, stirring once or twice until smooth. Let the melted chocolate cool slightly.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and peppermint extract. Stir into the cooled chocolate.
3. Pour onto a marble slab (or onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet) and spread the chocolate out in a square about 9 inches in size. Let set for a few minutes, then sprinkle a spoonful of the sugar to decorate (if you do this too soon, the sugar will dissolve and the chocolate won’t be crunch).
4. When the chocolate has hardened, cut into randomly sized pieces. The peppermint crisp will keep for up to a month wrapped or in an airtight container, stored in a cool place.
Check out Alison's book for many more marvelous recipes!