How to save money with homemade Christ­mas gifts

Homemade ed­i­ble presents are much cheaper than buy­ing cor­ner­shop al­ter­na­tives – and are in­fin­itely love­lier to re­ceive. From or­angettes to fruit vine­gars, Caro­line Craig and So­phie Miss­ing share five of their favourites

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page -

The lunches, the par­ties, the hang­overs … Christ­mas is won­der­ful, but the cost can add up. If, on the way to a fes­tive drinks party, you’ve ever ducked into a cor­ner shop and found your­self scour­ing the shelves for a gen­er­ous­look­ing but not too ex­pen­sive gift (se­ri­ously, who buys those dusty £45 bot­tles of Bollinger?), you’ll know that while leav­ing things to the last minute does con­tain a no­tunen­joy­able fris­son of risk, you will pay for it. How­ever, gift-giv­ing doesn’t have to be so fren­zied.

Peo­ple are al­ways happy to re­ceive homemade presents. These gifts cost a frac­tion of their shop-bought equiv­a­lents – even more so if you stash away old glass jars through­out the year – but that’s not the only rea­son to make them. The trick is to take plea­sure in the pace. Good things come to those who wait.


Candied peel costs next to noth­ing to make … and only takes an evening.

Makes about 300g

4 navel or­anges 1kg sugar 150g choco­late (min­i­mum 60% co­coa)

1 Quar­ter the or­anges and re­move the flesh so you are just left with the peel and some pith. Slice each peel quar­ter into 5mm strips. Put the strips in a pan and cover them with water. Bring the pan to the boil, then sim­mer for 10 min­utes.

2 Drain away the water, and cover the peel slices again with fresh water – chang­ing the water in this way gets rid of any bit­ter­ness. Bring to the boil again and sim­mer for 30 min­utes, keep­ing an eye on the water level and pop­ping a lid on the pan if it is evap­o­rat­ing too fast.

3 Drain the slices, but this time keep the water. De­cant it into a mea­sur­ing jug, then pour it back into the pan: for ev­ery 100ml of liq­uid, add 100g of sugar. Put the sug­ary water over a very gen­tle heat and once the sugar has dis­solved (you can give it a help­ing hand by stir­ring) add the peel. Sim­mer for about 45 min­utes or so, un­til the peel has gone translu­cent.

4 Al­low the peel to cool in the pan while you heat the oven to its low­est set­ting. Lay the peel evenly on a tray lined with baking parch­ment, and dry in the oven for 30 min­utes.

5 Re­move the peel from the oven, sprin­kle over some more sugar and gen­tly toss to coat.

6 Break the choco­late into chunks and melt in a heat­proof bowl over a pan of sim­mer­ing water. Leave to cool slightly, then dunk half of each or­angette into the choco­late.

7 Leave to cool on baking parch­ment in the fridge. Keeps for a month in a sealed con­tainer.

Salted caramel floren­tines

Floren­tines make the per­fect stock­ing filler, tick­ing all the fes­tive boxes: fruity, nutty and choco­latey. These have the un­nec­es­sary but bril­liant ad­di­tion of salted caramel. As a post­pran­dial pick-me-up, they’re hard to beat – we can al­ways find room for one or three.

Makes 14-16 For the salted caramel 30g un­salted but­ter 50g soft light brown sugar 2 heaped tbsp golden syrup 1 tbsp dou­ble cream ½ tsp sea salt

For the floren­tines 60g flaked al­monds 50g salted pis­ta­chios 50g dried or glacé cher­ries 1 tbsp plain flour 100-150g milk cook­ing choco­late, bro­ken up into chunks

1 Pre­heat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3 and line 2 baking trays with grease­proof pa­per.

2 Mix the nuts, cher­ries and flour to­gether in a bowl.

3 Put the but­ter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan over a low heat for 4-5 min­utes un­til ev­ery­thing melts, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally. Once the mix­ture is bub­bling gen­tly, re­move from the heat and stir in the cream, then re­turn to the heat and cook for an­other 3 min­utes. Add the salt and stir to com­bine. Mix in the dry in­gre­di­ents.

4 Put 4 heaped tea­spoon­fuls of the mix­ture on each lined baking tray, al­low­ing them as much space as you can – they will spread a lot. Flat­ten slightly and make sure each tea­spoon­ful has an equal­ish amount of nuts and caramel to bind it to­gether.

4 Set a timer and bake for around 12 min­utes, keep­ing a close eye on them. They will start to spread out quickly – if this looks like it’s hap­pen­ing too much, take them out, al­low them to cool for a mo­ment, then gen­tly poke back into a rough cir­cle, be­fore pop­ping back in the oven. De­pend­ing on your oven and where it’s hottest, you may also need to turn or switch the trays round dur­ing cook­ing.

5 Re­move from the oven, leave to cool slightly then poke back into shape. Once they are firm, trans­fer to a wire rack and leave to cool com­pletely. Re­peat un­til all the mix­ture is used up.

6 Melt the choco­late in a heat­proof bowl set over a pan of barely sim­mer­ing water, mak­ing sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl.

7 Brush the un­der­sides of the cooled and hard­ened floren­tines with the melted choco­late. Put in the fridge un­til set, then brush on an­other layer of choco­late: it’s Christ­mas, af­ter all. They’ll keep for up to a week in a sealed con­tainer in the fridge.

Mar­rons glacés

These take a few days but re­quire min­i­mal ex­er­tion. You can use fresh chest­nuts, but cooked are eas­ier to find, and at a sim­i­lar price to fresh ones, so this recipe skips the boil­ing and peel­ing stage.

Makes about 400g 500g sugar 400g peeled, cooked chest­nuts

1 Put the sugar in a pan with 500ml water. Bring to the boil very gen­tly, stir­ring of­ten at the be­gin­ning to dis­solve the sugar, then sim­mer for 10 min­utes. Add the chest­nuts and sim­mer gen­tly for a fur­ther 10 min­utes. Leave the chest­nuts in the syrup in the pan to cool com­pletely.

2 The next day, or a few hours later, very slowly bring the mix­ture to a sim­mer for no more than a minute. Al­low the chest­nuts to cool com­pletely in the pan.

3 Re­peat this process over the next few days un­til most of the syrup has been ab­sorbed, then put on a wire rack to drain. If you still have a lot of liq­uid af­ter the chest­nuts have been sim­mered 4 or 5 times, re­move them from the syrup with a slot­ted spoon.

4 Leave to dry overnight or for a few hours in the oven, at its low­est set­ting and with the door propped open. Store the chest­nuts in­di­vid­u­ally wrapped in re­cy­cled tof­fee wrap­pers or in lit­tle parcels of grease­proof pa­per.

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