There is a common complaint these days that everyone has too much “stuff.” In the past you could give someone a gift and know that it had found a happy home but today presents are no longer needed or appreciated. People’s homes are bursting at the seams. Many older adults are downsizing and the last thing they want is another “thing.” If you are a young person starting out, your living space is probably small which also means you require very little “stuff.”
There is one exception: the gift of food – especially a luxurious food. It is always welcome, especially if it is thoughtfully chosen with the person’s tastes in mind.
In our family there are a number of requests that find their way into stockings each year. My Dad, now 92 years old, lives in a retirement home. He still enjoys his Scotch before dinner (beer before lunch) with a few choice nibbles: colossal stuffed olives, Stilton cheese, and cheese biscuits. His grandchildren take great pleasure in making sure he has his favourite Scotch, imported beer, olives and cheese wrapped and ready in his Christmas stocking. Added to this medley are homemade cheese shortbread, ginger crinkles and the family recipe for Christmas cake (albeit, a small one). My daughter makes chocolate-dipped gingers, his favourite. (He’s not supposed to have chocolate, but hey, this is a mere dipping!)
No doubt your family and friends have their own personal favourites, but perhaps a recipe here will strike a chord for Christmas pleasure!
If you have a food processor you can whip up a batch of this shortbread in minutes. Be sure to keep a recipe of dough ready in the freezer to have some hot, irresistible, and ready at a moments’ notice.
1 cup (250 mL) shredded old cheddar
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened
Pinch cayenne pepper
In a food processor combine cheese, flour, butter and cayenne until mixture forms a ball. Remove dough from bowl of food processor and arrange on a square of plastic wrap. Form dough into a log about 1 ½ inches (3 cm) wide and about 12 inches (30 cm) long. Cut into 24 quarter-inch slices. Arrange shortbread coins on parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake in preheated oven at 350°F (180°C), about eight to 10 minutes or until golden brown. If possible, serve at once with a napkin and a warning: “they’re hot!” Makes about 24.
This old-fashioned cookie is always popular. For added crunch, use coarse sugar to roll the cookie dough into (available at Bulk Barn). If not, use regular granulated sugar. Batches of this cookie can be baked, frozen and wrapped in festive bags ready to stuff into stockings or take as a hostess gift.
2 cups (500 mL) cake and pastry flour
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) each, cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
3/4 cup (180 mL) shortening
1/4 cup (60 mL) liquid honey
1/2 cup (125 mL) coarse sugar (for rolling)
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Set aside.
In separate bowl, beat shortening and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in honey until combined. Beat in egg.
Gradually beat in flour mixture into creamed mixture. Batter will be soft. It may be formed into balls now or refrigerated and done later.
Place half a cup of coarse sugar in mixing bowl. Take about 1 tbsp (15 mL) batter and roll into coarse sugar. Arrange ball on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining batter, leaving about two inches (5 cm) between each ball. Bake eight to 10 minutes or until pale golden brown. Cookie will flatten with a crinkled surface. Cool on racks. Makes about 36 cookies. Cookies may be stored in cake tin or wrapped well and frozen for up to six months.
The combination of crystallized ginger and bitter-sweet chocolate is addictive! You will need to take a trip to Bulk Barn for the supplies.
1/2 lb (250 g) crystallized ginger
1 lb (500 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips (pure chocolate!)
2 tbsp (30 mL) shortening
In a mixing bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate chips and shortening. Stir until smooth.
Using a skewer, pierce each piece of ginger and dip halfway into melted chocolate. Remove and arrange in single layer on cooling rack to firm up. Repeat with all ginger. Refrigerate once firm then pack in a tin (also available at Bulk Barn) and keep refrigerated until ready to give as a gift.
Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer ~ email@example.com