Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday Gift Making Series - Food Gifts

This year I’m trying to put a more personal spin on the gifts we give.  I have always given herb blends and many years I have given cookies, truffles and the like, but this year, I decided to use the garden bounty in a different way.  I have come up with several ideas, a couple of which I have shared already.

Food items are always a hit and rather than giving a mix or two this year, I am actually going to make up a few items and put them in a basket.  Instead of a theme, like breakfast or dinner which I have done in the past, I am going for an herb sampler of items.  Making the time to create a gift from scratch is well worth it, most people you give a homemade gift will recognise the love and effort that went into the gift making it more special than anything you can buy in a shop. 

Here are a few recipes for herb infused items you can bake up and give to your friends too:

Savory Herb Crackers
Here is the recipe, for detailed instructions for making these, check out the how to I did back in July.

Rosemary Crackers How to!

Herb Scones
Baking up a pan of scones is probably the easiest gift to create.  They have a good shelf life and you can make them as a mix or as the baked finished product.  They also do not require special tools and the variations are endless. and most versatile recipe you can create.  For other scone recipes, check out this past post.

Tea Party Currant Scones
4 cups flour plus 2 tablespoons, divided
¼  cup white sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons grated orange or lemon zest
3 sticks (1 and one-half cups) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (see testing note)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 cup dried currants
Egg wash made from 1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water or additional cream
Crystallized sugar for topping, optional

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, zest and pieces of cold butter. Beat on low speed just until butter is the size of peas. (Alternately, whisk together dry ingredients and work butter in by hand.)

In a small bowl, whisk together schnapps, eggs and cream. Turn mixer on low and add liquid in a slow, steady stream and mix just until mixture is blended, about 1 minute.

In a small bowl, toss currants with 2 tablespoons flour. Add to bowl and mix for a few seconds just until distributed. Turn dough out onto a clean counter and make it into 2 balls. (Note: due to the large amount of butter and eggs, this is a very sticky dough. Add flour as needed to form into balls. It will firm up when chilled.)

Flatten into disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Press or roll chilled dough out to one-inch thickness and use a cookie cutter or glass to cut scones of desired size. You can re-roll scraps but they may need to be re-chilled first. Place scones on a greased cookie sheet and brush with egg wash or cream. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.  Bake 13 to 20 minutes depending on size until golden brown.  Yields about 60 mini (2-inch) scones.

Herbal Jelly
Scones can be topped with jelly or with Devon cream or even lemon curd, so try this!

Savory Jelly

1 Tbls. fresh or dried summer or winter savory
½ cup boiling water
1 ½ cup unsweetened cranberry juice
3 cups honey
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 box powdered pectin

Make an infusion (tea) of savory and water.  Let steep 5 minutes or more.  Strain.  In large sauce pan combine juice, honey, and infusion liquid and bring to boil.  Add pectin, stirring at all times.  Heat until mixture reaches a hard boil.  Boil hard for 30 seconds and give a sheet test.  Once it passes the sheet test remove instantly from heat. Pour into sterilized jars with a sprig of fresh savory in each, seal.

Sheet test –
Dip a metal spoon into the boiling syrup.  As the boiling mixture nears the jellying point, it will drop from the side of the spoon in two (2) drops, (not a stream).  The jelly is finished and should be removed from the burner.

Bouquet Garni
Bouquet Garni is traditionally bay, thyme, rosemary & parsley, but I believe you can mix your own bouquets to work with your favorite ingredients.  You can combine the herbs and place them in cute squares of fabric or muslin bags.  And put them in a bale jar or basket with a few recipes.  You can add an herbal vinegar and a bottle of quality olive oil to make a perfect seasoning package.

Here are some suggestions for a selection of Bouquet Garni bags that will compliment different types of food.

For Meat – 1 teaspoon each Nutmeg, Thyme, Chervil and Tarragon.
For Fish – 1 teaspoon each of Tarragon, Dill, Mint and Lemon peel.
For Vegetables – 4 Bay Leaves, 2 teaspoons Parsley and 1 teaspoon Thyme.

Herbal Vinegar

1 cup fresh herbs (of your choice)

2 cups wine or rice vinegar
Place the washed herbs in a jar with a plastic lid and bruise them with the handle of a spoon.  Cover them with vinegar of your choice that you have warmed in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes. 
Seal the jar with a non-reactive (plastic) lid and let sit for at least two weeks shaking daily. Strain using cheese cloth or a coffee filter and rebottle. 
For detailed instructions, check out the How-to-sday on Making Vinegar.

Herb Quick Bread
Quick breads do not have yeast ahdn have no rise time,so they make a quick and easy gift.  You can use your imagination here too, but I have given two recipes to try.

Herb Quick Bread

·         3 cups all-purpose flour
·         3 tablespoons sugar
·         1 tablespoon baking powder
·         1 tablespoon caraway seeds
·         1/2 teaspoon salt
·         1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
·         1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
·         1 egg
·         1 cup fat-free milk
·         1/3 cup canola oil

In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Transfer to a 9-in. x 5-in. x 3-in. loaf pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Herb & Cheese Quick Bread

·         2 cups flour
·         1 tablespoon sugar
·         2 teaspoons baking powder
·         1 teaspoon baking soda
·         1 teaspoon dried basil
·         1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
·         1/4 teaspoon dried sage
·         1/4 cup margarine or butter
·         1 cup shredded cheddar cheese or 1 cup Monterey jack cheese
·         1 egg, , beaten
·         1/2 cup yogurt
·         1/2 cup milk
·         1/8 cup poppy seeds

Combine dry ingredients.  Cut in margarine or butter. Combine cheese, egg, yogurt and milk, and add to other ingredients. Dump into a round or square 9-inch pan, sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 350°F for 30-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make up a basket of culinary herbs & spices to give as a gift.  You can include your own home made herb tea blends, give them pretty labels, add a herb mug and pack them all in a basket for a herb tea fan. Or pack a selection of dried herbs and spices into some little amber glass jars which you’ve labelled with the name of the contents, add a few loose herbs such as bay leaves, cinnamon sticks or even dried orange slices, cover in cellophane and finish with raffia to make your own personal herb and spice gift baskets. If you’ve grown and dried your own herbs not often available in supermarkets such as lemon thyme, chocolate peppermint and rose geranium, you can add them to your basket. Or make Rose Geranium, Vanilla and Lavender sugars and put together a gift basket for someone who likes to bake, slip in a few recipes, biscuit cutters and whatever else takes your fancy.  You can make themed gifts too, like an Italian herb gift basket for a friend who loves pizza and pasta.

If you are too busy to craft these items, check out the Backyard Patch.  We have herbal vinegars, scone mixes, cracker mixes and even soup mixes, that are entirely hand-blended with herbs we grow ourselves.  An entire selection of Backyard Patch items can be seen on
Etsy and if you use this code: PASSPORT10, you will get 10% off.

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