I’m writing this from the plane to Chicago, heading “home” for four weeks with my family and far-flung friends over Christmas and New Year’s.
This year, I’ve been making lots of my Christmas presents, and have been especially inspired by all of the goings-on around the #letsmakechristmas meme started by the forever-crafty-in-the-kitchen Vanessa Kimbell.
I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say that I had a few challenges meeting my baggage weight restrictions this trip (also unaided by the 1.4 kilos of cheese I’m lugging home to my Swaledale- and cheddar-loving sister… ok, and a sneaky wedge of Stilton, plus a bottle of port, though I’m not quite sure if my family is quite ready to add port-and-stilton to their after-dinner repertoire, but why not try?).
Although I intend to keep most of my homemade gift adventures a secret until the big day, I can divulge details of the homemade Christmas presents that I’ve already delivered: biscuits for my colleagues, friends and neighbours in the UK.
- Gingersnaps, a recipe from Chez Panisse shared by David Lebovitz
- Biscotti (plain & almond / chocolate), using Mark Bittman’s basic biscotti recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
- Lebkuchen, a German ginger biscuit
When it comes to homemade gifts, I think it’s always a good idea to make something you’ve made before and know is good. So I went with the always-reliable gingersnaps recipe from David Lebovitz. I love these gingersnaps because they’re a cinch to throw together and you can keep rounds of dough in the freezer to slice up into delicious biscuits whenever you need them. Oh, and they taste dreamy, too.
I also wanted to make something a little grown-up, so went for biscotti, something I’ve made before and have knowledge of their easiness. I used Mark Bittman’s basic biscotti recipe, and thought I ruined the first batch when I added 1 tsp almond essence, which is NOT the same as almond extract, as the recipe called for. (Almond essence is much much stronger than extract.) So I put this dough aside and started over, making an almond and chocolate biscotti. Curious, I cooked the super almondy biscotti anyway and they’re actually quite good. So bonus: everyone’s getting two types of biscotti.
The lebkuchen was more of an indulgence to myself because I’ve always wanted to make them. The recipe includes lots of citrus notes like lemon zest and candied peel, plus loads of Christmassy spices like ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. Lebkuchen also doesn’t include butter – how curious! The result is a very crispy, punchy ginger biscuit that I both enjoy and am mystified by – mystified because I don’t know whether they taste like traditional lebkuchen. I’m hoping my friends / colleagues will tell me, particularly the German folk!
I’m itching to share a few other things I’ve made that I’m especially excited about, but like I said – no Christmas spoilers! Are those of you who’ve been posting your beautiful pictures and recipes just living with the consequences of revealing your Christmas presents early? Or are your gift-receivers simply not aware of your prolific online presences?
Whatever your reasons, I totally appreciate it. In fact, your photos have been particularly inspiring on the labelling and packaging front. There are tons of great ideas on Vanessa’s blog: The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Own Christmas Presents