For me, holiday gifts can be tricky. On the one hand I want to celebrate all my friends and family but sometimes it can get a little crazy trying to find something special for everyone. Plus, to be honest, I am not the best shopper. I get a little stressed especially with the holiday madness. As a remedy I have started to make food gifts for all the people in my life. It has become a tradition to block off a Saturday in December and spend the whole day making holiday candy. My favorite candies to gift are homemade vanilla bourbon marshmallows, chocolate bark and my all-time favorite homemade peppermint patties.
There is a myth that marshmallows cannot be made at home. Totally not true. Marshmallows are infinitely better homemade than store bought. There are a couple different ways you can make marshmallows but I have found that whipping gelatin that has been dissolved in water with a hot sugar syrup is the easiest and most delicious way to go. It is kind of a magical transformation – one minute you have gelatin then the next you have mounds of fluffy white marshmallow fluff. You can flavor with vanilla, or cocoa powder or even a little bourbon.
There are so many iterations of chocolate bark, I like mine with chocolate, almonds and a large helping of sea salt. Feel free to mix these up and add things like dried fruit, coconut flakes, or other types of nuts.
Last, but definitely not least, my absolute favorite holiday candy to make is peppermint patties. Like the marshmallows, once you taste a homemade peppermint patty, store bought ones will never compare. If you only have time to make one type of candy as a holiday present, this one should be it. Plus it is the easiest of the three – no brainer right?
So if you are like me and would rather be in the kitchen then out shopping, give the gift of candy instead. I promise the recipients will be blown away. But, be warned, they will begin to expect it from you every year.
Vanilla Bourbon Marshmallows
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
large pinch of salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
1.) Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Allow the gelatin to bloom (dissolve) while you make the syrup.
2.) Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.
3.) With the mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 8 – 10 minutes or until the marshmallow mixture holds stiff peaks. Add the vanilla and bourbon and mix thoroughly for another 30 seconds.
4.) Dust an 8 by 12-inch nonmetal baking dish with powdered sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more powdered sugar (The mixture will be very sticky so make sure to dust well with powdered sugar). Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out.
5.) Turn the marshmallows onto a board and cut them in squares. Dust them with more confectioners’ sugar.
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten
Chocolate Bark with Almonds
1 ½ cup roasted whole almonds
1 lb chocolate, preferably dark chocolate about 60% – 70 %, chopped
Sea salt, such as Maldon Sea Salt
1.) Place chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted.
2.) Remove from heat, add nuts (all but ¼ cup of nuts) and stir quickly to combine.
3.) Spread chocolate-nut mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet, try to spread out nuts in a single layer.
4.) Top with the reserved nuts. Let chocolate set for about 1 hour then sprinkle with salt.
5.) Chill until chocolate is completely set, about 2 more hours.
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)
1 lb 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
chopped candy canes for garnish
1.) Mix the powdered sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, shortening, and a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until combined. Roll out the peppermint mixture between sheets of parchment paper on a large baking sheet into a 7- to 8-inch round or until it is about1/4 inch thick. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
2.) Once firm cut out as many rounds as possible with a 2” cutter, transferring to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place rounds in freezer again and freeze until firm.
3.) While the chocolate is freezing, melt the chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. (Feel free to temper the chocolate if you would like, but I usually do not).
4.) Balancing a peppermint round on a fork, dip into the warm chocolate and cover completely with chocolate. Scrape any dripping chocolate on the side of the bowl, then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Dip all peppermint patties and let stand at room temperature until chocolate is set, about 2 hours.
5.) Top with chopped candy canes.
Makes about 2 dozen. | Recipe adapted from Gourmet