No matter what you celebrate this time of year, chances are you're going to need to buy a gift for someone, and that's where our "Bitch in a Box" series comes in! Between now and the end of December, we (Bitch HQ staff and interns) will be taking turns writing themed gift guides designed to please even the scroogiest feminists on your shopping list. Here's my guide to edible gifting—be sure to add your own suggestions in the comments!
Searching for a few recipes to try for your edible holiday gifts this year? Look no further! Here's my guide to handmade holiday treats for everyone on your list who loves deliciousness. Some take a little more time than others, but all are tasty, simple, and sure to impress. Dust off that rolling pin, don your apron, and let the baking begin! Look for baking tips and ingredients recommendations next to the asterisks **, and don't forget to add your own suggestions in the comments section.
Cookies—just like Grandma used to make:
These cookies have been a mainstay of my family's holiday sweets table for decades. They come straight from the butter-stained, flour-encrusted index cards inside Grandma's recipe box.
This is a buttery cookie good for cutting into shapes—like a thin, crisp sugar cookie. Decorate with colored sugars or festive sprinkles. Simple, but the rolling and cutting can be a bit time consuming. The dough has to chill for several hours** before rolling, or it becomes a sticky mess.
¾ cup butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 egg yolk
1 egg white, beaten
2 ½ cups flour, plus ½ cup extra for rolling
Colored sugars or decorations of your choice
Beat butter until soft. Gradually add sugar and blend until very soft and creamy. Beat in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Stir the flour gradually into the butter mixture until all ingredients are well blended. Chill for several hours.
Roll dough on floured surface until very thin. Cut into shapes. Brush tops of cookies with beaten egg white and decorate with sugars or sprinkles. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until just beginning to brown at the edges. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.
This is a buttery almond cookie that works well in a cookie press**. You can also roll out the dough and cut into rounds.
1 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon salt
Colored sugars or decorations of your choice
Food coloring for colored dough, optional
Sift together flour and salt. Cream the butter and sugar well. Add the beaten egg yolks, beating in well. Mix in almond flavoring. Add flour and salt and mix well. Add food coloring, if desired. Chill approximately 30 minutes. Press through a cookie press onto a greased cookie sheet, or roll dough to about ¼ inch thickness and cut into 2-inch rounds. Bake at 375 degrees** until lightly brown, approximately 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.
** A cookie press is a device for making pressed cookies such as spritzgebäck. It consists of a cylinder with a plunger on one end which is used to extrude cookie dough through a small hole at the other end.
** Chilled dough is easier to roll in small pieces; break it into 2 or 3 pieces before rolling.
**Use cookie cutters or cut shapes by hand. Rounds can be cut using a small glass. Lightly flouring the cutters prevents sticking. After cutting shapes, reroll scraps and cut into more cookies.
**All ovens are different. To prevent burning, it's always a good idea to check the cookies after about 2/3 of the baking time. You may want to rotate the baking sheets, too, as the outer edges of the oven are often hotter than the middle.
Cookies—quick, easy, delicious, and vegan!
Follow the links below to find my favorite quick and easy cookie recipes** which come from Vegan With a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. No chilling or rolling required. Just mix and bake!
**I have found that I usually use less flour than called for in these recipes. Add flour
gradually, and stop adding if dough begins to look or feel too dry.
Simple Candy Confections:
I used to be intimidated by the idea of making candy. Then I found these recipes in a lovely little dessert cookbook called Just a Bite by Gale Gand. The only kitchen skills required are melting chocolate** and beating candy canes with a rolling pin. You can do it!
**Melting chocolate is not difficult and doesn't even require fancy equipment! Start with chopped chocolate for even melting. Place chocolate in a glass or metal bowl. For regular chocolate, place bowl in a saucepan over barely simmering water. The bowl should not touch the water. Stir frequently until melted. For white chocolate, place bowl in a saucepan over steaming hot, but not simmering, water. The bowl should not touch the water. (White chocolate scorches at a lower temperature than regular chocolate.) Stir until melted.
**Try the white chocolate bar by Green & Black's, or the white chocolate baking bar by Ghirardelli.
**Substitute semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate in this recipe for the chocolate lover on your list. Try Green & Black's Dark Chocolate 70% bar, the semi-sweet baking bar by Ghirardelli, or Tropical Source semi-sweet chocolate chips (don't melt as well as chocolate in bar form, but so yummy!).
**You can use peppermint leaves or spearmint leaves.
Some people do not like sweet things. (This is always hard for me to believe, but I know some of these people and they tell me that it's true, so I take their word for it.) Voilà! An edible gift idea for the non-sweets lover in your life.
Crispy Cashews, Almonds, Peanuts, Pecans, and/or Walnuts
This is my favorite recipe from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Try making one kind, or roast several different ones and make a mix.
4 cups cashews
1 tablespoon sea salt
Water (enough to generously cover cashews)
Soak cashews for 6 hours (no longer, lest they become slimy and disagreeable in taste) in salt and filtered water. Drain. Spread on a baking pan and place in a warm oven (about 200 degrees) for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally. Store in an airtight container.
For almonds or peanuts, follow above recipe, but soak at least 7 hours or overnight and roast at 150 degrees for 12-24 hours.
For pecan or walnut halves, follow recipe above, but use 2 teaspoons of salt and soak at least 7 hours. Roast at 150 degrees for 12-24 hours.
If you're still looking for some edible holiday gifting inspiration, the books mentioned above are full of great ideas, or try one of my favorite websites for all things baking: Epicurious.com (I've never gone wrong with a recipe rated four forks!), CooksIllustrated.com (excellent recipes and really helpful baking tips. You can try it free for 14 days.), and JoyofBaking.com (great recipes, helpful tips, and pictures to make your mouth water). Remember to add your own delicious gift suggestions in the comments below!