Creating Christmas sweets to die for

Find also tips for making great food gifts

What is the one thing everyone enjoys at Christmas time? Arguably it could be sweets. There is nothing like a cookie, slice of cake or gum drop around the holidays. Here are some tips to make sure that those delectable morsels are just as tasty as their sugarplum visions.

Working with chocolate

When you create a recipe that calls for chocolate, it is so easy to go wrong here. Instead of using the store-bought chocolate syrup, make your own. Buy the chocolate bricks and melt them yourself. Keep the heat under the saucepan low so that the chocolate doesn’t burn while it melts.

Dark chocolate is the new healthy chocolate for the 21st century. It is full of antioxidants and great taste. Use it for decorating cakes, cookies, breads and pies. Use some of that melted chocolate in a plastic bag to pipe out all sorts of cool designs onto wax paper. Once they cool, you can carefully place them on any dessert that you wish.

Butter

The rest of the year, this word gets sneer and jeers, but at Christmas, it is spot on. There is no substitute for using regular butter in your dessert recipes. Well, there is but it won’t give you the same taste or texture in your sweets. To compensate, eat a little less of each dessert, but by all means taste them all.

When working with margarine, part of it is water. It says that on the box. Water evaporates when baking and can partially dry out your recipes. Butter is also creamier when softened and whipped. It keeps your cakes, breads, cupcakes and cookies moist like they need to be. Unless the recipe calls for stiff butter, let it come to room temperature on the counter before using.

Fruit

Apple pies, peach cobblers and blueberry blintzes are all great during the holidays. Fruit can be expensive since most of your choices are out of season. If you can’t find fresh at a reasonable price, opt for frozen choices. It’s as close to fresh as you can get.

If you keep your fruit in the fridge to prolong freshness, make sure that you allow them to come to room temperature before using them in delicious dessert recipes. Fruit will juice better when warm. Scalding fruits with removable skins helps the skin to peel off easier so you don’t have to ruin the look of the fruit doing it the hard way.

Here are just a few tips for creating those desserts your family will love all holiday long. Christmas is the one time of year that they don’t want you to skimp on flavor or presentation.

Christmas food gifts

When it comes right down to it, some of the best gifts given at Christmas are given from the heart. What says that you took time and care more than a homemade food gift?

Now, if you want to make food gifts, there are a few tips you need to remember. For safety reasons and liability issues, food gifts not accepted at schools. You can give a gift to your child’s teacher but not to the students.

Safety First

Most food gifts are either dry mixes or desserts that you’ve made. It is rare that people give things like meats but if you do, be sure that the meat was thawed or defrosted at proper temperatures. When you cook it, use a thermometer to tell if it is within temperature limits to be considered done.  Let the meat cool enough before covering it so that there is no condensation on the plastic wrap, aluminum foil or container top.

With all Christmas food gifts, be sure that everything is cooled and as dry as possible before wrapping it up in decorative packaging. You want the recipient to enjoy the food and not end up in the emergency room. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at some popular Christmas food gifts.

Soups On, or is it Cookies?

Decorative mixes are still a big hit at holiday time. From soups to cookies, the gift receiver can decide when they will use their gift. Already prepared food gifts usually have a time limit.

If the person loves soup, give them a gift basket filled with delicious dry soup mixes that you prepared yourself. Since it is winter, no soup gift basket would be complete without chicken noodle. Include some of their favorites like potato soup, vegetable soup or bean soup.

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in layers in the jar. You can use freeze-dried vegetables. Remember to make a label that includes:

• Name of the soup
• Recipe ingredients in jar
• Ingredients still needing to be added
• Serving size

Cookie recipes work well in the jar too. Properly measure out all of the dry ingredients in layers. Be sure that the jar is dry before adding anything so it doesn’t spoil. Use the same guidelines as the bulleted list above for soups when creating your cookie label.

Condiments

These types of gifts can be used all year round. They include items like flavored vinegars, homemade seasoning mixes and dry rubs. If you like to grow herbs, then a holiday gift of dried herbs is perfect for the cook on your list. Also popular are canned preserves, vegetables and fruits. After the canning process they can keep for as long as you need in the vacuum-sealed jar.

What are you planning to give to others this Christmas? If it is a food gift, use the tips above for gift ideas and also ways to keep it safe to enjoy.