Some of the best holiday gifts are those you make yourself.  The investment of ingredients, time, and the effort you put into making something special can pay off dividends when showing someone you care.  Here are some of my ideas for some homemade gifts from your kitchen.  I would love to hear about any kitchen gift ideas you’ve made too!

Makes about 3 cups

This is a classic filling for tarts, sandwich cookies, lemon meringue pie and also to spread on biscuits, crumpets and just about anywhere!  I’ve added a little cornstarch here which acts as “insurance” from overcooking and curdling the eggs.  You could certainly leave it out if you wanted.  If you’re lucky to have a source for Meyer lemons (my favorite) by all means use them.  Use this same recipe to make lime or grapefruit curd.

1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
4 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt finely grated zest of two lemons (use a microplane)
Finely grated zest of two lemons
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut in small bits

Whisk first six ingredients together and strain.  Place mixture in a stainless steel bowl over (not on) simmering water and stir in zest.  With a rubber spatula (preferably) or a whisk, stir constantly until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.  Off heat, stir in butter and then place in sterilized jars.  Cover and store refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

This was a recipe given to me by the mother of my ex-wife.  Interesting how some things stay with you and some don’t!  Its really very easy to do and quite delicious.

2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 – 6 quarts popped corn
1 – 2 cups mixed nuts

Place sugar, corn syrup, butter and slat in a heavy deep saucepan and bring to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Mixture will become very thick.  Remove from heat and stir in baking soda.  Be Careful!  This will cause the syrup to expand considerably so be sure your saucepan is large enough.

Pour the syrup over the popped corn and nuts and toss until evenly coated.  Spread corn mixture over two large cookie sheets and bake in a preheated 250-degree oven for one hour, stirring occasionally. Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Makes 36 biscotti

Biscotti, the “twice baked” treat from Italy can be made in an infinite number of flavors.  They are very easy to make, keep well and make great little gifts from your kitchen.

3 large eggs, separated
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup melted butter, cooled
1 cup lightly toasted, coarsely chopped almonds
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange flavor liqueur
3 tablespoons chopped, candied orange peel or candied ginger
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

In a stand or with a hand mixer beat the egg whites until they just begin to form peaks and gradually beat in 3/4 cup sugar until whites form stiff peaks.  Set aside in a separate bowl.

Add the egg yolks with remaining 3/4 cup sugar and beat until light and fluffy and sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the melted butter, nuts, Grand Marnier and candied orange.

Sift flour and baking powder together and alternately fold 1/3 of flour and egg white mixtures into yolks until combined.  Dough will be firm and slightly sticky.  If dough is too soft, add more flour.  With floured hands, divide dough in two and roll logs approximately 1-1/2 inches in diameter.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.

Remove plastic and place logs on a buttered or parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until logs are lightly brown and firm to the touch.  Remove from oven and let logs cool on a rack for 10 minutes.  On a cutting board, cut logs crosswise on the diagonal into 1/3-inch widths.  Arrange biscotti in a single lyaer on baking sheet and bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until biscotti are very lightly browned and crisp.  Cool on racks and store air-tight.  Will keep for up to two weeks.

For Chocolate-Mint Biscotti
– Delete almonds, Grand Marnier and orange peel
– Add 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate melted with 1 tablespoon cocoa
– Add 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

For Rosemary-Walnut Biscotti
– Substitute lightly toasted, coarsely chopped walnuts for the almonds
– Delete the Grand Marnier and orange peel
– Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– Add 2 tablespoons fresh, finely chopped rosemary

For Almond-Raisin Biscotti
– Add 1/2 cup drained golden raisins which have been plumped in 2/3 cup fruity white wine
such as Riesling or Gewurztraminer and then drained
–  Delete the Grand Marnier

John Ash © 2010