Give the Gift of Deliciousness with Edible Christmas Presents to Make & Buy
Christmas is quite rightly a time of indulgence, and a time of year when it is perfectly acceptable to take to the kitchen mulled wine in hand and linger. No festive Yankee candle can compete with the scent of vanilla and spiced baking and we grant ourselves a carte blanche to eat the decadent treats our hearts desire, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a sugar coma ensuing at one point or another.
I know they say it is better to give than receive, but the only time I ever concur with this statement is when I hand over edible gifts to my favourite people, having taken to time to hand make a bespoke treat just for them. A day or two in the kitchen can yield enough goodies for all your foodie friends and has the added bonus of letting you adopt a one for you, one for me strategy – afterall, you have to taste test everything right?
Perhaps selfishly, I would much rather spend an afternoon immersed in the kitchen whipping up a treasure trove of gourmet gifts than dealing with the mayhem of navigating the shops in December. Add to this the fact that there is no-one on this earth who doesn’t love food and you’re guaranteed to be on to a winner gifting something delicious. That said, we don’t all have the luxury of unlimited kitchen time, so for each of the below delights, there is a fantastic artisan Irish alternative you can pick up to give the gift of deliciousness.
December is the Friday of months, so what better way to celebrate that Friday Feeling than with masses of chocolate dipped honeycomb? One of the easiest confections to make and universally loved, these make amazing stocking fillers and will keep well if somehow they aren’t all devoured immediately.
Boutique Bake’s recipe for Chocolate Dipped Honeycomb is one you will want to make a double or triple batch of, after marvelling at how bread soda turns the mix into a bubbling cauldron of deliciousness. Pop into little cellophane bags tied up with ribbon and watch your loved one’s eyes light up.
Skellig chocolate is so good it is other worldly, no wonder since it is lovingly made overlooking Skellig Micheal in St Finian’s Bay Co. Kerry, the setting chosen to depict another planet in the latest Star Wars instalment. Pair that with chunks of bubbly honeycomb and you have a little box of something very special indeed. Priced at €5.30 per box, you can buy it in many artisan stores, some Tesco branches and here.
Prepare to be very popular indeed. Speculoos butter, or cookie butter, is US gourmet food giant Trader Joe’s number one best selling product for a reason. Basically a jar of spreadable cookies (think of the possibilities!), any biscuit can be used but the classic has to be Speculoos, or Biscoff Lotus biscuits as we know them. These are an instant Christmas hit as they are caramelised and cinnamon spiced and ultimately indulgent when blended into butter form.
Simply pop one packet (250g) of lotus biscuits into your food processor and blitz to a fine crumb. Add in 150ml of condensed milk and 60ml of evaporated milk and blend until you reach a sumptuously smooth consistency.
You can add in some vanilla extract, extra cinnamon or indeed Bourbon (the honeyed sweetness works ok?!) and pop into a jar and begrudgingly give away. Better yet, double the recipe and keep one for yourself!
While we unfortunately don’t have Trader Joes, artisan stores like Best of Italy in Ranelagh and Fallon and Byrne have been known to stock Biscoff Spread for €3.50 a jar. Its availability is both a blessing and a curse, as it is legitimately addictive – you’ve been warned!
Macarons are one of the greatest baked creations to ever grace a gift box. Rows of candy coloured shells with sticky fillings are the ultimate treat but are by no means simple to whip up. If you love a Christmas challenge these are the perfect homemade gift-able treat but picking up a box or two made by the macaronage experts is nothing to be ashamed of! Macarons are meant to be aged, so they are a great make or buy ahead of time option.
Cove Cake Design’s Pistachio Macaron Recipe is a fantastic step by step tutorial to get your inner patissiére prancing around the kitchen. What’s more, with a festive green hue they are as Christmassy looking as they are delicious. Gift boxes can be picked up in Avoca stores and Stock Dublin and are just begging to be filled with these beauties.
Cocoa Atelier on Exchequer Street is known best for being chocolate Mecca but their macarons are definitely not an afterthought – their salted caramel macaron is a festive fancy to behold. Across the street, Parisian chic macaron boutique Ladurée offers stunning gift boxes of all sizes, filled to the brim with perfect macarons which make a stylish and elegant foodie gift.
If someone tells you they don’t like dulce de leche or butterscotch they are lying but on the plus side more for you. This dreamy toffee sauce, like cookie butter, has many and varied delicious uses but is equally good poured straight into the mouth. With a jar of this, a homemade banoffee pie is mere minutes away, dulce de leche crispies (think a caramel rice crispie bun) can be whipped up in seconds and all that boring Christmas shortbread just got a sexy side kick for dipping into.
This has to be one of my all time favourite kitchen hacks – the unctuous amber nectar that is dulce de leche doesn’t require an hour stirring at the stove frantically and/or risking life and limb boiling a can of condensed milk!
Simply take one can of sweetened condensed milk and pour into a pyrex dish. Cover with tin foil and place the dish in a large roasting tray before pouring in boiling water half way up the sides of the pyrex dish. Place in an oven preheated to 160C for 1.5 hours, stirring half way through and recovering with foil. The end result is caramelised condensed milk – a.k.a dulce de leche, which can then be spiked with anything from Bailey’s to rum before placing in a sterilised jar for gifting.
The Tipperary Kitchen Holycross Butterscotch sauce was described as “heaven in a bowl” by Guild of Fine Food judges as it was awarded 3 gold stars at the Great Taste Awards 2016. Made with butter and cream from Thurles by Brian and Mary Walshe, this tempting tub also made its way onto the Top 50 foods list this year and would put a smile on anyone’s face. Available in Supervalu and online at Ardkeen Food Store, for €3.79.
This my friends, is both the easiest gift to whip up and the most fun to make, as you basically have free reign to lick molten chocolate covered spoons and bowls to your heart’s content. Making chocolate bark as a gift is also a gift for yourself.
Choose your poison, milk, dark or white chocolate, 500g will do the trick, and melt over a bain marie or chop into pieces and melt in 30 second blasts on the microwave on defrost setting. Pour your molten mix onto a lined 9×13 baking sheet and spread to a rough rectangle. Now the fun part, sprinkle over nuts, dried fruit, orange or lime zest, coconut shavings, sea salt, chilli flakes, bee pollen, dulse flakes – literally whatever takes your fancy.
My favourite combos? Dark chocolate, goji berries, chopped pistachios and sea salt or white chocolate with chopped crystallised ginger, dried cranberries and almonds.
The success of your bark depends largely on the quality of the chocolate you use and it would be tough to top Bean and Goose. A 500g slab of incredible single origin dark chocolate studded with candied orange peel, dried cranberries and spiced almonds and hazelnuts – a taste of Christmas enrobed in one of Ireland’s finest examples of craft chocolate. Available here for €29.95.
Notoriously temperamental, fudge can sound a little daunting but with a bit of TLC and time you can easily become a confectioner for the day. Fudge has a long shelf-life meaning you can make it a little while in advance so it needn’t be rushed. You can get creative with your fillings and flavourings and customise them based on the recipient’s favourite festive flavours – bonus points to you, you thoughtful soul.
My rum and raisin fudge is a staple in the hampers I make for my loves each year, and it never sticks around long. First soak 150g raisins in 150ml of dark rum until plump. Then take a heavy bottomed sauce pan and add 150ml single cream, 450g demerara sugar, 115g butter (you will taste it so best quality is important – I use Kerry Gold) and a tin of sweetened condensed milk. Place on a medium-low heat to dissolve the sugar, this will take 3-5 minutes.
Turn up the heat to medium high to bring the mix to the boil and allow to bubble energetically for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly. If you have a sugar thermometer, aim for 118C or soft ball stage, if not take a glass of cold water and drop some mix in. If it forms a smooth ball it is done, so stir in your raisins and residual rum. Pour into a lined 8×8 pan and allow to set. Cut into generous chunks, pop into a mason jar and give!
Mella’s Irish Fudge is a Great Taste gold star winner and with good reason – these morsels are melt in the mouth delicious. With flavours from Irish Cream Liquer to my festive fudgey favourite Rum and Raisin and Christmas Spiced Orange, surprisingly the real star is simple vanilla.
West Cork produced buttery heaven is available in Supervalu stores across the country and here, priced at €5 per pouch.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that(and greed) as the ultimate motivator, I realised that baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law I undertook a PhD, but a preference for cookbooks to textbooks persisted. As a (self-confessed!) demon in the kitchen, I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, fuelling my desire to focus on food in a serious way. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.