Here's the thing about Valentine's Day: it's always better to make something from the heart (and if you're a cook, people are going to expect it anyway). Living up to this expectation can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be. Simply choose recipes that are easy and universally-loved—such as sweet treats like cookies, fudge or brownies—and then put a little creative spin on how you present them. There's actually a great book out just for this purpose called Gourmet Gifts: 100 Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion (to Make Yourself and Wrap in Style).
This is not a straightforward cookbook as the authors take a one-two punch approach to their recipes: 1. How to Make it, and then 2. How to gift it. The recipes are divided up into six sections (small tokens, big batches, pennywise, pound foolish, feel better, and special delivery) for the different life events and celebrations that could take place during the year. Some of their suggestions include:
- Creating a deconstructed strawberry shortcake in trifle-form and presenting in a mason jar
- Making your own herbal tea sachets and then giving it as a gift inside a vintage tea pot
- Baking a cardamom coffee cake... right in a coffee can (my personal favourite from the book)
It's a fun little book to be sure, and is a great gift in of itself for the cook or crafter in your life. If you're looking for a last-minute v-day gift idea, try the one below which is an easy hazelnut brittle wrapped up in a sweet way.
Hazelnut Brittle in a Faux Bundle of Letters
Overall Prep Time: 1¼ hours
Active Prep Time: 15 minutes
Do not double
Shelf Life: 1 week in an airtight container at room temperature
Makes: 20 pieces
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 cup chopped hazelnuts (you can substitute pecans or almonds)
1 cup superfine sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cognac
1 teaspoon baking soda
1. Using 3 tablespoons of the butter, heavily coat the bottom of a standard sheet pan (11 x 17 inches) and set it aside.
2. Combine the nuts, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the mixture on High for 3 minutes, pause the oven to stir the mixture well, and microwave on High for 3 minutes more. Pause the oven again, stir the mixture once more, and microwave on High for another minute.
3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to the brittle mixture without stirring and microwave on High for 2½ minutes more. Remove the bowl from the microwave and gently stir in the cognac and baking soda, taking care because the boiling mixture may foam and sputter when you add these ingredients. Quickly pour the hot brittle onto the buttered sheet pan. Working very quickly, pick up the sheet pan with oven mitts and tilt the pan back and forth and side to side to spread the molten brittle into as thin a layer as possible over the sheet pan before it cools and hardens.
4. Cool the pan on a rack for at least 1 hour. Break the brittle by hand into generous bite-sized pieces. Store in an airtight container until the pillow box wrapping is completed and you are ready to assemble the gift.
Wrapping It Up
Images of beautiful vintage letters, postcards, and other antique paper ephemera can be downloaded to your computer or printer from several free sources, like TheGraphicsFairy.com. Use printer-weight card stock when reproducing the images. You can also clip images from magazines or old books and dry-mount them onto card stock to achieve a similar effect. The embellished card stock can be mounted on a commercially produced cardboard pillow box (or you can make your own using a purchased box as a template).
Dry-mount spray adhesive
Lightweight cardstock with printed or dry-mounted images of antique letters, postcards, or other ephemera
1 cardboard pillow box (purchased or homemade), folded size approximately 5 x 9 inches
Waxed tissue paper
Thin ribbon or twill tape
Sealing wax or hot glue gun
Sealing wax, with stamp
How to put it in a letter
Use the dry-mount adhesive to attach the embellished card stock to the outside of the pillow box before folding it into shape. Small scissors or a craft knife can be used to trim around all the outside edges of the pillow box so the attached images are the exact same size as the pillow box. To make sure the images are well attached with no gaps, wrinkles, or bubbles, place the embellished box under a stack of heavy books for a few hours.
Wrap the brittle in waxed tissue and place it in the box. Wind the ribbon or twill tape around the box and knot it tightly. Apply a small circle of real or glue-gun sealing wax to the ends of the ribbon and impress it with a stamp.
Reprinted with permission from Gourmet Gifts, The Harvard Common Press, 2011, author Dinah Corley, photography by Alison Shaw.
Giveaway: I have 3 copies of Gourmet Gifts to give away. For a chance to win a copy, email email@example.com with the correct answer to the following question: What is my favourite recipe and wrapping suggestion from the book? Don't forget to add your mailing address and phone number to your email submission for courier purposes. Please see giveaway rules below.
The Gourmet Gifts Cookbook Giveaway Rules
The following are the giveaway rules (“Rules”) for the Gourmet Gifts Cookbook giveaway (the “Giveaway”) being administered by Shaw Media (“Shaw”).
RULE 1. HOW TO ENTER
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. To enter, entrants must answer the question posted above correctly, as determined by a Shaw representative. The Giveaway shall run from February 14, 2012 to February 21, 2012 after which time no answers will be considered.
RULE 2. SELECTION OF WINNER
Upon completion of the Giveaway, a Shaw representative shall review the answers submitted by each entrant to determine which entrant answered the question correctly. From the entrants that correctly answered the question, Shaw will randomly select the prize winner (“Winner”) and provide the prize to the winner. For the purposes of this Giveaway and the awarding of prize, these Rules shall govern in all respects and the decision of any Shaw representatives shall be final.
RULE 3. PRIZE
There are 3 prizes available to be won, which consists of 1 copy of Gourmet Gifts (“Prize”). The approximate value of the Prize is thirty-nine dollars and ninety nine cents Canadian (CDN $19.99).
RULE 4. GENERAL
By participating in this Giveaway, you agree to abide by these Rules and the decisions of Shaw in awarding the Prize, which decisions shall be final and binding upon all entrants. Entrants who have not complied with these Rules are subject to disqualification. Shaw reserves the right to modify the Rules, before or during the Giveaway, in its sole discretion, in any way at any time it deems necessary or appropriate without materially affecting the terms and conditions of this Giveaway. Interpretation of these Giveaway rules by Shaw shall be final.
Personal information collected during the course of this Giveaway shall be used by Shaw and its authorized representatives solely for the purposes of conducting the Giveaway and awarding prizes, and will not be used or disclosed for any other purpose unless required by law.
The Prize is not transferable and not redeemable for cash, will not be extended under any circumstances and must be accepted as offered without substitution.
Employees of Shaw and its affiliates, subsidiaries, related companies, advertising and promotional agencies and the household members of any of the above, are not eligible to participate in this Giveaway.
By participating in this Giveaway, the Winner agrees that his/her name may be used in any and all forms of media, without any further compensation by Shaw and waives all rights (including moral rights) with respect to printed, broadcast and other forms of publicity.
In the event of a dispute as to who submitted an electronic entry, the entry will be deemed to have been submitted by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address submitted at the time of entry. “Authorized account holder” is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet access provider, on-line service provider or other organization (e.g., business, educational institution, etc.) that is responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address.
Notwithstanding the defined Contest Period, Shaw reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to terminate the Giveaway, in whole or part, and/or modify, amend or suspend the Giveaway, and/or these Rules in any way, at any time, for any reason without prior notice. Interpretation of these Giveaway Rules by Shaw shall be final.
The Giveaway is subject to all applicable laws of the province of Ontario and the laws of Canada applicable therein.