Homemade gifts can conjure up uncomfortable visions of wonky knitwear from a well-meaning great auntie, but giving family and friends some culinary treats from your kitchen this Christmas is a fun way of spreading the festive cheer.
Why not have a go at these delicious DIY foodie gifts from the farm kitchen at Seasoned Cookery School?
For the food lover and top cook: Rum and raisin fudge
This is an indulgent chocolate treat with the addition of a splash of rum that will make you extremely popular, and you will probably get regular requests for.
- 100g raisins
- 50ml dark or spiced rum
- 1⁄2 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 500g caster sugar
- 170g evaporated milk
- 170ml whole milk
- 50g unsalted butter
- A pinch of salt
- 125g bittersweet chocolate 70% cocoa
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder sifted
- An 18-20cm/7-8in square pan lined with baking parchment
- First, line the pan with baking parchment.
- Tip the raisins, rum and the split vanilla pod/bean paste into a small saucepan or pot and set over a low heat. Gently warm the rum, but do not allow it to boil. Stir well, remove the pan from the heat and set aside until the mixture is cold and the raisins are plump, juicy and have absorbed all of the vanilla-scented rum.
- Put the sugar into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot with a capacity of at least 20 litres/11 cups. Add the whole and evaporated milk, butter and salt to the pan. Simmer over a medium heat while stirring gently to dissolve the sugar. Put a sugar thermometer into the saucepan and bring the mixture to the boil.
- Now reduce the heat and continue to cook, without stirring, at a low but steady boil until the mixture reaches 114C (230F). Immediately remove the pan from the heat, leaving it for a couple of minutes until the bubbling subsides.
- Tip the sifted cocoa powder and chopped chocolate into a large mixing bowl and pour over the hot fudge mixture. Stir gently to combine and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, beat the fudge until it thickens, cools and becomes slightly grainy. Add the rum soaked raisins and mix to combine thoroughly. Pour the fudge into the prepared baking tin and spread level using the back of a spoon.
- Store in a cool, dark place for at least 3-4 hours, or preferably overnight, until firm. Once it has set, cut the fudge into small squares before serving or store in an airtight container for up to 1 week (if it lasts that long).
For the keen baker: Chocolate and hazelnut macarons
These make a beautiful gift and for the keen baker. Macarons are a great challenge and the taste is well worth the effort.
For the macaron shells
- 110g icing sugar
- 85g ground almonds
- 2 egg whites
- 50g caster sugar
- 8g cocoa powder
- 65g hazelnut or peanut butter
- 100g cream cheese
- 15g icing sugar
- Melted chocolate and chopped nuts to decorate (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 130C. To make the macaron shells, blitz the icing sugar, cocoa powder and ground almonds in a food processor until combined and fine in consistency.
- Mark out 1.5in rounds onto silicone paper and place onto a baking tray.
- Place the egg whites with a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until the egg whites start to froth. Gradually add the caster sugar until the whites turn stiff and glossy. Mix the egg into the icing sugar, cocoa and almond mixture until it reaches a ribbon consistency (take care not to overmix).
- Scrape the mixture into a piping bag and pipe rounds onto the ready prepared baking sheet.
- Leave to set for at least 15 minutes or until the macarons form a skin.
- Bake on the middle shelf for 12-15 minutes, then remove from the oven, cool slightly before peeling off the sheets and cooling completely on a wire rack.
- Once the macaron shells are cool, melt the milk chocolate and place into a small piping bag. Drizzle the chocolate over half of the shells and sprinkle the chopped nuts on top – do this on a cooling rack over some greaseproof paper so as not to make too much mess. Pop the shells in the fridge to chill as these will become the tops of the finished macarons.
- In a mixing bowl, beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Place in a piping bag until ready to use.
- Fill the remaining shells with the peanut butter filling and sandwich together with the tops. Keep in the fridge in an air-tight container until needed, eat within 2-3 days at the most.
For the little bakers: Spiced ginger biscuits
These biscuits are a firm favourite at Seasoned, especially with Seasoned’s founder Clare and her three children. A great bake to get the kids involved with.
- 100g butter
- 225g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
- 1.5 tbsp ground ginger
- 100g caster sugar
- 4 tbsp golden syrup
- Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare two or three baking trays with a sheet of baking parchment.
- Melt the butter and golden syrup together (either in a large bowl in the microwave or in a pan on the hob).
- Weigh out all the dry ingredients and combine with the melted butter and syrup until a paste forms.
- Roll into equal sized balls (the size of table tennis balls).
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes, then remove. Allow to cool slightly before transferring onto a cooling rack.
- Top tip – double up this recipe as they won’t last long.
About Seasoned Cookery School
Seasoned is owned by dairy farmer’s wife Clare Major and is in the grounds of the beautiful Catton Hall Estate in Derbyshire.
It operates more than 100 different cookery and baking courses taught by some of the country’s best chefs, some of whom are BBC Masterchef and Great British Bake Off finalists.
For more information about Seasoned Cookery School visit their website or give the team a call on 01283 711 681. Gift Vouchers make an excellent Christmas present for a foodie loved one.