Homemade Christmas gifts


Homemade Christmas gifts
The countdown has begun: Christmas will be here in only a few days, and everyone’s looking for ideas and inspiration for special gifts. Ideas for homemade Christmas gifts are everywhere on the web, offering us an opportunity to give something personal and truly unique that we have made with our own hands.
There are plenty of things we can make quickly with a touch of creativity: from traditional jams to Christmas cookies (gingerbread, linzer, peppercorn), simple jars of sugar or salt flavoured with lemon, orange, rosemary or lavender, even homemade liqueurs.
It’s important to wrap these gifts in a tasteful, original way, carefully choosing boxes, ribbons and paper and making a personal gift tag.
But for a really fun gift, how about a mix in a jar, for making hot chocolate, cookies, muffins or soup! They are really quick to make for a perfect last-minute gift, ideal when you’re in a hurry.
Three quick, original ideas

Homemade hot chocolate mix

Everyone of all ages loves hot chocolate, and there are so many different ways to flavour it, with cinnamon, hot pepper, coffee and cardamom, and so on. Concentrate on the person you want to give it to and decide whether they would prefer milk chocolate or dark chocolate, with the addition of chili pepper or cinnamon. For an original touch, add biscuits or marshmallows and/or a special cup in which your friend can enjoy the hot chocolate.
Keep the mix away from extreme temperatures, in a cool, dry place, and you can store it for up to a year – though it’s unlikely it will last that long!
Ingredients for a 600 ml jar:
50 g unsweetened cocoa
100 g sugar
60 g potato starch
100 g dark (or milk) chocolate
optional additions: flavourings such as cinnamon, hot chili pepper, cardamom, etc.
Add a piece of paper on which you have written the following instructions:
Hot chocolate
Instructions: Put 2 tbsp (about 40 g) of mix into a small saucepan, gradually whisk in 200 ml milk, turn on the heat and cook while stirring.

Granola: a delicious cereal for an energy-packed breakfast

Rolled oats, hazelnuts, almonds and plenty of dried fruit, such as blueberries, apples, bananas, etc. Give free rein to your imagination and have fun coming up with the perfect granola for your loved-one’s breakfast! For example, you might replace the dried fruit with dark or milk chocolate, or flavour the mix with cinnamon, cardamom or coffee. Store in polypropylene bags or in a hermetically sealed container to keep the granola crunchy.
Ingredients for 6 servings:
200 g rolled oats
80 g muscovado cane sugar
30 ml sunflower seed oil
70 g chopped dried fruit (apple, apricot, blueberry, cranberry, etc.)
40 ml water
4 heaped tbsp dried coconut flakes
2 generous tbsp honey
20 g walnuts
20 g almonds
20 g hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 170°C/330°F. Put the rolled oats in a large bowl and add the coconut flakes, coarsely chopped walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and all the chopped dried fruit and blend. Cook the muscovado sugar, honey and water over low heat for a few minutes, taking off the heat as soon as it comes to a boil. Pour the syrup thus obtained into the bowl with the rolled oats and dried fruit and mix well. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then add the sunflower seed oil while stirring. Cover your oven’s drip tray with ovenproof paper and pour the granola over it, using a spoon to distribute it in an even layer. Bake for 15/20 minutes, opening the oven and stirring the granola from time to time to make sure it cooks evenly and does not burn, spreading it out in an even layer after stirring. Take the granola out of the oven and let it cool. When cool, break it up with your hands and put it into a hermetically sealed jar; it will keep for at least a week.

Brownie mix

This is the perfect gift even for people who are not very good at baking! All the recipient will have to do is add eggs and melted butter to the mix in the jar to make delicious homemade brownies.  This is another gift idea that can be custom-tailored to suit the recipient’s tastes, adding dark, white or milk chocolate, coffee, spices, nuts or dried fruit.
Ingredients for a jar at least 750 ml in size
100 g cake and pastry flour
 50 g unsweetened cocoa
100 g white sugar
80 g cane sugar
100 g almonds or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
100 g dark chocolate chips or pieces
1 tsp baking powder, with vanilla flavouring if available
a pinch of salt
Make the mix in layers: mix the flour with a pinch of salt and the baking powder and pour into the jar. Add the cocoa on top of it, then add a layer of cane sugar, a layer of white sugar, a layer of coarsely chopped nuts and, finally, a layer of chocolate cut into small pieces or chocolate chips.
Add a piece of paper to the jar with the following instructions on it:
Chocolate and almond (or hazelnut) brownies
1 jar brownie mix
130 g butter
4 eggs
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Pour the brownie mix into a large bowl and stir. Melt the butter over low heat, then pour it over the mix while it is still hot and blend well so that the chocolate melts (it doesn’t matter if a few pieces remain).
Beat the eggs and add them to the well-blended mix, stirring them in to blend thoroughly. Line a 22 cm/9 inch square cake pan with oven-proof paper, pour the mix over it, level off the top and bake for about 25 minutes, until just firm in the centre. Cool before removing from the pan and cutting into squares.

Antonella Pagliaroli – Frames of Sugar

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