Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Two Last Minute Gifts from the Kitchen

It's only four days left until the big day! If you're still looking for a couple of gift ideas to "fill in around the edges", here are two of my tried-and-true, super simple food gifts. Despite the fact that they are some of the easiest treats I make, they are always received with delight.

1. Cracker Toffee
(pictured above)

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 sleeve soda crackers
2 cups semi sweet or milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Lay the soda crackers over the top, covering the surface completely. In a medium saucepan, bring butter and brown sugar to a boil. Boil for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture becomes thick and toffee-like..Pour mixture over crackers and spread evenly over top. Bake in oven for 5 minutes. Be VERY careful removing from the oven, the sugar mixture will be extremely hot and bubbly. As it starts to cool down, you may need to rearrange the crackers back into their original position with a fork as they have a tendency to float around in the bubbling toffee mixture Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and let stand about 5 minutes until the chips have melted. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (at least 2-3 hours, overnight is ideal). Remove parchment paper and break into pieces. This keeps well for a few days in the fridge and can be frozen if you happen to make it further in advance.

2. Chocolate Barks

Barks are about the simplest candy to make but they really seem to impress people! You can do just about any combination of chocolate and "additions" that strikes your fancy.

Basic bark formula:
2-3 cups chocolate chips (semi sweet, milk, or white)
1- 1 1/2 cups additions

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. In double boiler or microwave, melt chocolate. Stir in "additions" and spread in a thin layer on jelly roll pan (usually it won't cover the entire surface). Chill in refrigerator until solid, then break into pieces.

Some of my favourite combinations:
-white chocolate with crushed candy cane
-white chocolate with dried cranberries and pistachios or pumpkin seeds
-semi sweet chocolate with raisins and peanuts
-semi sweet chocolate with marshmallows and peanuts ("rocky road" bark)

Other possibilities:
-white chocolate with crushed Oreos ("cookies and cream" bark)
-milk chocolate with toffee bits and almonds

You can drizzle a contrasting colour of chocolate over top of the bark once it's chilled, then re-chill until the drizzle hardens. Store in the fridge or freezer until ready to give.

This is a fun and easy one to do with the kids, and they will enjoy coming up with their own combinations!

I'm going to be taking a bit of a blogging break over the holidays, so expect to see me back sometime next week.


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