The holidays mean party season, and the best fetes include great guests — those who show up on time, provide help unasked and, of course, bring a thoughtful gift for their hosts.
Treats from scratch are a wonderful way to show appreciation, and maybe even show off a hidden talent. That being said, you don’t need to go big to go homemade — think small and simple ingredients in a fun and easy package. We have three for you here: whipped cream in a mason jar, hunks of white chocolate bark in organza and holiday spices tied up in ribbons.
In a pinch? A great bottle of wine, a sweet bouquet of flowers or a box of goodies from a local bakery are always welcome. Whether it’s from your kitchen or the shop around the corner, your host will love that you shared something so close to home.
A KitchenAid mixer is great for this recipe, and the bowl that comes with it is ideally weighted. If you have time and space, chill the bowl in the freezer for about 30 minutes before you start — it makes for a better outcome. Chilled cream will yield whipped cream, while warm cream will yield butter, which is also a nice token of appreciation.
If you are making just one gift, a fun time-saver is to place a pinch of sugar along with 8 oz. of cream directly into a 16 oz. (or larger) mason jar. Use a hand mixer; the volume will double while whipped. Add a ribbon and you have a quick gift and no messy clean up.
1 pt. chilled heavy whipping cream
About 1 tsp. granulated or powdered sugar (more or less, to taste)
Pour the chilled cream into a cold bowl or jar. Add the sugar. Using a whip attachment, whip the cream on medium speed for 1 – 2 minutes, until firm peaks appear. Do not over-beat.
Store refrigerated in a mason jar with a lid.
White Chocolate Bark
16 oz. good quality white chocolate chips
Dried, sweetened cranberries, roughly chopped
6 oz. green pistachio nuts, shelled, chopped
In a double boiler, melt the chips, stirring. Stir in the cranberries.
Pour onto a lined baking sheet (parchment paper is fine). Smooth into a thin layer. Sprinkle pistachios onto the still-warm chocolate.
Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Break into pieces and place into gift bags, such as organza.
Holiday Spice Bags and Ornaments
Your host can use these as a decoration, spice mulling kit or potpourri. Jewish hosts may also appreciate this for Saturday evenings, when fragrant spices are often shared to mark the end of the Sabbath.
Whole cinnamon sticks
Dried orange slices (we've found these at Trader Joe’s, baking stores and online at Nuts.com)
Ribbons or raffia
Small sheer organza bags
Whole nutmeg, star anise and cloves (optional)
For spice bags, place 3 orange slices, 2 cinnamon sticks and a bay leaf in each bag. If you like, add a few whole nutmegs, star anise, or cloves to the mix.
For ornaments, wrap the low end of a ribbon two or three times around the cinnamon stick center.
Cut a small hole in the bay leaf and slide the string through, layering the bay leaf on top of the cinnamon stick.
Pierce the orange slice through the top center and slide ribbon through. Tie at the top of the orange and then using slack ribbon create a loop.