12 Days of Holiday Food Gifts to Make {Revisited}

Happy Holidays!
Twelve amazing days of Food gifts for memorable giving.

Last year for the holidays I did a series of 12 food gifts for making and giving. A bunch of folks have been asking about them, so here they are in the order that they were posted in. Just click on the title to take you directly to the original post. Also be sure to check on the page bar at the top of the post for resources for jars, containers, ribbons, etc.

White Chocolate Candies

Day 1- White Chocolate Candies– easy to make drops.

Day 2- Candied Fruits- Sweet and Savory. This post contains recipes for the candied pears shown above, candied spicy tangerines and candied ginger.

Day 3- Rosemary Lemon Biscotti and Dark Chocolate Cherry Biscotti– two classic cookies.\

Day 4- A Tradition Renewed- Marzipan– instructions on how to make cherries, pears and plums.

Day 5- Cowboy Candy- sweet pickled jalapeños that have the added bones of a beautiful syrup leftover that makes the dang best margaritas you’ve EVER tasted!

Day 6- Flavored Oils– Two infusion methods: Hot and Cold. Recipes for Lemon Oil, Basil Oil and Smoked Paprika Oil.

Day 7- Mixed Drinks~Pre-made cocktails. These are the bases for some delicious cocktails. Just add ice a spritz of tonic or soda water and you can kick back and enjoy the evening.

Day 8- Fruit Compotes~ Red & Blueberry Mint, and Orange Lavender– Send along with a batch of homemade scones for a special Christmas morning breakfast.

Day 9- Fregolotta- An Italian tradition. It’s a large cracker like cookie, full of almonds, that is broken and eaten after dinner, served here with a ruby port.

Day 10- Homemade syrups to make your own exotic soda or create a cocktail. Blueberry Thyme, Ginger Ale, and Fresh Mint

Day 11- Apricot Tapenade with Rosemary. A sweet and savory fruit sauce that pairs beautifully with cheese and makes a colorful and sparkling addition to your holiday table.

Day 12- NUTELLA!!!!!!

Happy making and sharing everyone!

{Day 1} White Chocolate Candies

Candy making is a true science. They say that about baking but truthfully there is sooome leeway in baking- candy making? not so much- but SO satisfying and your friends will be mega impressed.

Making chocolate candies like a pro requires tempering of the chocolate. This is a process of melting and cooling the chocolate that develops the cocoa crystals. The result is a glossy snappy chocolate that doesn’t streak or bloom. This can be a little on the fiddly side, but I promise, it absolutely is doable.

My best advice is to give yourself plenty of time and an uber clean work environment and then relax and enjoy. Water is an enemy of chocolate tempering, so if your melting your chocolate over a double boiler take extra care not to let any drips get into the bowl.

The method highlighted above is simple and direct. You can use an instant read thermometer like the one you stick in the Turkey bird. There is a specific glass chocolate thermometer with a narrow temperature range. Not an expensive investment, but not really necessary. Another word of advice- the greater the volume of chocolate the more stable it will be and temperature variables will be slower. The worst case? If you overheat the chocolate it will lose it’s temper, and like a sleep deprived 2 year old, there is no bringing it back to behave. Not a loss though, the chocolate is still delicious and can be used in baking, truffle fillings or icings.

When it comes to making chocolates, I use a chocolate tempering machine. I purchased my Revolation 2 about 15 years ago. I don’t do a ton of candy making or dipping, but man oh man, do I love this machine. If you can get your hands on one, or share one with a pal- it’s awesome. Remember, there are Valentines and Easter opportunities…

Tips on making Nonpareils:

These candies can be made with any color of chocolate but I just love the white on white for the holidays.

Make sure you get the smallest silver dragees possible. I used size 0- any larger and they are too crunchy to eat gracefully.

When decorating with the dragees let the chocolate set for a minute or two before sprinkling on the dragees. Because they are a little heavy they will sink into the chocolate when it is first poured. My method is to pipe out an entire tray and then decorate. Have all your goodies at the ready, cooling chocolate waits for no one.

When piping out chocolate use a CLEAN pastry bag or make a parchment cone. Any contamination in the chocolate makes it cranky.

Properly tempered chocolate that is left over can be melted and tempered again. Ain’t that a beautiful thing?

A word about chocolates- firstly, NO NOT use “coatings”. These are waxy substitutes for chocolate the way Velveeta pretends it’s cheese. Using quality chocolate is really worth the price and effort here. It’s best to buy chocolate in block form from a dealer and not buy bars at the supermarket. NY Cake and Baking supply sells in smaller and larger quantities and so do many other sources. If you plan on making chocolates for Valentines, investing in a slab, or 5 Kilo (11lb) block can be worth it as the cost is about half and it will keep. Just store in a cool place or wrap tightly and store in fridge- just keep the wrapping on when warming to room temperature. You don’t want to create any condensation on the chocolate (see above about water and chocolate).

Lastly- when adding things in to make clusters keep in mind the temperature of them. Whatever you use needs to be room temp otherwise it will throw off the temper. This goes for dipping cold centers since the chocolate that drips back into the bowl will be cooler. Watch the temperature level of the chocolate and keep it in range- my machine alerts me with a beep when the temp starts to slip out of range- so I just wait a minute until it brings the temp back on track (SEE why I love this thing so much?).

See the resource page at the top of the page for purchasing sources for all needs here.

White Chocolate Nonpareils
2# of chocolate- produced about 8 of these boxes
silver dragees, size 0
sanding sugar
sweetened coconut
Round piping tip size 10
Clean pastry bag- disposable plastic bags are the best
Prepare a flat area with parchment paper. If you’re planning on making a big batch lining a counter is fine. The chocolates set in a few minutes and unless you have a ton of baking sheets this is just fine. A granite counter is even better.
Prepare pastry bag and fit with the tip and line up your toppings
When all is at the ready then start tempering your chocolate. No walking away from melting chocolate and I do not recommend using the microwave for making candies. I know people do it, but it’s too loosey goosey when it comes to temperature control, and hot spots in the chocolate will make it lose temper.
When the chocolate is tempered time to fill the pastry bag.
Turn down the sides of the pastry bag and fold back the tip to prevent the chocolate from leaking out. You can set this up in a jar or glass for better control. Once filled twist the top of the pastry bag to prevent the chocolate from oozing out of the top.
You are ready start your piping. Do this as swiftly as possible but with grace. Hold your finger over the end of the tip to prevent the chocolate from leaking out between piping.
Squeeze the bag while holding the twisted part closed between thumb and finger. 
Try to make even sized rounds. I first measured my boxes to make sure my circles would fit nicely. However, no rules here- make ovals, squiggles, long bars, letters of the alphabet…
After a minute to allow the chocolate to juuust set- you can see the sides of the chocolates start to dull a little.
With a spoon sprinkle on the toppings. The dragees are best done on a baking sheet to capture stray beads which can be reused.
The coconut I “tucked” into the chocolate to make sure that there was a nice knot to bite into. To do this simply press the coconut gently down into the mound.
Allow the chocolates to cool and harden. Allowing them to slowly cool will create a greater sheen and a finer look. Putting them into the fridge is fine, but not my preference.
If your kitchen is very warm this can affect the process, so the cooler the room the better. Make chocolate on non baking days.
**if you’re finding your chocolates are just not setting up you can switch to “cold chocolates”  that you will just have to keep in the fridge. Not a bad thing- so remember that’s always a back up**
White Chocolate Rice Krispy Clusters
When I near the end of my candy making I like to use the remaining chocolate to make clusters. You can use a variety of things such as nuts, dried fruits or in this case, Rice Krispies- just remember, nothing wet like sliced berries…
There are no measurements here, just eyeball the additions. Factor a 1:1 ratio- there is really no right or wrong.
With a spoon drop mounds onto prepared parchment and allow to set as above. 
Personally I like tiny clusters- it’s a nice treat to take petite nibbles rather than indulge in a big puck of chocolate.
Once the chocolates and set you can package them right up.
Store in a cool dry place.
Please see the Resource Page in the header bar for links to boxes and ribbon sources.