Christmas is just around the corner and depending on your personality you will either have been squirrelling away pressies over the past few months with the help of online shopping, perhaps, or you will be looking forward to crazy last-minute Christmas Eve shopping, enjoying the excitement. While I used to be the latter, I now have begun to merge the two and it feels slightly organised - for once. I find though, as the extended family increases in size and the ideas for gifts begin to seem repetitive, I often resort to the one gift everyone loves and appreciates - food.
Among all the mad consumerism, much of which is highly disposable, giving a beautifully wrapped gift of home-made sweets shows you have spent some precious time amid the mayhem making delicious treats for those you appreciate.
My mother used to make what she called "home-made chocolate" when we were children. Delicious but, I think, made with kremelta, so it had a slight fatty mouth feel I was never quite sure of. I have had a play with the idea today and opted instead for good quality dark chocolate paired with flavours of ginger, hazelnuts and orange. This is a simple recipe to make and you could add whatever flavours you fancy. It is also fantastic to make up to two weeks in advance as long as it is stored well. Use a hot knife to cut into your desired size and shape.
Toffee brittle seems quite the decadent treat for me, must be all that sugar and the thought of what it is doing for my teeth but hey, it is Christmas - the perfect time for indulgence, plus it is fun to make and can be a good one to involve children in. Use whatever nuts you wish and invest in a candy thermometer, which prevents any angst regarding whether it will set or not. Do pour the toffee quickly on to the tray, which you need to tip as you go so it spreads, or else you will have a thick set lump before you know it.
The third recipe is a take on traditional White Christmas, which can be made in myriad ways - crushed biscuits or rice bubbles, glace fruit or dried. Plenty of coconut is needed and white chocolate. I have put a brandy-soaked fresh cherry in the middle of each for a pleasant surprise.
With so many gorgeous packaging options available it only takes a little imagination to present these treats beautifully using different containers and ribbons.
• Corn syrup is often used when making sweets and can be found among sugars in speciality food stores and some supermarkets. Light honey and golden syrup can be used as an alternative but the flavour will obviously be altered.
• Salt with chocolate may sound a little odd but do try, using flakes provides a crunch while balancing the sweetness.
For more of Amanda Laird's fabulous recipes, visit foodhub.co.nz.
* Share your edible Christmas treats with us below!