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The Art Of
GIVING
GIFT IDEAS TO DELIGHT THE SENSES

 

 

 


LAVENDER HEARTS 
Give a basic biscuit recipe an interesting flavour by adding lavender or other herbs. Place them in a paper bag and sprinkle with the herb's delicate flowers.
(Makes 25 biscuits)

125g butter, at room temperature
60g castor sugar
200g cake flour
30ml dried lavender flowers

Cream the butter and castor sugar together until light and fluffy. Add flour and lavender and knead until smooth. Roll dough to 3mm thickness on a floured surface. Cut into heart shapes and place on a lightly greased baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for eight to 10 minutes, or until firm. Transfer to wire racks. (The Dough can be also made in a food processor.)

PISTACHIO NUT COOKIES
Using a knitting needle or skewer, make small holes in these biscuits before you put them into the oven and give a bowl of them away to be used as scrummy threaded decorations. Tie one of the cookies onto your gift to scintillate the tastebuds. You can use this wrapping idea for any box of biscuits, just remember to make a hole in one of them for the packaging.

Roll basic biscuit dough out on a floured surface to 3mm thickness. Cut out 5cm rounds. Place the cookies on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper, brush with egg glaze and press a pistachio nut into the centre. If the pistachios are salted, rub in a tea towel to remove salt and skins. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Leave on racks to cool. 

BASIC BISCUIT MIX
85g icing sugar, sifted
30ml castor sugar
100g butter, diced
1 egg
2 1/2ml vanilla essence
280g cake flour, sifted

Put the icing and castor sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Lightly mix the egg and vanilla essence, pour onto the mixture while the machine's running, and add the flour. When mixture comes together, transfer to a lightly floured surface and work quickly until smooth. Shape the dough into a flat slab and wrap in cling film. Chill until firm. (The dough will keep in the fridge for up to a week. To freeze, wrap in a layer of aluminium foil. Defrost in the refrigerator before using.) Cut into shapes and bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Leave on racks to cool.

To make in the conventional way: Mix the icing, castor sugar and butter until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla essence, then the flour and knead to a firm dough.

 

 

 FLORENTINES

50g castor sugar
40g butter
30ml cream
15ml (1 tablespoon) flour
50g flaked almonds
50g glace cherries (red and green) and mixed candied peel, chopped
60g white chocolate, melted

Put all the ingredients (except the white chocolate) into a saucepan and stir over low heat until blended. Drop teaspoonfuls of the mixture well apart onto two baking trays line with non-stick baking paper and flatten with a wet fork. 

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. To make perfect rounds, place a cookie cutter over each florentine and lightly press with a fork. Leave on the baking sheet until firm and then cool on a wire rack. Spread melted chocolate over the smooth side of each biscuit (give them a second coat if needed). Use a fork to make wavy lines and leave until the chocolate cools and hardens.

To melt chocolate: Break chocolate into a small mixing bowl and place over a saucepan of hot water. Leave for about five minute, then stir until smooth.

 


SUGARED PINEAPPLES
Great for decorating cakes and ice-cream, or just to snack on.

Heat 220g sugar and 250ml water and stir until it dissolves. Bring to the boil and reduce by half. 

Peel one pineapple, cut into thin slices and pat dry with paper towels. Using a pastry brush, cover both sides with the sugar syrup and place on a non-stick baking tray. 

Bake at 100°C until dry and crisp (four to six hours), turning the slices from time to time.
Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

 

 

  TURKISH DELIGHT

Turkish towns are lined with sweet stalls selling unbelievable arrays of these aromatic treats and a languid hour spent acquiring each flavour is a traveller's essential. 

A British man must have been doing just that when he labeled them Turkish Delight, but their true name is Rahat Lokum, which means 'little bite of contentment'. 

 These blissful sweets are usually served on birthdays or other special occasions and because they last for up to six months, most Turkish households have them on hand. Allow their soft texture and exotic taste to bring a sigh to someone's lips. Place the pretty bites in a box amid dustings of icing sugar and finish with an organza ribbon.

 

 

VANILLA SUGAR

Cut a single vanilla pod into short lengths and store it in a jar of sugar. The pod will outlast the sugar so suggest topping up when necessary. The vanilla can even be removed to flavour jams, then washed, dried and returned to the sugar. 

MILK AND HONEY BREAD
A wonderful gift for someone in the throes of setting up a home. Christen their new baking tin with delicious bread and rush over to give a hand.

(Makes one loaf)

450g all-purpose flour
10g instant yeast
5ml salt
275ml milk, heated to lukewarm
15ml sugar
30ml honey
 

Put the flour, yeast and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir the sugar and honey into the warm milk and add to the flour, mixing until the flour is absorbed. (If the dough seems too dry, add a little more warm milk.) Knead the dough until smooth, about five minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling wrap. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about an hour. 

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, punch down and shape it into an oval loaf. Place in a well greased 18 by 12cm bread tin. Cover and again, allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C. Brush the loaf with a little milk, bake for 30-35 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.