Sweets for sweeties

Gifts from the kitchen are a way to wear your heart on your sleeve: you pick out a recipe, find the ingredients, and engage with your kitchen before presenting your efforts to a special someone. I wouldn’t cook or bake nearly as much as I do if it weren’t for the fact that a very appreciate belly and mouth resides with me. This belly/mouth often moans when I package up a homemade gift for someone else, so I have to remind him that the wealth needs to be shared. Not enough people have someone nurturing them through apron strings.

Christmas is an excellent time for goodies. Chocolates and candy from the shops are fine and dandy, no one is complaining here! But a mixture of homemade sweets to round out the flux of holiday treats adds an extra bit of warmth to the season; and they don’t have to be difficult (candy thermometers make me cringe). For example, do you have some good quality chocolate lying around? Roll fresh marzipan into balls and dip in dark chocolate, or dip chunks of candied ginger for a little kick to the palette. You don’t even need to temper the chocolate if you let them set properly at room temperature. Or melt the chocolate and pour onto a cookie sheet with toasted almonds. Break up once set for the easiest almond bark ever at half the cost. Another sweet treat I finally got around to making this year: Vanilla Bean Marshmallows. I was surprised how easy they were and how delicious and fresh they stay for days on end. We even threw one in our morning coffee! Stack them in a mason jar and you have a gift that will bring out the inner child in anyone.

A recipe I used for an indulgent gift last year makes truffles more approachable. Silk Road’s Chai Tea Chocolate & Whiskey Truffles are exotic, spicy and rich. The key is a strong loose-leafed chai. I am biased when I can’t imagine making these without SR’s chai, and I haven’t found an equal comparison in my tea hunting. So if you know anyone in Victoria, ask them to pick up a tin! You will never buy tea bags again.

5 Tbsp Silk Road Chai tea
300g milk chocolate chopped into small chunks
300g dark chocolate chopped into small chunks
250ml whipping cream
120g unsalted butter
4 Tbsp whiskey
icing sugar and cinnamon powder

Place 1 Tbsp chai tea in 4 Tbsp whiskey, and infuse for 24 hours, then strain. Place 4 Tbsp chai in cream and heat on low for 15 minutes. Strain tea leaves from cream. Place cream back onto stove, add butter and chocolate chunks. Keep on low heat, and stir constantly until chocolate is melted and all the ingredients are dissolved. At the very end, quickly stir in the infused whiskey.

Cover a shallow pan (that is at least one inch deep) with plastic wrap. Pour chocolate mixture over the plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 ½ hours so that it sets. Remove the chocolate from the pan and plastic wrap. Roll into balls, working quickly so that the chocolate doesn’t start to melt. Rinse hands in cold water if they get too warm. Sift together equal parts icing sugar and cinnamon powder. Roll truffles in icing sugar/cinnamon powder.

Happy homemaking and merry Christmas!

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