By Sheridan Lane, interim director, culinary program and operations, Lincoln Land Community College
As you and yours make the rounds this holiday season, there is no better time than to demonstrate the mantra learned in kindergarten, “sharing is caring!” Sure. We can all pick up the obligatory bottle of wine or the assorted box of chocolates on the way to the cocktail party or festive brunch, but there is still time to make simple gifts that feel handcrafted for the hosts on your holiday tour. Each of the following recipes are examples of treats that have been fully vetted for maximum satisfaction by the hosts in my family and are sure to please those in yours. Making homemade holiday host gifts requires just a few minutes of thought ahead of time and truly are extra special!
Here is my recommendation for supplies most of which can be found at any craft or dollar store: holiday ribbon, clear treat bags, 4 or 8 oz jelly jars, gift tags. Then pick a recipe below (intermediate level cooking down to novice).
Pumpkin Roll – Intermediate
(Make the recipe several times well in advance and cut each of the rolls into thirds. Individually wrap each of the thirds in plastic wrap and then freezer paper. Freeze them until you are ready to travel. Then place them in your treat bags. They will thaw on the way and stay delicious in the refrigerator.)
4 eggs, well beaten
1 ¼ C sugar
7.5 oz canned pumpkin ( ½ the small can, 15oz, of prepared pumpkin)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 C flour, sifted
1 C chopped pecans (optional but preferred)
1/2 C powdered sugar
Beat eggs and sugar 3-4 minutes on medium speed. Then add canned pumpkin and spices until well blended. Add baking powder, and, finally, FOLD in the sifted flour. Pour the mixture onto a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper and sprayed with baking spray. Be sure to level the batter using a cake spreader or spatula to ensure an even layer. Sprinkle the pecan pieces on the batter and bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Be sure not to overbake as crispy edges on the cake with not allow it to roll up. When just out of the oven, loosen the edges of the cake with a butter knife and slide it out of the jelly roll paper. Generously sprinkle the 1/2 cup powdered sugar over the cake and then gently lay a tea towel over the cake to cool. The tea towel allows the steam to escape while still trapping in much of the moisture. When the cake is totally cool, remove the tea towel; cover with plastic wrap and turn the cake out onto the plastic wrap. Spread a ½ inch layer of icing over the cake. Then gently tuck the short edge into the cake to start the roll. As you roll the cake, be sure to leave the plastic wrap on the surface (Do not roll the plastic wrap into the cake!)
2 sticks butter
8 oz cream cheese
1 T vanilla extract
3 T heavy cream
1 lb. powdered sugar
Beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Slowly add powdered sugar to mixer in alternating amounts with cream until desired consistency to spread.
Make these into delicious little S’mores packs for a late night treat for that tired host!
YIELDS: 12 PREP TIME: 40 mins
1/4 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
½ oz. unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1 tsp. mint extract
6 tbsp. cocoa
1/4 c. cocoa
3 tbsp. hot water
1 c. water
2 tbsp. lavender
6 tbsp. instant espresso
1 c boiling water
In a small bowl, sift together confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch; set aside. Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-inch-square baking pan with vegetable oil. Cut an 8- by 12-inch sheet of parchment and fit into pan so that it covers bottom and 2 sides. Spray parchment with oil, and coat parchment and pan with half of the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Set aside.
Fill a large bowl with 1/2 cup cool water and sprinkle with gelatin; set aside. In a medium pot fitted with a candy thermometer, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until mixture reaches 240 degrees F. Remove from heat and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat reserved gelatin mixture on low for about 30 seconds, then pour in reserved sugar–corn syrup mixture in a slow, steady stream down side of bowl. Increase mixer speed to high and beat until very thick, ribbony, and doubled in volume, 12 to 15 minutes.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Using dampened fingers, smooth top. Sprinkle remaining confectioners’ sugar mixture over top. Let rest, uncovered, in a cool, dry place, about 4 hours or up to overnight.
Invert marshmallow onto a dry surface and discard parchment. Using a clean, dry pastry brush, dust excess confectioners’ sugar from the top of the marshmallow onto work surface. Dust a knife in confectioners’ sugar from the work surface, then cut the marshmallow into twelve 1 3/4-inch squares (you’ll have a bit extra). Dip the cut edges in the excess confectioners’ sugar mixture on the work surface. To package, divide 1 batch among 4 bags, placing 3 marshmallows in each bag. Repeat with batches of the other variations.
Peppermint Marshmallows: Follow directions above, but after completing Step 3, add mint extract and beat for 30 seconds.
Chocolate Marshmallows: Before beginning steps above: In a small bowl, mix together 6 tablespoons cocoa and hot water until a smooth paste forms; set aside. In Step 1, sift 1/4 cup cocoa with confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch. In Step 3, beat reserved cocoa paste into reserved gelatin mixture before adding sugar mixture.
Lavender Marshmallows: Before beginning steps above: In a small saucepan over high heat, bring water and lavender to a boil. Set aside and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and reserve liquid; discard lavender. In Step 2, substitute reserved lavender water in both instances where water is called for.
Coffee Marshmallows: Before beginning steps above: In a small bowl, dissolve instant espresso in boiling water. Set aside to cool to room temperature. In Step 2, substitute reserved espresso in both instances where water is called for.
Caramelized Onion and Bacon Jam
¾ pound slab bacon, diced into cubes
4 medium-size white or Spanish onions, peeled and diced
1 ½ teaspoons mustard seed
2 ½ tablespoons dark brown sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Set a Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat, and add the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is completely rendered and the bacon has started to crisp, approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot, and add the onions, mustard seed, brown sugar, vinegar and 3 tablespoons of water. Stir to combine, then cover the pot, lower the heat and allow the mixture to cook undisturbed for 15 or 20 minutes. Remove the top, stir again and then partly cover the pot. Allow the mixture to cook until most of the liquid is gone and the onions have achieved a dark brown jamminess, approximately 60 to 70 minutes. (Add a little more water as needed.)
Taste the jam, and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Remove mixture from heat, and allow to cool slightly. Spoon the jam into a jar or bowl, then allow to cool completely. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup dark corn syrup
2 ¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2-3 tsp. flake salt
Line bottom and sides of a 9×13 pan with parchment paper. set on a cooling rack and set aside.
In a medium sized, heavy bottom sauce pot melt butter over medium/low heat. Add corn syrup, sugar and condensed milk to melted butter. Stir until combined.
Continue to cook on medium, stirring constantly until mixture reaches 240 degrees.
CAUTION!!!! Boiling sugar can cause severe burns. Do not get on skin.
Remove from heat and carefully pour into pan. Sprinkle with flake salt. Let cool completely.
Once cooled, slice with a sharp knife into 1 inch pieces. Wrap individual pieces in parchment.
Kicked Up Popcorn
4-6 squares white almond bark
3 T vegetable oil
3 bags microwave popcorn popped
Cayenne pepper to taste
Using a double broiler slowly melt almond bark and whisk in 3 T vegetable oil to think bark mixture. Once melted, make popcorn and place in large bowl. Pour melted almond bark over popcorn and lightly sprinkle with cayenne pepper to desired spice level.
The cayenne pepper adds such a warm finish to this salty and sweet treat!
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Culinary Institute. For more information, visit www.llcc.edu.