$30/Week Holiday Gift Guide 2008Posted: December 12, 2008
Homemade holiday gifts sometimes get a bad rap – an asymmetrical knit cap you get from a distant aunt, an ashtray a kid makes for his or her non-smoking partents. But really, a gift you make can be as good or better than a gift you buy, so long as you put some thought into it. Is clicking the “Continue to Checkout” button on a retail website really a better way to demonstrate your warm and tender feelings toward your friends and family than taking the time to gather a bunch of ingredients and bake a big batch of somebody’s favorite cookies. We think not.
Seeing as we’re just a couple of weeks from the holidays now, here are a couple of gifts that you can make without really extensive prep work or a gigantic budget.
1. Infused Liqueurs and Cordials
This has been one of our favorite gifts to give for a few years running now. You need to get started a couple of weeks before giving the gift, but once you’ve thrown everything in a jar there isn’t really anything to do but wait.
There is a basic guide to infusing on eHow. In general, all you need is the base booze (no need to go high end here, since you’ll be adding flavors of your own), the fruit or herbs, maybe some simple syrup, and a glass container where it can sit and soak. We prefer quart-size canning jars.
As for flavors, just use your imagination. In the past, we’ve made apple-cinnamon and pear-nutmeg vodkas, as well as a really terrific rum-based cordial with kumquat and clementine. We’ve got a couple more daring infusions brewing right now, but we’re not going to reveal them yet, since they’re probably going to end up as gifts in a couple of weeks. This guide from AllRecipes has a good laundry list of suggestions to get you started.
Really, any sort of cookie will make a good gift. Or even one of those jars full of pre-measured ingredients with instructions on how to make your own cookies (after all, getting somebody into their kitchen can be a gift in itself). But biscotti seem particularly suited to gift giving since they require a couple extra steps in the making, so it’s less likey that your gift-givee makes them for him- or herself on a regular basis. Plus, they tend to be relatively healthy as cookies go and will allow the recipient to more fully replicate the bohemian coffee shop experience without shelling out five bucks for a latte.
And for Channukah celebrants, did you know that Jews have our very own biscotti?
3. Fleur de Sel Caramels
They sound super fancy and difficult to make, but if you have a digital thermometer and quality ingredients, they’re a snap. Use this recipe from Gourmet Magazine and some quality sea salt. See how professional they come out over at Design*Sponge. The beauty of these babies is that you can wrap them up in pieces of waxed paper and just twist ip the ends. Place in a nice container and everyone will be dying to know where you bought them.
4. Fresh Ginger Cake
There’s a good recipe on Chow.com and I adapt it by using blackstrap molasses, as well as throwing in about a tablespoon of minced crystallized ginger, both of which pack a wallop. In general, the trick to a homemade gift is to make it both crafty and classy. For these cakes, get some paper loaf pans (like these) or check out your local dollar store for seasonal loaf tins. Wrapped in cellophane and tied with a pretty ribbon, this cake will look good and taste amazing. We’ve made this as a gift a number of times over the year and people love it.