Giving is a gesture without borders. No matter where in the world you find yourself, a sincere, heartfelt gift speaks louder than words. It is a gesture of love, friendship celebration and acknowledgement. So why not return to the tradition of personalised offerings this holiday season by sharing the simple pleasure of an edible handcrafted gift.

If you’re a passionate foodie (like us!) you understand that nothing really compares to the pure bliss of a delectable taste sensation crafted by hand. In our increasingly hurried, desensitised world returning to handcrafted, personalised offerings connects us to what really matters – the joy of the present moment. Restore your awareness of the abundance around you, the beauty of indulgent rituals and the simple pleasure of capturing a moment for those you love to experience. Here is some tasty ideas light on the pocket but big on delight to get the imagination going, including supporting recipes to ensure an effortless creative journey. (You can thank us later!)

It’s a date!

This holiday, why not chocofy the festivities with some Middle Eastern delight. These almond chocolate dates are filled with marzipan and dipped in chocolate and nestled in delicate white paper cases. Place them in a white box, seal with a black ribbon and lead a loved one into temptation.

Almond Chocolate Dates

Makes about 18

250 g dark chocolate

100 g white chocolate

250 g pitted dates

100g whole almonds

1 tub marzipan

Place one almond into the cavity of each date and

add a little marzipan. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. With a toothpick, gently

roll the stuffed date in the chocolate and place aside to set. Once set, drizzle or

pipe white chocolate over them. Place in mini paper muffin cups. Do not

refrigerate.

Spice and all Things Nice

Spice infused teabags add a whole new level of flavour to the traditional glass of milk before bed-time. Turns out Mom was right about drinking milk before bed, especially if you struggle falling asleep. Milk and other dairy products contain an amino acid (which help induce sleep) known as tryptophan and also contains melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. To make the teabags cut gauze or muslin into squares, hand or machine stitch three sides, fill with three cloves, four cardamom seeds, two cinnamon sticks and stitch closed. Leave the edges raw and store in an airtight container. Gift with instruction to infuse in warm milk or tea.

Indulgent Chocolate Delight

Chocolate will bring you closer to most hearts, not just because it tastes incredible, but for its ability to prompt the release of feel good endorphins in the brain. For a decadent drink, add two heaped spoonfuls of chocolate cream to a tall glass and smother in warm milk. To make this delectable gift you’ll need 250 ml/8 fl oz cream and 200 g/8 of chopped dark chocolate to make the chocolate cream. Bring the cream to the boil and remove from heat. Add the chocolate, leave for a few minutes, and the stir until the chocolate is smooth. Stir occasionally until cool, pour into a jar and seal. Finish off with a personalised label and a swing tag with instructions on how to use!

A Swirl of Sweetness

Pretty as a picture and a stylish way to add sweetness and flavour to any hot drink, these chocolate covered swivel sticks will be a welcome gift and are a cinch to make. The oh’s and ah’s upon receiving these will well exceed the time spent making them. Melt 100 g of chocolate over hot water in a heat-resistant bowl. Wait for the chocolate to soften and stir until smooth. Dip the sugar-coated swivel sticks into the bowl, shake of the excess and place on greaseproof paper to dry. Repeat if you desire more chocolate. Part with the if you can.

Hot and Happening

Exploring the flavours of the Nile by spicing up a loved one’s holiday season with Harissa Paste is sure to be appreciated. This is a potent product to be used according to tolerance – this is super-hot so tread carefully. Package in a glass jar covered with a black and white print of Egyptian wonders and prepare to gift your jarred magic.

Harissa Paste

Makes one small jar

25 large dried red chillies, seeds removed

3 cloves garlic, chopped

5 ml mustard seeds

5 ml sea salt

125 ml olive oil, plus 30 ml extra

This is best made using a small hand blender. Failing that, pound the ingredients using a pestle and mortar. Place the chillies in a bowl and cover them with hot water. Leave to soak for an hour, drain and dry with paper towels. Use kitchen scissors to cut the chillies into small pieces directly into the mixture. Blend or pound the chillies, garlic, mustard seeds and salt until quite fine. Add the olive oil, a little at a time, to make a thin paste. Spoon the harissa into a sterilised jar and pour the extra olive oil on top. Seal and store in the fridge for up to 12 months.

Oats so Cheesy

For those who prefer the savoury, wrap up a mini platter of home-baked oatmeal biscuits, kumquat jam, mature cheddar and camembert. Raffia has a good textured finish for a casual, masculine feel and gingham wax paper will both protect the cheese and add a certain European romance to your gift. Be sure to put the biscuits in a tin to keep them fresh and crunchy. Present this with a silver cheese knife for future use.

Oatmeal Biscuits

Makes 25 biscuits

100 g oatmeal

100 g wholewheat flour

2.5 ml bicarbonate of soda

2.5 ml salt

50 g cold butter, cut into cubes

50 g lard, cut into cubes

30 g soft brown sugar

15-30 ml milk

Lightly mix the dry ingredients. Rub in the butter and lard. (If you don’t want to use lard, use 100 g butter instead). Add the sugar and mix to a firm dough with a little milk.

To make in a food processor: blend all the ingredients, except the milk, to resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add just enough milk to make a firm dough. Roll out onto a floured surface to a 4 mm thickness. Cut into 5 cm rounds and bake on a lightly buttered baking tray in a preheated oven at 180°C for 15 minutes.

Nutty but Nice

Tag your tributes with a treat, by adding a little flavour to this year’s gift giving. Attach these delicious Pistachio Cookies to your presents for that extra little bit of love. Using a knitting needle or skewer, make small holes in these biscuits before you put them into the oven and give a box of them away to be used as scrummy threaded decorations. Tie one of the cookies onto your gift to stimulate the taste buds. You can use this wrapping idea for any box of biscuits Just remember to poke a hole in one of them. For the packaging.

Pistachio nut Cookies

Makes about 40

Basic Biscuit Mix

85 g icing sugar, sifted

30 ml castor sugar

100 g butter, diced

1 egg

21/2 ml vanilla essence

280 g 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 breadcrumbs. 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 to 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. 

To make the Pistachio nut Cookies:

Roll basic biscuit dough out on a floured surface to 3 mm thickness. Cut out 5 cm 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 to 10 minutes or until golden. Leave on racks to cool. 

Not so Vanilla

Vanilla sugar is a simple but flavourful gift for those who love to bake and a dream to use when making custard, vanilla ice cream, baking biscuits and cakes, or simply to sprinkle over fresh fruit, stir into coffee or hot chocolate and to add to whipped cream. 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.

 

Sweet Seduction

These festive florentines are bellísimo and the perfect way to share the festive flavours the Italian way. Although there is debate whether these paper thin delights indeed originate from Florence there is no arguments on their deliciousness! Lay the florentines between layers of wax paper to prevent them from sticking and pack in a long white box.

Florentines

Makes 24

50 g castor sugar

40 g butter

30 ml cream

15 ml (1 tablespoon) flour

50 g flaked almonds

50 g glacé cherries (red and green) and

mixed candied peel, chopped

60 g white chocolate, melted

Put all the ingredients (except the white chocolate) intoa saucepan and stir over low heat until blended. Drop teaspoonfuls of the mixture well apart onto two baking trays lined 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 minutes, then stir until smooth.

Bearly beach bums

Sun-bathing teddies is a charming (South African) alternative to the gingerbread man for a little person to snack on and get into the holiday vibes. Roll the basic biscuit dough (see dough under Pistachio cookies) on a floured surface to a 3 mm thickness, place a bear shaped template cut out of cardboard onto the dough and cut out the bears using a sharp knife. Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and bake in a preheated oven at 220°C for 10 minutes, or until cooked. Cool, decorate with icing, and place them on a little towel of striped brown paper – use non-toxic crayons to render the stripes. The bears are designed to fit into a standard CD gift box.

Pining for More

Sugared pineapple is great for decorating cakes and ice-cream, or just to snack on and looks pretty as a picture. Heat 220 g sugar and 250 ml 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.

All Dressed Up and Ready to Go

What better gift than the nectar of Bucchus? Wrap two bottles in ‘wine-stained’ tissue paper, but use red glass paint instead of wine to stain the paper as the latter will turn brown. Place them in a rustic wooden box.

 

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Extract from the Art of Giving by Liezel Norval-Kruger and Tina-Marie Malherbe | Editing: Thinus Kruger | Photography: Robbert Koene