I'VE ALWAYS thought it preferable to make Christmas gifts where possible; it shows you really care.
I've made many food gifts over the years; preserves are always a popular item, as are nut brittles, flavoured vinegars and oils. If you don't have a good working knowledge of preserving foods, be careful to follow recipes to the letter. Some goods, such as homemade marinated feta, can easily turn into a disaster; common inclusions such as garlic or herbs need to be treated with a food acid before marinating to prevent botulism.
Biscotti are a pretty gift idea that are easy to make and fairly foolproof. This recipe is one of my favourite basics, but for Christmas I make them with dried cranberries and pistachios. Warn the recipients they are designed to dunk - in coffee or sweet wine - so no-one ends up with a broken tooth.
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 large free-range eggs
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
2 cups (300g) plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
150g shelled roasted pistachio nuts
1/2 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
METHOD: Preheat oven to 170 degrees.
Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Place sugar, eggs and grated lemon rind in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until pale and thick.
Fold in sifted flour and baking powder; when combined, add pistachios and craisins. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form the dough into two logs, approximately 25cm x 5cm. Place logs on prepared baking tray. They will spread so leave space between them. Bake for 25-30 minutes until firm to the touch and pale gold. Place on a rack to cool for two hours.
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees. Once logs are cool, use a serrated knife (a steak knife or electric knife is ideal) to cut diagonally into 5mm slices. If the log feels like it may crumble around the edges, hold firmly while slicing. Broken chunks can be pressed back on.
Lay slices flat on the baking tray and return to oven for 25-30 minutes, turning once, until completely dried out. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Once cool, package in cellophane or clear airtight containers and tie with a ribbon.
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