“For it is in giving that we receive.” St. Francis of Assisi.
Christmas is a time for giving. A time to show our appreciation to family, friends, a good boss and your kid’s favourite teacher. Home-crafted goodies are particularly well received especially if a thoughtful note is attached — or even a recipe attached to a treat prepared in your kitchen.
Christmas has not always been linked to Christ’s birthday. The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere was originally a Pagan holiday — called Yule in Scandinavia — which was celebrated on the shortest day and longest night. The custom of burning a yule log was created to celebrate the rebirth of the sun and the days gradually getting longer.
In Rome the festival was called the Feast of Saturnalia and this ancient celebration is what eventually gave us the tradition of gift-giving. Once Christianity was established in Rome, the gift-giving practise — symbolic of the offerings the three wise men gave to baby Jesus — was realigned with his birthday, December 25.
Giving gifts is a ‘feel-good’ experience for both the recipient and the giver.
FAB PISTACHIO FUDGE
These little gluten-free treats can be tied in cellophane or presented in gift boxes.
1 cup skim milk powder
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped shelled pistachio nuts
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup each: liquid honey, water
Lightly grease and line the base of a 20-21cm square pan.
Sift the skim milk powder into a bowl. Add all the other ingredients mixing until they cling together.
Press evenly into the prepared pan. Chill. For 20 minutes.
Lift out the slab of fudge and cut into small squares to serve. Keep chilled. Makes about 21 pieces.
CHRISTMAS TREE COOKIES
Store in an airtight container.
125g butter, softened
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 egg, separated
1/4 cup hundreds and thousands
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the butter, caster sugar, plain flour, rice flour and egg yolk in a food processor. Pulse until the dough clings together. Add a tablespoon of icy water, if required.
Roll out the dough to about 5mm thick. Using a Christmas tree-shaped cookie cutter, about 5cm in length, form about 18 trees. Place on the baking paper.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven. Brush a cookie with the lightly beaten egg white then sprinkle with about a teaspoon of the hundreds and thousands. Repeat until all the cookies are decorated. Bake for a further 1-2 minutes. Makes about 18.
UNBAKED WALNUT CARAMEL SLICE
Store in a covered container in the fridge. Use gluten-free biscuits, if preferred.
Base: 300g chocolate wheaten biscuits
100g butter, melted
120g lightly roasted walnuts
Caramel: 50g butter, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
395g can sweetened condensed milk
Topping: 200g dark chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup cream
Lightly grease a 20cm square baking pan. Cut a length of baking paper about 20cm x 40cm. Run it from one side of the pan to the other allowing an overhang on two sides. This makes it easier to lift out the slice
Base: Place the biscuits in a food processor and pulse until crushed. Stir in the butter. Press onto the base of the ban. Top with the walnuts. Chill.
Caramel: Place the butter, sugar and sweetened condensed milk in a large microwave-proof bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes. Stir well then continue cooking until golden and thick, about 1 minute. Pour evenly over the base. Chill for 10 minutes.
Topping: Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave-proof bowl. Heat for 1 minute, until melted. Stir well. Cool a little then pour evenly over the caramel. Cover and refrigerate for about 3 hours until well set. Cut into about 3-4cm squares. Makes about 25 pieces.