The Final Additions to Christmas Hampers

Saturday 28 December 2013 by

Christmas, Florentine, Chocolate, Hamper, Alfajores, Peru, Dulce de Leche, Kilner jar[Apologies for the poor picture! Best of a bad lot]

So I can at last reveal the last of the Christmas hamper additions! The hampers went down a treat on Christmas Day, and I was chuffed with all the results.

First up were the biscuits. For my grandparents I made chocolate chip cookies (white and dark chocolate chips), and gluten-free orange shortbread. Both recipes are BBC Good Food – the orange shortbread can be found here, and the chocolate chip was the straightforward Millie’s Cookies recipe. My granny is coeliac, so the gluten-free recipe was my favourite kind: simple! The zest of the orange gave them a lovely little kick on top of plain old shortbread, and the chocolate chip cookies were gooey and squishy.

Little Sis got white chocolate and lemon cookies (again, adapted from the Millie’s Cookies recipe, I added white chocolate chips and the zest of one whole lemon). I have to admit, I might have to try a gluten free version of these cookies, because they smelt divine when they came out the oven and I’ve got a bit of a thing for lemon.

My aunt and uncle got two jars of vanilla fudge. The last time I had a bag of fudge in the house and they were visiting, it didn’t last long, so I knew that would be a good gift! Fudge is dead easy to make, as long as you get the right temperature. I don’t have a thermometer, so it’s done by best judgement. I had a can of Carnation condensed milk, and they provide a foolproof fudge recipe on their website. To give it a good vanilla flavour, add a teaspoon of vanilla essence just before you start to beat it and set it. Once set, chop up in to generous chunks and you’re ready to go.

And last of all it was Mum and Dad’s turn. Mum grew up in South America and has a real thing for alfajores. These sweet treats are popular all over South America and are delicious. In the simplest of terms, they are two shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with a healthy dose of Dulce de Leche. You can find a straightforward shortbread recipe on the BBC website, but as long as you know how to make it, go with that.

Make sure you make an even number of biscuits for sandwiching, and take them out of the oven whilst they’re still pale and not golden brown. Once they’re cooled, take a teaspoon of Dulce de Leche, and stick them together. Ta da! Dust with a little icing sugar for a finishing touch.

As for Dad – he has an obsession with ginger and with florentines. This Hairy Biker’s sour cherry and stem ginger florentine recipe was spot on. I couldn’t find sour cherries OR stem ginger in time (typical), but switch in glacé cherries and crystallised ginger and you get the same result.

Combine your ingredients in a pan with the butter, sugar, flour and crème fraiche, then bake in the oven until golden. Let them cool and set, then melt dark chocolate and spread over the smooth side and leave to set again.

I conveniently made extra florentine, and so have been indulging myself too! Keep the cherries and ginger chunky so you get delicious surprise bites.

I love these Kilner clip-top jars. They’re a good size and definitely worth keeping for future. Even the little screw-tops are ideal for jams – the perfect gift size. As much drama as it’s been to get everything done in time (try tracking down Dulce de Leche when most people you ask in the supermarket don’t know what it means, and don’t get me STARTED on finding wicker baskets), it was a gorgeous feeling to see their faces when I handed them their baskets of homemade goodies.

I definitely think I will do this again. I might try and be organised a bit sooner though – making fudge at 8pm on Christmas Eve isn’t fun! I’m also determined to track down some gluten-free suet so I can attempt my very first Christmas pudding…

How was your Christmas? Did you give or receive any wonderful presents?

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