Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Homemade Gift Hamper

Nothing makes a gift more special than making it yourself. For me a gift isn’t about the monetary value (although those are appreciated nonetheless!) but it’s also the thought that counts. My friend and fellow graphic designer Vaishali gave me a beautiful pair of earrings for my wedding, but more than the earrings, I always remember the gorgeous handmade box and card she made to package the gift. 
So this weekend when we went to meet our cousins at their beautiful summer home in Connecticut nothing screamed out to me more than baking a goodie basket. Hmm… and to be honest, another excuse to let me bake obsessively for a week.
The basket had Yuzu Marmalade Curls and Chili Lime Peanuts. The two of which were quick and easy to make. Then the Chipotle Brownies and Quick Cheese Bread were more time consuming and a store-bought Truffle Butter from our favorite Sid Wainers added a final touch and contributed more to the hamper without more time in the kitchen.
Let’s get down to the cooking and baking now!
Chili-Lime Peanuts
Makes 2 cups
30 minutes
Nuts can be made 1 week ahead, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

  1. 1.Preheat oven to 350F (175C).
  2. 2.Toss 2 cups raw Spanish peanuts (abut 10.5 ounces) with 1 tbsp olive oil (not extra-virgin), 2 tsps coarse kosher salt and 1 tsp sugar. Scrape mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast nuts until fragrant and beginning to darken, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
  3. 3.Transfer nuts to a large bowl. Mix with 2 tsp fresh lime juice, 1 tsp hot pepper sauce and 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper.
Yuzu Marmalade Curls
I used 
Yuzu Marmalade, but use any marmalade or jam you have in stock.
Unbaked marmalade curls can be frozen up to 6 months.

  1. 1.Preheat oven to 400F (200C)
  2. 2.Roll out puff pastry into a rectangle and spread a thin layer of the marmalade on one half.
  3. 3.Fold the other half over.
  4. 4.Lightly brush with beaten egg and sprinkle generously with sugar.
  5. 5.Slice dough into 1/2-inch strips; twist and curl each.
  6. 6.Arrange on a baking sheet, and freeze for 15 minutes. 
  7. 7.Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
Chocolate Chipotle Brownies
This recipe is by Emeril Lagasee, from the Food Network show aired in 2004. Denise made it for me and they were so good that a repeat was necessary!
Make it a day or two ahead and wrap it tightly in cling wrap and freeze. Defrost before sharing it with your friends.
Makes 24 squares
  1. 1.1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  2. 2.1 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 3.4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  4. 4.1 1/2 cups sugar
  5. 5.1 tsp ground cinnamon
  6. 6.3/4 tsp ground chipotle chile pepper
  7. 7.4 eggs
  8. 8.1 cup chopped Mexican chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
  1. 1.Preheat oven to 325 F (160C)
  2. 2.Grease and flour an 11 x 17-inch baking pan.
  3. 3.Heat the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted.
  4. 4.In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon and chipotle.
  5. 5.Add sugar mixture to the melted chocolate mixture, stirring to combine.
  6. 6.Add eggs, mixing until smooth. 
  7. 7.Stir in chopped chocolate or chocolate chips.
  8. 8.Pour mixture into the prepared baking pan. Bake until the center is set, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely and then cut into squares.
Quick Cheese Bread
This recipe is byRebecca Hays at Cooks Illustrated. Their recipes are so well researched that playing with it is pointless. I rarely play around with a baking recipe, but this time I felt over-confident and baked the bread in three small loaves instead of one large as asked for in this recipe. BIG mistake. The loaves did come out well, but the over the top fabulous result was lost. 
Makes on 9 x 5-inch loaf
  1. 1.3 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded on a large holes of a box grater (about 1 cup)
  2. 2.3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  3. 3.1 tbsp baking powder
  4. 4.1/4 tsp cayenne
  5. 5.1 tsp salt
  6. 6.1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  7. 7.4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, or mild Asiago, crumbled into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  8. 8.1 1/4 cups whole milk
  9. 9.3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  10. 10.1 large egg, beaten lightly
  11. 11.3/4 cup sour cream
  1. 1.Adjust rach to the middle position; heat oven to 350F (175C).
  2. 2.Spray 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with non stick cooking spray, then sprinkle 1/2 cup Parmesan evenly in the bottom of the pan.
  3. 3.In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt and pepper to combine. Using rubber spatula, mix in cheddar or Asiago, breaking up clumps, until cheese is coated with flour.
  4. 4.In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, melted butter, egg and sour cream. 
  5. 5.Using rubber spatula, gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (batter will be heavy and thick). Do not overmix. 
  6. 6.Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; spread to sides of pan and level surface with rubber spatula. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan evenly over surface.
  7. 7.Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick or skewer inserted into center of the loaf comes our clean, 45 to 50 minutes. If the skewer comes out wet, try inserting into another spot as you may have inserted it into the melted cheese chunk.
  8. 8.Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes; invert loaf from pan and continue to cool until warm, about 45 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.

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