By Julia Pantoga
In my column, Giving Away Baked Goods, I promised to give you the recipes for some of my favorite baking gifts. Here, you’ll find two recipes and instructions for making them. See the Domestic Goddess column Giving Away Baked Goods for information about wrapping and ordering.
In my mind, here’s what makes a food fit for giving away:
• It packs/wraps easily.
• It can go without refrigeration for several hours.
• It can be made and wrapped in advance and be stored in the freezer.
• There is at least one thing “special” about the recipe that makes it unlikely that your recipients would make it on their own—which makes it a treat.
Recipe #1: Ginger Bread with Lemon Icing
This recipe makes enough for six gift loaf pans. Paper pans with wax coating do not need to be prepared.
Zest from 2 Lemons
4 ounces Brandy
Steep the lemon zest in brandy for at least one day. You can replenish the brandy twice using the same lemon zest.
1 pound butter (2 sticks, I use salted)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 GENEROUS tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
4 teaspoons lemon brandy (substitute vanilla at your own risk, do not use lemon extract as a substitute)
1 cup buttermilk
1. Bring the eggs to room temperature (you can do this quickly, by putting them in a bowl of hot tap water).
2. Preheat the oven to 350°.
3. Cream butter and brown sugar.
4. Add molasses and beat again.
5. Beat in eggs.
6. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice).
7. Add dry ingredients to mixture.
8. Add lemon brandy and buttermilk and mix thoroughly.
9. Arrange six gift loaf pans on baking sheet.
10. Pour batter evenly into the six pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a straw inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.
11. Cool thoroughly before icing.
1 stick butter
Zest of one lemon
Two teaspoons lemon brandy
Two tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar
1. Cream butter.
2. Add lemon zest, lemon brandy and lemon juice and beat until fluffy.
Pre-icing the cakes.
3. Add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time (Watch out. Powdered sugar tends to fly and make a big mess!)
4. Pre-ice the cakes with 1 tablespoon of icing each. This will eliminate the possibility of crumbs in your lovely final cakes.
5. After the pre-icing has hardened, ice the cakes with the remaining icing.
6. Allow icing to harden before wrapping cakes.
Recipe #2: Fried Walnuts
This recipe falls into the category of recipes that will fool you by having few ingredients. First of all, any time you fry something, it is a mess. Before you start making these:
• Put on an apron or old shirt on which you don’t mind spattering grease.
• Clear a large surface for laying the walnuts out (I use my kitchen table)
The reason I make these every year is because they are GREAT. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love them. They also pack really well and one batch makes seven gift bags.
8 cups water
4 cups walnuts
½ cup sugar
1. Bring water to a boil.
2. Add walnuts to the water and boil for 1 minute.
3. Drain boiled walnuts and rinse with hot water.
4. While the walnuts are hot, return them to the pot you used for boiling and mix well with sugar.
5. Heat 1 inch of cooking oil to 160°.
6. Fry the walnuts in two single layer batches for 4 minutes (Put lid or spatter guard on the pan to prevent more of a mess).
7. While the walnuts are frying, lay wax paper on your clear surface.
8. Scoop walnuts out of the oil with slotted spoon and drain well in a sieve (one year I didn’t drain the walnuts very well and they were so greasy that they were nasty.) [draining walnuts photo here]
9. Spread fried walnuts in one layer on wax paper.
10. Sprinkle warm walnuts with salt (don’t over salt). [salting walnuts photo here]
11. Allow walnuts to cool thoroughly before wrapping.
Stay tuned for more recipes, tips on holiday decorating and parts two and three of my essays about making holiday cookies. See previous Domestic Goddess columns for more holiday tips.