The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Christmas Gifts

hairybaker's picture

Christmas Gifts

Hi everyone

I'm hoping to make some handmade Christmas cookies/biscuits, sweets (candies), chutneys and jams. I best get started on the chutneys sharpish as they need to develop their flavour.

Does anyone have any tried and tested recipes they'd be happy to share?

To kick this off, here's a recipe I found online:

Frankly, I think they're bit too much style over substance, but they'd look impressive as a present.



Windischgirl's picture

I also give only homemade gifts, typically a selection of gourmet cookies, many of which I've collected from the Epicurious website (the parent company of Gourmet, Bon Appetit, etc).  I make my cookies in miniature (an inch across, no larger), which I think makes them more elegant and appealing--I've had dieters tell me they were able to taste a cookie or two and feel free of guilt!  I also find that making the cookies small enables me to get a greater yield from each recipe; a double batch can leave me with nearly 10 dozen cookies, enough to make a lot of people happy.

Recipes from the website that have been successful include Truffle Cookies, Windmills, Anise Fig Swirls (the ones with dates in the filling--I haven't tried the other recipe yet), Spitzbuben, and Pistachio-Cranberry Icebox Cookies.  I've made the dough several days in advance--and have even frozen the doughs--and then freeze the completed cookies.  I also love the biscotti recipe from One Smart Cookie by Julie Van Rosendaal.  In fact, all the recipes in the book are fabulous, but for me, I want something snazzier than chocolate chip for the holidays, so the book is a good everyday reference.

Other sources that have been successful for me include Fika, a Scandanavian baking book I picked up at Ikea (!), and Sarah Kelly Iaia's Festive Baking, which features cookie and cake recipes from German-speaking countries (that's my family's heritage).  Alas, this book is out of print here in the States, yet I was able to find a used copy for a good piece of change.  But it has been a worthwhile investment.  Many of the Germanic recipes are intended to be made ahead and left to "marinate;" for example, Lebkuchen will stay fresh at room temperature for months.  The make-ahead aspects are ideal for holiday baking.  (I freeze mine anyway because I don't trust the two- , four- and six-legged creatures that have moved into my home).

In fact, last year I was able to coordinate some special baking.  I found Armetale bread trays for $2 (usual price is around $30), and with the imported marzipan I had received as a gift, I made several batches of stollen from Iaia's book.  Every household in my immediate family received a bread tray with a stollen snuggled inside.

If you'd like the stollen recipe, Hairy, I'd be happy to post it. 

You just reminded me--I must ask for some November or December vacation days from work so I can bake bake bake!


dabrownman's picture

Christmas Chutney


1 ½ pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored

½ pound dried cranberries

1 onion, finely chopped

12 fluid ounces apple cider vinegar

6 ounces sugar

1 tsp each ground; ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander

2 tsp salt


Peal and core apples.  Slice the apples into halves. Slice the halves lengthways into smaller pieces, roughly 1/4-inch width. Place the apple pieces and finely chopped onion into a saucepan with all the other ingredients. Heat the mixture until it is simmering.  Cook the mixture for 45 minutes or until the chutney has thickened slightly and the fruit has become soft.

Spoon the mixture into sterilized jars and screw the lids onto the jars tightly. Allow to cool before storing in refrigerator

Orange Mango Chutney

In large fry pan sauté:

1 T oil

½ T fresh ginger and 2 cloves minced garlic

Sauté until fragrant about 1 min and add:

1 C brown, white or red onion, Sauté until soft about 3-5 min Add:

1 C red bell pepper

1 T minced hot chili (jalapeno, Serrano, Thai)

1 ½ tsp madras curry powder, curry powder or hot curry powder

½ tsp Gharam Masala

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp each cayenne powder and red pepper flakes

1/8 tsp each; allspice, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon

Sauté for 1 minute until spices are fragrant then add:

2 C diced mangos

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup brown sugar

Zest of 1 orange

Supreme the orange and add the segments with the juice of membrane

1 diced pealed and cored small apple (can use pineapple and juice instead)

¼ C raisins

½ cups Macadamia nuts (optional)

Simmer until the chutney thickens to jam about 20-30 min.  Place hot in sterilized jar and put into refrigerator when cooled.

You can chutney just about anything but you may want to use lemon zest, segments and juice depending on your choice of fruit or vegetable being made into chutney.


clazar123's picture

Those stained glass cookies are more appearance than taste. They are labor intensive, also. I would make a small presentation plate as a gift of other cookies and use 1 decorative, labor intensive cookie to top it off. I also do what Windischgirl says and make small cookies, but a variety, on each plate or box.

These are rather pretty as a plate topper, are very easy to make and actually taste ok. I usually don't go for strongly colored foods but some holiday coloration is eye-catching.


Take a look at these-I might try some this holiday season as my topper:

Biscotti are also wonderful to make. A little putzy but with high yield per recipe especially if you make them bite-sized. I make numerous varieties. They can be made ahead of time as they should sit a while and are not so expensive as I make an oil rather than butter based variety. They have a  great texture for both dunking and eating out of hand-I don't like toothbreaking biscotti and I don't want them to be too cookie-like.

Have fun!


aptk's picture

I make my own custom candies using white almond bark, melt it, and pour it over a collection of nuts and dried fruits. Use what you like, one of my favorites is mixed nuts with craisins, the dried cranberries. You can easily tailor this to whatever you like.

Windischgirl's picture

I can just imagine white chocolate with dried cranberries and pistachios.  There's your red and green!  A good friend of mine makes variety barks--white chocolate with crushed lemon candies, milk chocolate with crushed peppermints, and dark chocolate with almonds.  It doesn't last long in our house.

Another friend of mine makes seaglass candy every year, flavored with oils from her home state of Michigan--it's become her trademark.  You could think of that, Hairy--make something traditional from your heritage, and if you make it every year, it'll become special and much anticipated by your friends and family.

hairybaker's picture

Brilliant! I've got a load of ideas now. I'll have to plan and go to the shops to buy things. I'll make the bark nearer the time, but the chutneys are a definite!

I may well make some Greek almond cookies:

That's the best recipe I've found for kourabiedes - being Greek I've had a fair few of these in the past. They'd look very festive as their dusted in icing sugar.

Top tip: use a serrated knife to chop the toasted almonds. You want texture to ensure a crumbly light final bake studded with almonds.

Thank you all.



Windischgirl's picture

My own grandmother has passed away but I do have her old cookbooks and fond memories of what she made for the holidays, so some of the recipes I use reflect those memories.  I also seek out recipes from Switzerland and Scandanavia because we traveled there with extended family on vacation.  So what makes those holiday foods festive is the nostalgia!

Those Kourabiedes look wonderful!  I am also familiar with another version--a shortbread ball (no nuts) topped with a single whole clove, from Gourmet's Desserts book.

Speaking of holiday recipes, I am seeking a recipe for a soft amaretti.  We had them in Milan at the Christmas Market.  Halfway between a cookie and a marzipan candy, they were simple ovals dusted in powdered sugar and made in a variety of flavors--orange rind with orange oil, pistachio, shredded chocolate, etc.  Anyone have suggestions?

LousPeachy's picture

I have never given homemade food gifts for Christmas but I think I will do so this year.  like many other households, money is tight.  

I like the idea of the bite size cookies.  I would also like to make some loaf breads.  My only question is how early can I make things?  It has been so many years since I have baked/cooked!.  Till I retired almost 2 years ago, working retail kept me from doing much that I enjoy.  I will keep my eyes on this thread to get some ideas.


clazar123's picture

For several holidays in a row, I gave bread as gifts for co-workers and learned a lot about planning. I have a 6 qt KA mixer,and 1 regular oven with 2 racks. I wanted to give fresh bread-not frozen- so it was tricky timing. The most I made in 1 week was 12 loaves of French bread and3-4 dozen brioche buns with various flavor centers in large muffin tins. Phew! Another year I made a fruited bread (I believe I made about15) that were about 1 pound boules. It took a lot of organization but I learned a lot so here are some ideas.

1. Be very familiar with your recipe. I had my French bread down to a science and even used preferments and sourdough starter.

2. Pick a recipe that is consistent and progresses from one step to the next. French bread and brioche both worked very well for this. The doughs came together in predictable fashion. They were not fussy doughs and provided a lot of versatility if I wanted to do something unique. I believe I made some Olive-Feta boules from some of the French dough and fruited pannetone-like from the brioche, one of the times.

3. Pick a recipe that you can either make quick successions of or yields a large batch.

4.Mis-en-place! I measured and bagged all the French dough flours ahead of time and had them lined up on the counter for successive night bakes. Worked great! Also, have all the liquid components ready and at the proper temp-room temp eggs and cold butter.

5.Have a dough proofer set up if your kitchen is cold-a BrodTaylor proofer works very well, a picnic cooler with a heating pad or warm water, a microwave warmed with a cup of boiled water,etc. Whatever works. I rarely recommend the oven prewarmed because I have cooked too many doughs when someone turned on the oven without checking it (myself included).

6.Consider using some batter bread recipes like a Sally Lunn. Very easy to make,very tasty. I like adding cinnamon filling or topping or some form of fruit and nuts. It is not as sweet as a cake and not as chewy as a bread.

7. Get creative with baking pans. I went to the store and perused the canned food aisle. I decided a certain brand of water chestnuts were canned in the right size container for my mini-pannetones one year and bought 24 cans.Much cheaper than buying specialty baking pans or even baking papers. The insides of the cans were not coated with anything so they were safe to use for baking and I just froze the chestnuts for later use (and put them in everything we ate for a few weeks).

Have fun! People are so appreciative of getting a fresh, handmade "Artisan" breads and treats!