Monday, December 11, 2006

Thoughtful Gift Guide: DIY Gifts- Baked Goods/Candy

For the past few weeks I've been constructing a gift guide that is based on giving thoughtful, interesting presents to the people you care about. I've tried to find things that were available online, relatively inexpensive, and easy to get at even the last moment. But in my opinion, the best gifts are homemade gifts, presents that show great thoughtfulness, time and effort.

Just because homemade gifts generally aren't as flashy as store-bought ones, I find that they are the gifts people appreciate the most. People get so many presents that they could have bought themselves, or that they don't really need. Finding a unique gift is difficult, and often expensive. Because it's so rare that anyone gets something homemade, you can be sure that your gift will stand out.

As I've said before, I'm not very talented in the kitchen, but I like to cook and bake, so last Christmas I gave friends containers of homemade cookies. Over the course of 2 days, I made hundreds of cookies, using really simple recipes from Everyday Food Magazine (many of their dessert recipes are available here).
I didn't use any recipes that took more than 10 minutes of prep time, and while not every batch came out okay, my cookies were actually pretty good overall. For people who lived out of town, I mailed them (this was a bit pricey, but if you make the cookies the day you send them, you can get away with 3 day shipping, or even ground shipping if the person is close enough).

This year, with my confidence boosted from my successful bread baking experiment, I'm going to try something a little more ambitious, making a few different varieties of cupcakes using recipes from The Cupcake Blog.

Making homemade candies or chocolates (or chocolate-dipped pretzels and strawberries, my favorite) is also a great option. You just need to go to a baking or cooking supplies store to get the ingredients (melting chocolate is key) and decorations, but making chocolate and candy is really easy and fun.

Even if you know you're not the greatest baker in the world, if you stick to easy recipes and give yourself time to make a few bad batches before you get the hang of it, I promise you'll end up with some pretty tasty cookies/chocolates/whatever, and your family and friends will be impressed that you took the time to make them something homemade.

If you're making homemade gifts, it's important that you also include a nice card. Tomorrow I'll give some ideas for making your own cards and how to write a note that's easily as meaningful as any present.


Anne said...

FYI - people love peppermint bark at the holidays and it is totally overpriced and easy to make. I gave bark to a bunch of friends last Xmas and they all loved it!

Meg said...

Wow, I never even thought of peppermint bark, but my family loves it. I'll have to try it this year. Thanks for the idea, Anne!

Anne said...

It's totally worth it, it's easy to make and everyone gets excited about it so it's fun. Just don't bother with the fancy, candy-thermometer-requiring recipes. I melt milk chocolate chips in the microwave, and spread 'em on a baking sheet covered in tinfoil. While that chills in the fridge I smash a couple of candy canes (not too small) and stir them into some white chocolate chips (also melted in microwave until they just start to melt, not too long or they'll burn) and then spread the mixture over the hardened milk chocolate. Let it all chill in the fridge and it will harden quickly and you can just break it into chunks.