Cooking Short Takes: Food Gifts, October 15, 2011

By Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Univ. Lib., Rindge, NH

Homemade treats are among the nicest gifts to give and receive. They show care and thoughtfulness, and what looks impressively delicious and complicated can be a cinch to make. With holiday parties on the horizon, presents for the host are always appreciated, and the gift-buying frenzy can be avoided with a little planning and some quality ingredients. Baking, preserving, and candy making have been elevated, polished, and expertly and creatively wrapped in these four new, inexpensive collections. Best of all, you get to eat the leftovers.

Corley, Dinah (text) & Alison Shaw (photogs.). Gourmet Gifts: 100 Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion To Make Yourself & Wrap with Style. Harvard Common, dist. by Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2011. c.304p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781558324350. pap. $19.95. COOKING
Noted food editor and cooking school instructor Corley displays her talents in this collection of fabulous recipes. First, she provides detailed hints on finding the right gift containers, whether repurposed from flea markets or picked up at hardware stores or gardening shops. Creative chapters like “Small Tokens” showcase casual yet useful luxuries‚ e.g., Avocado Butter frozen in the shell and Dark Chocolate P√¢té. “Big Batches” helps the cook make gifts in quantity, such as Toffee Lady Apples with Pink Sea Salt, and “Pennywise” covers little gifts created for under $15, including genoise cakes baked in whole eggshells or chic French Milk Jam. The photos are gorgeous, and the packaging ideas are creative and classy. Highly recommended for experienced bakers and DIYers who want to impress.

The Creative Kitchen: Over 100 Food Gifts To Make and Give. Leisure Arts. (Gifts of Good Taste). 2011. 160p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781609001247. pap. $19.95. COOKING
This is the most comprehensive of the gift books reviewed here, with over 100 recipes for a variety of gifts. Also covered are patterns for labels, reproducible tags, simple embroidery and sewing instructions, and other ideas for wrapping and presenting gifts. The foods include beverages, breads, candies and cookies, holiday treats, main dishes, jams and sauces, and snacks. These recipes, which use widely available ingredients and some prepared items like packaged mixes or purchased jams, are suitable for beginner cooks. There are original ideas for presentations and gift basket combinations. A trio of sauces‚ Apple-Spice, Chocolate Fudge, and Peanut Butter‚ would make for a delectable thank you, and holiday cookie exchanges will welcome Spiced Fruit Ravioli Cookies or clever Fishing Lure Cookies. The recipes are straightforward, and the book is generously illustrated with numerous hints and ideas. This user-friendly guide is a great pick for general collections.

McCloskey, Jess. Delicious Gifts: Edible Creations To Make and Give. Barron’s. 2011. 144p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780764147081. pap. $16.99. COOKING
In this collection of scrumptious treats, McCloskey, who runs an online confectionary shop, presents appealing recipes that are easy to follow. She provides extensive instructions for constructing gift boxes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and each treat is pictured in attractive photos, many featuring one of the handmade boxes. There are distinctive creations; e.g., White Chocolate Fruitcake Truffles sound delicious and will allow you to recycle that fruitcake you’ve been staring down. In a chapter on Cake Balls, creamy cake and frosting combos dipped in chocolate, McCloskey presents a perfect food gift. There are also recipes for spreads, vinegars, savory treats, and preserves. Red Pepper Chutney would be a hit at a party, as would Roasted Eggplant Marmalade. Several recipes call for pomegranate molasses, an unusual addition that adds to an exceptional gift. Recommended for its varied and inspiring ideas.

Rigg, Annie (text) & Catherine Gratwicke (photogs.). Gifts from the Kitchen: 100 Irresistible Homemade Presents for Every Occasion. Kyle: Kyle Cathie, dist. by National Bk. Network. 2011. 176p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781906868574. $24.95. COOKING
This lovely homemade gift book is organized by seasons and celebrations. Many recipes take advantage of fresh seasonal ingredients or are perfect for holidays. Each item is beautifully illustrated, with packaging or serving ideas. Recipes include beverages, candies, cookies, cakes, nut mixes, and preserves. Rigg (Macarons: Chic & Delicious French Treats) is a London-based food writer and stylist, and some recipes have a British feel with a twist. Lemon Curd has been enhanced with passion fruit, and Red Currant Curd will make a delicious and distinctive companion. One of the most striking photos is of Love Heart Sugar Cubes, tiny hearts formed in pastel shades and perfect for tea, shower favors, or a special birthday. A chapter on celebrations provides holiday ideas and includes a Divali Cashew and Almond Barfi and Christmas Date and Ginger Cakes. An excellent resource for ambitious cooks; the book itself will make a great gift.