This holiday season, surprise hosts and friends alike with a unique edible gift. Give them something they can share, something to savour, and (most importantly) something that pairs beautifully with a cocktail or glass of wine
Savoury shortbread makes an elegant gift: It packs up nicely, travels well, and the cheesy melt-in-your-mouth flavour only gets better with age.
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Ingredients for savoury rosemary thyme Parmesan shortbread
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp (128 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (140g) flour
1/4 cup (35 g) cornstarch
11/4 cup (85 g) grated Parmesan
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
Ingredients for candied orange peels
4 large navel oranges
3 cups (645 g) sugar
1 cup water
1 bag (350 g) semisweet or dark chocolate chips
Extra sugar for rolling (optional)
Savoury rosemary thyme Parmesan shortbread
Beat the butter until smooth, then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. In a separate bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Stir the flour mixture into the butter until a crumbly dough forms.
Transfer the dough into a large freezer bag. Leave the bag unsealed and lay it flat on the counter. Use a rolling pin on the outside of the bag to roll the dough into a 5-by-10 1/2-inch rectangle in the bottom half of the bag. Transfer the bag with the rectangle of rolled dough onto a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until firm (about 20 minutes).
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Once firm, slice the bag open and remove the dough. Use a sharp knife to cut square cookies 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches big. Place them about 1/2 inch apart on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 F for 16 to 22 minutes or until lightly golden on the bottoms.
Cool completely on a cookie sheet before serving. Store them in a Tupperware container at room temp for up to two weeks.
Peppery Parmesan Shortbread: omit the herbs and increase the freshly ground pepper to a 1/2 tsp
Cheesy Chive Shortbread: omit the herbs and add 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives. Use half Parmesan and half asiago cheese.
Candied Orange Peels
These sophisticated candies are a crowd favourite, especially when enrobed in a layer of dark chocolate. Choose oranges with thick, dimply peels for the best flavour.
Makes: 4 to 6 dozen pieces of candied peel
Ready in: 24 hours (includes drying time)
Slice the top and bottoms off of the oranges, then make five vertical cuts along the peel. Peel the five pieces away from the fruit and cut into 1/2-inch wide slices.
In a medium pot, cover the orange peels with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, remove from heat and discard the water. Repeat the process two more times for a total of three boils. This helps soften the peels and gets rid of their bitterness.
Set them aside to drain. Pour sugar into the empty pot and add the cup of water. Stir over medium heat. Once the mixture starts to boil, stop stirring and boil over medium heat until it reaches 230 F (approximately 8 to 9 minutes over medium heat). Add the peels to the syrup and reduce the heat to low.
Simmer the peels for 45 to 50 minutes or until the whites of the peels turn translucent at the edges. To prevent crystallization of the syrup, avoid stirring too often. Drain the peels (reserve the syrup to add to tea, soda water or cocktails) then use chopsticks or tongs to spread the hot peels on a piece of parchment paper.
Sugared Peels: Allow the peels to dry for couple of hours. You want them to be cool to the touch but still sticky. Toss them in a bowl of sugar until well coated. Either store in sugar or dip them in chocolate
Chocolate Peels: Allow the peels to dry completely (this can take up to two days). Once dry, heat 2/3 of the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl until partially melted, stirring every 40 seconds to distribute the heat. Stir in the remaining third until smooth. Dip the peels in the melted chocolate and allow to set at room temperature.