November 17, 2012

Handmade Christmas

Handmade gifts come from the heart and mean so much to the recipient! Stumped for ideas this year? I've listed a few below that are simple to put together and make a great impact.

Warm their hearths with handmade pine cone fire starters! These are super easy to make with wax (paraffin, soy or beeswax works well and can be purchased at your local craft store or on line,
as can all of the other supplies), kitchen tongs, fragrance oils, wax colorants and pine cones (use the ones from your yard - make sure they're clean and dry). Melt the wax according to instructions and when it is at 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit carefully dip the cones one by one using the tongs, and let the excess wax drip back into the pot. Set them upright on wax paper to set up. When you're done with the last cone, go back and dip again to build up the wax. Gift them in a basket with a box of fireplace matches in a holiday basket and tie it up with a bow. Makes a great host/hostess gift from your heart for their hearth!
Make your choco-loving friends a basket of yum with delectable hot cocoa fixings including homemade marshmallows. Believe me, these are well worth the the effort it takes because they are soooo much better than the store bought kind. 
Here's what you will need:

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

  1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
  2. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
  3. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.
  4. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.
  5. Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
  6. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
  7. When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  8. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Makes about 9 dozen.