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Handmade Holiday - Sweets

holiday Christmas diy decor snowflakes

'tis the season.

the holidays are just around the corner and this can be a stressful time.

making sure everyone has their favourite foods and the gifts they most desire.

the parties. the drop-ins.

whether you are hosting, a guest, or likely both, there is the added stress in making sure that there is enough. enough to put out or to bring. so often, it seems like the fastest way to do that is to hit the shops. especially the big, "one size fits all" shops.

but for us Canadians, this is also the time of year when the days are shorter and the weather colder. nature, and our bodies are telling us to slow down. 

i think a great way to embrace a slower way of life is to take the time to create. so, with that, over the next few days i will have some diy blogs with some ideas for a handmade holiday.

like many families, my family always makes a lot of Christmas cookies this time of year. making extra of our favourites seems like an easy way to make sure that we both have something to bring with us when visiting someone and something to put out when people drop in. 

baking homemade Christmas cookies process

it's the season to pull out all those family favourite recipes AND to venture into the unknown in the hopes of finding some new favourites.

when i was 18 i was lucky enough to spend a month with family in the UK. a week of that was spent at my grandmother's house where every morning (okay, it may have been closer to the afternoon by the time my teenage butt got out of bed) a quarter of a candied citrus peel waited for me at my place setting at the breakfast table.

eating candied peel, with a knife and fork every morning, was to me, the height of luxury. The Bristol Paris has nothing on my grandmother's breakfast table.

i love candied peel.

i'm not sure i knew i loved it before that trip. but now i know and my holiday baking always includes some candied peel. my grandmother kept hers in syrup, but for my purposes (through the holidays) i dry mine in the oven. and if i'm giving it away as a hostess gift, it gets a little dark chocolate dip too!

DIY sweets homemade candied citrus peel

candied citrus peel is easy to make and fun to snack on. if you aren't storing your peel in the syrup then keep it to use as simple syrup in mixed drinks. it has a slight citrus flavour!

shortbread was always one of the family favourites growing up. over the years it has evolved slightly. matured? well, at least modernized.

homemade shortbread cookies with chocolate covered almonds

it is still a staple but the beautiful shortbread molds have been put away and we have made room for the chocolate covered almond shortbread cookie. fast, easy and if you follow the recipe - foolproof. they are a hit with everyone, making it well worth making a double batch.

assorted flavours homemade chocolate truffles

left to right: chocolate truffles rolled in cocoa; chocolate truffles rolled in toasted coconut; bourbon chocolate truffle with quince centre & topped with candied citrus peel; cranberry-ginger chocolate triple sec truffle, topped with white chocolate & candied ginger.

truffles are a bit of a luxury but are easily made. if you haven't tried them before, or worse - tried and had a mess on your hands - you should try them (again). thekitchn.com has a great base recipe and some foolproof instructions. using this, you can roll the truffles in different toppings, stick fillings inside, or flavour the chocolate.

i think truffles are a great place to experiment with flavours you love and flavour combinations that excite you. this year i made a few different flavours so there was something for everyone.

  • the straight chocolate truffles are rolled in a quality cocoa or toasted coconut.
  • the bourbon and quince was made by adding bourbon into the chocolate truffle mixture before letting it cool. when forming the truffles, i put a small cube of membrillo (quince paste) in the centre and rolled the truffle in cocoa and topped with some candied citrus peel.
  • the cranberry-ginger truffle was a complete experiment. their shape and size could use some finess but their flavour is spot on! i added a little Triple Sec to the truffle mixture before letting it cool. then i cooked down some cranberries with a (very) little sugar and some grated fresh ginger. this was quite a thick jam when it was done. after letting it cool, the jam wasn't firm enough to work as a filing in the truffle itself, so i flattened a bit of truffle in my hand and added a small amount of the jam. i did my best to wrap the truffle up around the jam (although mostly they mixed together) and then rolled the whole thing. these went into the freezer so they were firm enough to top with melted white chocolate. a little candied ginger on top gives an extra zing and the tartness of the cranberry helps to balance the sweet white chocolate.

diy doesn't have to be complicated or stressful. be honest with yourself about what you enjoy doing, what you have on hand, and what sort of time you have. don't be afraid to use items you have made already to spruce up other items (like using the candied peel i had on hand on the truffles).

diy gift holiday baking
keeping a few interesting tins and boxes on hand is a great idea. both to store all these sweet treats, but also so you can put little boxes together to give away. 

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