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Gifts We Love to Give

F&W editors share their favorite recipes for irresistible homemade holiday gifts— and promise these presents won’t sit untouched on the shelf until next year.

Chicken Liver Pâté with Pistachios

Maria Kiesel’s pâté makes an elegant holiday gift presented in a pretty porcelain ramekin with crackers or crispy wafers, like Margaret’s Artisan Flatbread. The buttery, earthy pâté can be spread on crostini, stuffed into Cognac-poached prunes, or even shaped into small balls and deep-fried with sage leaves.

Cardamom-Spiced Crumb Cake

This moist cake, topped by a generous layer of cardamom-spiced, pecan-dotted crumbs, is a fabulous gift. Last year, Kate Heddings brought one to a holiday dinner party for her hosts to serve to overnight guests at breakfast the next day—"even though I wouldn’t be there to eat it!" she says. Along with the cake, she gave the Calphalon pan she baked it in, fresh-ground coffee beans and a glass container of heavy cream.

Applesauce-Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Kristin Donnelly is devoted to her mother’s one-bowl Bundt cake because of its clove and cinnamon spices and its simplicity. As an exchange student in France, she even paid top dollar for chocolate chips and applesauce at an American market to make it for her host family. Today she adds a kick of black pepper to the batter and serves each slice with a cool-sour dollop of crème fraîche.

Rosemary-Maple Cashews

Ever since she discovered this addictively salty-spicy cocktail snack in The Casual Vineyard Table: From Wente Vineyards by Carolyn Wente and Kimball Jones, Melissa Rubel’s been making it in one form or another for herself and her friends. This is her favorite version, with cashews, rosemary and cayenne pepper.

Best-Ever Nut Brittle

Tina Ujlaki adapted this crunchy, buttery, slightly salty brittle from a recipe by pastry chef Karen DeMasco of New York City’s Craft. When her children were younger, Tina would make it as a holiday gift for their teachers. As she recalls, "Come November, I’d start getting these looks from teachers who were hoping for the brittle but too shy to ask me about it."

Mock Gin

No bathtubs are required to make this aromatic ersatz gin. Nick Fauchald simply infuses vodka with the botanicals professional distillers use, including juniper berries and orange peel. The fragrant, amber-colored (and lawful) result is delicious in martinis and other gin-based cocktails.

Salted Fudge Brownies

Kate Krader has been making these fudgy, sweet-salty brownies since she was 10 years old. As a kid she used regular table salt; now she recommends a flaky sea salt like Maldon, because the flavor is less harsh and it melts so nicely into the batter, accentuating the chocolaty sweetness.

Granola with Maple-Glazed Walnuts

Grace Parisi’s granola is the standard by which the F&W staff measures all others. Says Grace, "Like any true zealot, I love to turn people on to my one big passion."

Cheese Crisps

These cheddary wafers get their pleasing crackle from a secret ingredient: Rice Krispies. Courtney Waddell’s grandmother may have snagged the recipe at her bridge game.

Pickled Pearl Onions

An avid gardener, Marcia Kiesel loves mini vegetables and often pickles gherkins and pearl onions as gifts. Her lemon-and-clove-spiked onions are crunchier and less sweet than commercial brands. Perfect for martinis, they can also be sliced and tossed in a salad, stir-fried or tucked inside sandwiches.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Emily Kaiser devised this simple, fail-safe recipe while living in Oakland, California, with two excessively productive Meyer lemon trees. Likely a cross between an orange and a lemon, the Meyer lemon give this sweet-tart marmalade a bright citrus flavor.

Published December 2007
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