What do you give to the person who has everything? Take a tip from Kate Middleton-as-was and her first Christmas at Sandringham. Her present to the Queen: a jar of homemade chutney.
It’s the home-made bit that’s the genius. Something that you’ve produced yourself, that has no price tag and you can’t google, that’s right on the money, partly because it’s not about money.
After all, judging by the sales figures, this year we’ve woken up to the fact we just don’t need so much stuff. We are being more thoughtful about our Christmas gifts.
A box of peppermint-spiked biscuits or a bottle of bog-standard gin transformed with fragrant additions is – in a world increasingly dominated by brands – properly bespoke.
Be careful with chutney, though, unless you know they love it (I’m sure Her Maj is a fan). It’s not everyone’s bag, and you don’t want to find it lurking at the back of the cupboard this time next year.
Crowd-pleasing recipes go down best, and are genuinely useful too. Cheesy biscuits to go with drinks, a chocolate “salami”, or some cranberry jelly all take the heat off the cook. We will, as HM might say, be delighted.
Rolling like a pro
Both the biscuit recipes below need to be rolled ½cm thick – and it helps them cook evenly if they are the same thickness throughout. I love my rolling pin guides, ½cm thick pieces of wood that I put on the work surface close enough together for the rolling pin to rest on. The dough goes in between, and I roll away – when the pin hits the guides, I know the dough is the right thickness.
To make your own, pop into a DIY store or builders’ yard and pick up a length of ½cm-thick wooden batten. Cut it into 30cm lengths – you’ll have spares to share, and they make a good stocking filler for a keen baker.
Coating with chocolate
You need to temper chocolate – heat it and cool it correctly – if you want a nice shine and a crisp texture.
To do this, put two thirds of the chocolate (chopped or broken into pieces) in a heatproof bowl and melt it in the microwave or by setting it over a pan of hot water (off the heat).
When a tiny bit dabbed on the inside of your lip feels hot, or a digital thermometer reads 48C for dark chocolate (46C for milk or white) stir in the rest of the chocolate, stirring until it is glossy and a dab feels cool on the inside of your lip (20-22C on the thermometer). It is now ready for coating or dipping.