Holiday Gifts From the Kitchen

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Here, great ideas to make something deliciously edible to give to family and friends during the holidays.

 Making something deliciously edible to give to family and friends during the holidays has a certain kind of appeal. Somehow it feels more personal, more thoughtful. It’s definitely more fun and less stressful than shopping for ‘stuff’ – plus it can bridge generations.

Here are two easy and delicious holiday gifts – one you can make yourself and another you can make with your kids or grandchildren. Both are courtesy of Sebastien Centner, Director of Eatertainment, a Toronto-based catering and special events planning company awarded ‘Best Caterer in Canada’ by the Canadian Event Industry Association.

An always popular, kid-friendly gift is chocolate bark.

“The nice thing about it is there’s very little skill required so it’s not like you have to be a master cook or that grandmother in the family who’s the best baker,” says Centner, who makes it with his own children. “Pretty much anybody can do it. It’s quick, and with the exception of the boiling water you’ll need, it’s also very safe, which is important because the more the kids can be involved the more interested they’ll be.”

The bark is versatile too. It makes a fantastic hostess gift you can take to parties, or you can present it as party favours at your own events.


And there’s no recipe, per se, just a straightforward process. The more bark you want, the more ingredients you’ll have to buy. It’s that simple.

Here’s how it works. First get everything you need out onto the counter: baking trays lined with parchment paper, your chocolate (it can be dark, milk or white chocolate in bars, chunks or even chips – just make sure it doesn’t have added ingredients like caramel or nuts). Get out your double boiler and gather whatever garnish you plan to put on top (could be nuts, dried fruits, chipped candy canes, Smarties).

Next, heat the water to boiling in the double boiler and melt the chocolate. When that’s done pour it onto the lined baking trays and smooth it out to a quarter to half-an-inch thick (.6 to 1.2 cm). Sometimes just tilting the tray will do it. Then, while it’s still hot, sprinkle your topping over it – evenly – so each piece will have some topping once it’s broken apart. But don’t overdo the topping, cautions Centner, or the bark won’t hold together as well.

If you’ve got two double boilers you can even melt two kinds of chocolate then swirl them together on the baking tray to make marble bark.

After that, it’s into the frig for an hour or two until the chocolate solidifies. (This is a great time, suggests Centner, to sit down with your young helper and watch a holiday movie.)

Then comes smash up time.

“Kids always love this part the best,” says Centner, who recommends bypassing your toolbox hammer in favour of a can of soup or a heavy jar of tomato sauce, which tend to work well without overkill.

When the job’s done you can either wrap the bark in cellophane and tie it with ribbons or – and this is his favourite – you can put it in parchment paper inside small Asian take-out containers, which are available online, in small restaurant supply stores and some grocery stores.


A Gift for the Grownups

Once that’s all done, it’s grown up time. Maybe even cocktail hour, which would perfectly suit this next gift from the kitchen: citrus rimming salt.

It was developed by a chef in one of Centner’s restaurants (he owns two and co-owns a third).

“The commercial rimming salts often have preservatives and other chemicals,” he says. “Not this one.”

It’s simple and delicious – “a little accent that can really transform a drink or a dish.”

Just wash and dry some lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit, then finely grate the skin – as fine as you can, almost as fine as salt. Then you spread out the gratings as thinly as possible on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. You can leave it out overnight to dry or speed up the process by baking it in a warm oven (100 to 150 degrees) for an hour or two – until it’s completely dried out but not browned.

Then you have a decision to make. Do you want it sweet or savoury?

You make it sweet by adding white sugar. You make it savoury by adding salt (you can also add pepper if you want and even a few dried, crushed chili peppers for extra kick). But don’t make the salt or sugar more than 10 to 15 per cent of the total volume or it’ll overpower the citrus flavour.

Centner loves to sprinkle a little of the savoury citrus salt over smoked salmon, or rim drinks with it (it’s great for Caesars). The sugary version is delicious sprinkled over berries with vanilla ice cream.

He suggests packaging the finished citrus salt in tiny, clear mason jars that show off its vibrant colours.

Now who wouldn’t want to get these gifts?