Making homemade Christmas gifts can be a lot of fun, but before you head down that road, there's something you should know: Ever since I first shared my homemade caramels, I have not been allowed to show up for Christmas without them (the only exception was last year because we moved into our house the weekend before Christmas and I didn't have a kitchen or any of my supplies, and even then, I almost wasn't let off the hook). So tread lightly into this territory. Your homemade gifts might be so well received that people will look for them year after year. Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing if you enjoy making and giving homemade gifts as I do.
This year, I tried something new after flipping through the pages of Sprinkles!: Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts. (Don't worry, Mom, I made caramels too.) This cookbook features sprinkles in every recipe. You might think that can get kind of boring until you realize how many different kinds of sprinkles are out there. Pages toward the front of the book are devoted to outlining the different kinds of sprinkles. I learned names for them that I didn't even know existed (like quins).
The most eye-catching recipe in the whole book is the Rainbow Layer Cake that graces the cover. I wasn't quite ready to tackle that project and found plenty of simpler, sprinkle-laden recipes throughout the book. After flipping through over and over and seeing different recipes I wanted to make, I found one that I knew I could tailor to suit this time of year: homemade nonpareils (called Classic Nonpareils and Rainbow Drops in the book). Nonpareils is the name for the little round ball sprinkles and also for the chocolates made with those sprinkles. I did not make my own sprinkles (though the book includes a recipe for doing just that), but I did make my own nonpareil chocolates covered with red, white, and green nonpareils.
I wanted to make some nonpareils with bittersweet chocolate and some with white chocolate for contrast. The recipe calls for 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, so I melted down some Ghirardelli bars following the instructions. As soon as I started spooning the chocolate on the parchment paper I'd set up, I knew there was a problem. My chocolate was spreading too much, and my nonpareils were looking pretty flat. I let the chocolate cool and proceeded making nonpareils with the cooled (hence thicker) chocolate, but they weren't perfect. (And after I tried fixing them with another layer of chocolate and a hair dryer, they were even worse off. Let's not talk about it.) While they didn't look great, they were still snack-worthy, just not gift-worthy.
I made a batch of white chocolate nonpareils using bar chocolate too, and these worked out fine. The white chocolate started setting up right away and my nonpareils were a good thickness. (I attribute this to white chocolate not really being chocolate. It tends to behave differently.)
I tried another batch of bittersweet, this time using chips, which I knew had some stabilizers, and it worked perfectly. This also gave me the opportunity to add a couple of drops of peppermint oil to really turn up the Christmas dial on these. Peppermint oil adds a nice smooth minty-ness to the chocolate.
Once my nonpareils had set up and hardened, I packaged them in cellophane bags and tied them with festive twine and tags, which I had found at Crate and Barrel.
In holiday packaging, these Christmas nonpareils would make great gifts on their own or be a fun addition to a cookie or candy platter.
(adapted from Sprinkles!)
These festive bittersweet and white chocolate drops are decorated with red, white, and
green sprinkles and make great edible Christmas gifts.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: Lots of nonpareils!
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate
1/2 teaspoon vegetable shortening
1/8 teaspoon peppermint oil (optional)
Christmas nonpareils sprinkles
Cellophane bags, twine, and tags (optional)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, combine the chocolate and shortening. Stir with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat, and stir in the peppermint oil, if using. Transfer the chocolate to a small bowl.
Using a 1/4-teaspoon measure, spoon the chocolate onto the parchment paper. Let the chocolate drops cool for about 20 minutes and then carefully sprinkle the chocolate drops with nonpareil sprinkles. (If you see the chocolate hardening, make sure to get the sprinkles on there before it fully sets up. But keep in mind that if you add the sprinkles too soon, the chocolate will flatten.)
If desired, once the chocolate is cool and firm, divide the nonpareils among bags, tie them closed with twine, and attach gift tags. Give as gifts (but be sure to save some to sample yourself).
Do you give homemade holiday gifts?
I received a review copy of Sprinkles! All opinions are my own.
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