Or is there?
No, I don’t have a time machine. What I do have is a kitchen and a slew of recipes at my fingertips via the Internet. So I spent a couple of hours last weekend baking, whipping, mixing and generally making a mess. The end result? Eight mini loaves of bread, seven jars of instant cocoa mix, a batch of homemade marshmallows (the best thing you’ve ever tasted) and eight bags of white chocolate and sprinkle-covered pretzel rods.
And a partridge in a pear tree...
I made the bread first, so I could do other stuff while it baked. Then I made the marshmallows (recipe below), because they needed time to set. Next was the cocoa mix (recipe below), which was really easy, and finally the pretzel rods, which were also fairly easy if you can avoid scorching the chocolate in the microwave.
So in about three hours time, I made homemade gifts for several people — I made enough for eight, but a few of my creations were consumed before they could be properly packaged as gifts. And the kids weren’t to blame for that. We’ll call it quality control — I had to make sure I was sending out gifts worth giving, right?
The cocoa and marshmallows are incredibly easy gifts that can be whipped together (literally, in the case of the marshmallows) in time for Christmas even at this late hour. I gave my cocoa to its recipients in jam jars (don’t you wish you were on my nice list?) with marshmallows in a ziploc bag — nothing too fancy. Package it all together with a mug and a candy cane and you’ll be on someone’s nice list next year.
Instant cocoa mix
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup Hershey°s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa
2 1/2 cups powdered non-fat milk
1 teaspoon salt
— Adapted from www.frugal-mama.com.
Put 1/3 to 1/2 cup mix into mug, add hot water and stir well. Top with homemade marshmallows.
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Line 9 x 9-inch pan with plastic wrap and lightly oil. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Let it soak undisturbed.
Meanwhile, combine sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and boil hard for 1 minute.
Pour the boiling syrup into gelatin mix and turn on the mixer, using the whisk attachment, to high speed. Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, add in the vanilla extract beat to incorporate.
Scrape marshmallow into the prepared pan and spread evenly (Lightly greasing your hands and the spatula helps a lot here. This is a very sticky and stringy process that only gets stringier as the marshmallow starts to set). Take another piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap and press lightly on top of the marshmallow, creating a seal. Let mixture sit for a few hours, or overnight, until cooled and firmly set.
In a shallow dish, pour some confectioners sugar into a shallow dish. Remove marshmallow from pan and cut into equal pieces (scissors or a pizza cutter are especially handy). Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners sugar mixture.
Store in an airtight container, or freeze for later use.