It's the most wonderful time of the year, as they say. That is, unless you ordered the latest gadget too late, and now it's stuck in supply chain limbo.
Or if you are the kind of person who leaves their shopping until it's down to the wire, like Daniel Gritzer, the culinary director of Serious Eats.
"I am very much a last-minute gift giver, scouring the internet and thinking of all the things I'd probably have thought of four months ago to then not be able to remember them, and have to fake something else in desperation," Gritzer says.
Whatever your struggle, we have got you covered this holiday season.
We have asked Gritzer and other food makers and crafters to make the case for going the homemade route this season and have provided the following recipes and project instructions:
OVEN DRIED GRAPES, by Dan Gritzer from Serious Eats
WORLD PEACE COOKIES 2.0, by Dorie Greenspan
CHILE CRISP, by Genevieve Ko from The New York Times
SPA IN A JAR, by Aris Rossi from Sailing Into Second
DRAWSTRING BAGS, by Ursula Carmona from Homemade by Carmona
Oven-Dried Grapes (a.k.a. Raisins)
Gritzer says when he first published his recipe for oven dried grapes, many readers asked: "Why in the world would you oven dry grapes when you could just buy raisins?"
He says it's a valid question, but the dried grapes are pretty special.
"You get caramelization that happens on the surface of the grapes as they dry in the oven. So it's fruitier and it's brighter and it's fresher than you would get from a box of raisins on a supermarket shelf," he says.
3 large bunches seedless grapes, preferably mixed colors, stemmed
Vegetable or canola oil, for greasing
Rimmed baking sheets
Preheat oven to 225°F (110°C). Very lightly grease 2 rimmed baking sheets with oil, then scatter grapes all over.
Bake, checking periodically for doneness, until grapes are nicely shriveled and semi-dried but still slightly plump, about 4 hours (see note). The exact time will depend on your grapes, your oven, and your preferred degree of dryness.
Let cool. Use a thin metal spatula to free any grapes that are stuck to the baking sheet.
The dried grapes can be refrigerated in a sealed container for about 3 weeks. How long they keep will also depend on their degree of dryness; drier grapes will keep longer.
Gritzer's notes: The precise cooking time can vary quite a bit depending on the size of your grapes (larger ones will take longer to dry than smaller ones) and how your oven functions (some ovens are prone to big temperature swings, which can speed up and/or slow down total drying time). Make sure to check in on the progress of your grapes periodically to avoid any mishaps.
½ cup (15 grams) freeze-dried raspberries, coarsely chopped or broken
Maldon or other flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
Sift both flours, the cocoa and baking soda together into a bowl; whisk to blend.
Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the salt, piment d'Espelette or cayenne and vanilla. Turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredients all at once and pulse to start the blending. When the risk of a flour storm has passed, beat on low speed until the dough forms big, moist curds—this can take a couple of minutes, so don't be afraid to keep mixing. Toss in the chocolate pieces, nibs and raspberries and mix to incorporate. Sometimes the dough comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl and sometimes it crumbles—it'll be fine no matter what.
Turn the dough out, gather it together and, if necessary, knead it a bit to bring it together. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a log that is 1½ inches in diameter. The length will be between 7 and 8 inches, but don't worry about it—it's the diameter that counts here. If you get a hollow in either of the logs, just start over. Wrap the logs and freeze them for at least 2 hours, or refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (If you'd like, you can freeze the logs for up to 2 months; let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before slicing and baking.)
When you're ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.
Using a chef's knife, slice one log of dough into ½-inch-thick rounds. (Don't worry if they crack, just pinch and squeeze the bits back into the cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between them. If you'd like, sprinkle the tops sparingly with flaky salt. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes—don't open the oven door to check, just let them bake. They won't look fully baked and they won't be firm, but that's the way they're supposed to be. Transfer the sheet to a rack and let the cookies cool until they're only just warm or at room temperature. Repeat with the remaining log of dough, using a cool baking sheet.
Dorie Greenspan's notes: Although making these cookies is easy, each batch seems to have its own quirks. It's always easy, it's just not always the same. Sometimes the differences have to do with the cocoa. (I usually use Valrhona Dutch-processed cocoa because I love its flavor and color, but I've made WPCs with many kinds of cocoa—they're always good, not always the same.) Sometimes the differences have to do with the butter, and often the temperature of the butter—it's best if it's at cool room temperature, but sometimes I miss the moment when it's just right. My advice is to mix the dough for as long as it takes to get big, moist curds that hold together when pressed. Often this happens quickly; just as often, it takes more time than you think it should. Go with it. Also, when you roll the dough into logs, check that they're solid—squeeze the logs to see if there are hollow spots. If there are, ball up the dough and roll into logs again. Plan ahead: The logs of dough need to be frozen for at least 2 hours or refrigerated for at least 3 hours. Storing: Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for 5 days at room temperature (they will get a little drier, but they're still good) or for up to 2 months in the freezer.
Combine the oil, onion, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes evenly golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the chiles, sesame seeds and Sichuan peppercorns, if using, and sizzle, stirring, for 1 minute, then stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Spoon over everything. It adds big flavor to milder bases, such as eggs, tofu, noodles, rice, vegetables, white fish, lean pork and chicken breast.
"You don't have to be great at painting. You don't have to be great at a lot of things in order to do something as simple and special as that, " Carmona says. "And I think the receiver will still appreciate those sweet little touches."
Cut your material of choice into a rectangle, once this is folded in half, it will be about the size of the drawstring bag, so size it accordingly.
Fold a crease of about an inch on both short ends of your rectangular, and iron to preserve the crease. Make sure the folds both face forward.
Sew along both folded edges. This will be where your drawstring pulls through later.
Fold the entire rectangle in half, with the sewn edges outward, and iron to preserve the crease.
Sew the two sides closed, from the folded bottom all the way up to the top seam. Be sure to stop right at that seam where your drawstrings will loop through.
Flip it inside out, and pull a ribbon through the top of your drawstring bags.
Customize your beautiful bags. Use a little all-purpose paint and stencils or painters tape to create a design.
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Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
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