Corley divides the book into sections, starting with Small Tokens (little packets of nuts, dressed up as letters), Big Batches, Pennywise (inexpensive and simple), Pound Foolish (more lavish), Feel Better (for flu season!) and Special Delivery. Her ideas range from amaretti cookies in clean paint containers with a paint chip tag to black bean salsa with chips in a container decorated with corn husks. There are gifts meant to be eaten right away, and others that can go in the pantry. There's a great mix of simple ideas and more elaborate ones, but all feel accessible. There aren't photos for every project but there are quite a few full-color photographs throughout the book.
If you're looking for fresh inspiration for the holiday season and want to make gifts in your own kitchen, I recommend this as a resource; there are plenty of fresh ideas here.
• Find the book: Gourmet Gifts: 100 Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion to Make Yourself and Wrap with Style by Dinah Corley and published by Harvard Common Press. $13.43 at Amazon.
Since I practically start my day with reading the latest posts from Apartment Therapy blogs, being here at The Kitchn is a real honor. This is a favorite project from my book — it makes a really special little gift for any number of occasions, and it is always well received. If you have never made pastry, this recipe is an ideal place to start! But if you have a basic pastry recipe you like, by all means substitute for mine. And if you don't want to make pastry at all, substitute refrigerated pie crust from the supermarket instead.
You can adapt the packaging as well by using a metal scoop or tin box instead of the garden trowel. Like almost every recipe and project in my book, the personalization and improvisation are the things that make the gifts truly yours to share.
• If you have any questions about the project or wrapping instructions, you can always find me at DinahsGourmetGifts.com.
Faux Escargot Pastry Swirls in a Garden Trowel
Overall Prep Time: 4 hours
Active Prep Time: 45 minutes
• Uncooked rolls, ready to slice and bake, freeze well
• Ships well
• Can be doubled
• Shelf Life: 3 or 4 days in an airtight container
Makes: 2 1/2 to 3 dozen
FOR THE PASTRY SWIRLS:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
9 garlic cloves, finely minced (you can use more or less, according to taste)
1 large shallot, finely minced
Leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs thyme
2 anchovy fillets
1 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 recipe Flaky and Foolproof Pastry Dough (see below), well chilled
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon
FOR THE FLAKY AND FOOLPROOF PASTRY DOUGH:
3/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut in very small pieces and frozen
8 1/2 tablespoons cream cheese
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
To Make The Pastry Dough
1. To make the pastry dough, combine and sift the cake flour and all-purpose flour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Remove and reserve 1/4 cup of the mixed flour. Add the salt and baking powder to the bowl. Use the paddle attachment to stir the dry ingredients on the lowest speed while adding a few bits of frozen butter at a time. Continue to beat the mixture until the largest bits of butter are reduced to the size of dried lentils. Add the cream cheese to the mixer bowl, one tablespoon at a time, and continue beating at low speed until the mixture resembles cornflakes.
2. Whisk the cream, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup reserved flour together in a small bowl until the mixture forms a smooth paste. Add the paste to the mixer bowl and continue to beat the dough at the lowest speed until it balls up around the beater.
3. Lightly mist a work surface with water and lay a 10-inch square of plastic wrap on the damp surface (the water helps hold it in place). Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap. Use your fingertips and the heels of your hands to form the dough into a rough disc 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick. Wrap the dough tightly in the plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days before using it.
To Make the Pastry Swirls
1. Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot to the butter and gently sauté them until they are translucent and soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the thyme, anchovies, and parsley and continue sautéing the mixture, stirring constantly, for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool while you roll out the pastry.
2. Roll the pastry into a 9 × 13-inch rectangle. Brush egg wash over the entire surface of the pastry. Spread the cooled parsley mixture over the egg wash all the way to the edges of the pastry. Reserve the remaining egg wash in the refrigerator.
3. Tightly roll the pastry from one short end of the rectangle, stopping 2 inches from the opposite short end. Fold the edge opposite the roll in half over the filling and toward the roll and then press the roll into the folded edge to seal it, so that you have a tight roll with about 1/4 inch of folded pastry along the edge of the tightly rolled pastry (this will be the "snail's head"). Transfer the roll to a tray lined with parchment paper and place it in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
4. Use a serrated knife to slice the frozen pastry roll into 1/4-inch-wide swirls. Place the swirls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use your fingers to press and shape the "head" of each "snail" swirl and flatten each swirl with the heel of your hand. Brush the pastry swirls with the reserved egg wash and sprinkle them with sea salt flakes.
5. Put the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the swirls are a very deep golden brown. Cool the baking sheet on a rack for 5 minutes before transferring the pastries directly to the rack to finish cooling. The cooled pastries should be stored in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble and deliver the gift.
Wrapping It Up
A shiny new garden trowel lined with tissue paper and filled with the "snails" makes an adorable gift, especially for a gardener.
1 rectangle (8 x 10 inches) tissue paper
1 new large garden trowel
1 square (18 inches) clear cellophane
1 wire twist tie
1 gift card
How to make a garden trowel gift package
Put the sheet of tissue paper diagonally over the top of the trowel and place the trowel on a large square of cellophane. Fill the tissue-lined trowel to overflowing with the pastry swirls, gather the cellophane tightly around the handle of the trowel, and secure the cellophane with the wire twist tie. Cut away all the excess cellophane as close to the twist tie as possible. Tie a ribbon around the twist tie and finish with a bow and gift card.
Reprinted with permission from Gourmet Gifts: 100 Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion to Make Yourself and Wrap with Style by Dinah Corley and published by Harvard Common Press.
(Images: Alison Shaw/Harvard Common Press)