Edible gifts: The greatest things since sliced foccacia

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Every year is a good year for a food gift from the kitchen. And this year, we all need a little extra love. So, surprise friends and family with one of these treats, like Wild Haystacks, flavor bombs of chow mein noodles, smoked almonds, dried cranberries and orange zest with chocolate almond bark coating. Candy is a sweet gift, so make a batch of four-ingredient Easy Brazilian Candy. For something completely different, gift a Chai Pie with a lot of “wow” factor. And those who prefer savory foods will love the Kalamata Focaccia with Sun-dried Tomato Oil. Merry Christmas, and happy cooking!

Wild Haystacks
Makes about 24 haystacks.

Wild Haystacks

24 ounces chocolate-flavored almond bark
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup smoked, salted almonds
1 (5-ounce) can chow mein noodles
Zest from 1 orange

Spread wax paper on counter or cookie sheet. 

Melt almond bark, according to package directions. Add dried cranberries, almonds and chow mein noodles, stirring until thoroughly combined. Using two spoons, form haystacks, and drop on wax paper. Sprinkle orange zest on each, starting when you are about halfway through mix. Allow haystacks to cool and harden.

Easy Brazilian Candy
Makes about 30 pieces.

Easy Brazilian Candy

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons butter
6.5 ounces of chocolate sprinkles (about 1 1/2 cups)

In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter, and cook over medium to medium-high heat. Stir constantly until thickened enough to form into balls, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool for 3 minutes. Using two spoons to scoop and shape, drop balls into chocolate sprinkles. Roll around to coat, and place in candy papers. 

Alternative: You can also substitute crushed pecans for sprinkles, but increase cocoa to 1/3 cup so mixture has more chocolate flavor.

Kalamata Focaccia with
Sun-dried Tomato Oil

Kalamata Focaccia with Sun-dried Tomato Oil

1 1/3 cups warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 (.25-ounce) packet fast-acting yeast
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, drained
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons reserved
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Garlic salt
For Sun-Dried Tomato Oil:
1 (8.3 ounce) jar sundried tomatoes in oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Add 1 1/3 cups warm water to a large bowl, and stir in sugar until dissolved. Sprinkle yeast on top, and let sit for 5-10 minutes until frothy.

Place olives in food processor and process into tiny pieces. Set aside.

To yeast mixture, gradually add in flour, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, Italian seasoning and olives either using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or stirring by hand. Once dough pulls away from sides of the bowl, knead it for 3 minutes.

Shape dough into a ball, and place in a bowl greased with olive oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and put in a warm place. Let it rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Turn out dough on floured piece of parchment paper. Roll out dough into a large circle until it is about 1/2-inch thick. Cover with towel, and allow it to rise 20 minutes.

Heat oven to 400. 

Slide parchment paper with dough onto a baking sheet.

Using your index finger, poke holes throughout dough. Brush or drizzle dough with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle rosemary and a dash of garlic salt on dough. Bake for 20-23 minutes. (The top does not get very golden, but you can touch it to make sure it is done.)

While bread bakes, make oil by combining sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil and garlic in a food processor and pulsing. Put oil in a jar for gifting.

Cool bread slightly, and give with dipping oil.

Note: Focaccia is best made the day you are going to eat it.

Chai Pie

Chai Pie

2 cups half-and-half
4 whole cloves
3 peppercorns
2 cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 black tea bags
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
1 (6-inch) prepared chocolate pie crust
Whipped cream:
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium pot, combine half-and-half, cloves, peppercorns, cardamom pods, ginger, and brown sugar. Heat over medium heat. When bubbles begin to form, remove from heat, drop in tea bags in and let steep. Allow mixture to steep/cool 15 minutes. Strain mixture.

In another pot, combine cornstarch, sugar and cinnamon. Pour in tea mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture becomes a pudding, about 10 minutes. When thick, remove from heat, stir in vanilla extract and egg yolks. Return to heat, and stir for 40 seconds. Pour into pie crust. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow to cool for two hours. Refrigerate for several hours.

For whipped cream: Beat heavy cream on high speed until very frothy. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. When peaks form, beat in vanilla extract. Spread over cooled pie. Refrigerate until time to serve.

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