Gifts: The Home-made Kind
I would love to be the kind of person who knows what would be the perfect gift for everyone I know, and have the resources to go and purchase those things, but I am not. I'm not good at figuring out "perfect gifts", and I don't have that kind of money. So I try to be mindful throughout the year of what might be a good thing to keep on hand for friends. When I put up jam, can apple pie filling, or make pickles, I try to make enough to have to give away. When Advent hits, I usually crank it up a notch or two (Marvelous Mark would say that is an understatement) and start making Amish Friendship Bread, home-made English Muffins (they really are not that hard to do!), and Russian Tea mix. I'm linking a great recipe for and discussion about the Amish Bread here. Please notice the part about how forgiving this bread is; if you ignore it for a week, it will still get to work and do what you want it to do when you get back around to it.
The English Muffins recipe is one of the easiest home-made yeast breads to do. If you have no experience with yeast bread, this is a great one for starting and practicing on. My Mom, aka NANA passed this recipe along to me and all her girls. The italicized comments are my addenda.
2 cups warm water (Mom uses milk; you may also use the whey from your ricotta and/or mozzarella)
1 T. sugar
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
4 cups bread flour it is OK to use regular all-purpose flour
1 T yeast
Yellow corn meal (do NOT use self-rising!)
- Set yeast in large bowl. Add ¼ cup warm water and allow yeast to dissolve completely. Add sugar and let sit for a minute, then add salt and remaining water and stir.
- Add flour and stir in to make a firm dough. Turn out on floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. More or less. If you are using your mixer to knead the dough be VERY careful; you can not knead too long by hand, but you sure can mess it up if you knead it too long with your mixer.
- Rinse, dry, and lightly grease the large bowl (greasing is optional). Set dough in bowl and let rise til doubled. I keep it going until it is to the top of the bowl. This takes just under an hour in the summer, up to an hour and a half in the winter.
- Turn dough out on a surface sprinkled with corn meal and cut into rounds (a large tomato can opened at both ends makes a great cutter).
- Prepare skillets or electric griddle. They should be dry and lightly sprinkled with corn meal and moderately hot. I love my electric griddle for this; I can control the temperature ~ 350 degrees ~ a lot better and it is big enough to cook a whole batch at once.
- Lay muffins in skillet and bake 10 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side.
- You will have to check them for browning as you go and turn the heat up or down as needed.
- Lay on wire rack to cool and split with a fork to toast.
1 jar of Tang that makes 8 quarts
1 c. sugar
1 c. instant unsweetened tea
1 t. ginger
1 t. cloves
2 t. cinnamon
Mix together and store in a tight jar. Use 2 T. mix per cup of boiling water with a squeeze of lemon.
You can try this with sugarless Tang and Splenda if you must. Sugarless Tang is very difficult to find. The volume of the mix is much, much smaller and so you must use 1 T or so of mix to boiling water.
What are your favorite home-made gift ideas?