These wonderfully rich brownies are just one way to get crafty this holiday season with homemade gifts from the kitchen. We've compiled 25 great ideas, ranging from quick and simple gifts (perfect if you're working with kids) to more intricate projects that call for a little extra time and patience.
Some gifts will last for weeks, perhaps more. Others are best eaten within a day or two.
Not only are homemade gifts a great way to save money during the holiday season, they're also a thoughtful and creative way to show how much you care.
LUCCA CAFE'S BROWNIES
1 1/2 hours, plus cooling and chilling times / Makes 18 brownies
Note: Adapted from Lucca Cafe in Irvine. Lucca uses Elite brand instant coffee.
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 pound salted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee
3 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups plus 2 1/2 tablespoons (7 ounces) flour
1 cup chopped walnut pieces
1. Line 2 (9-inch) square baking pans with foil, and grease the foil. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine the bittersweet chocolate and butter, stirring frequently until melted and combined. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, coffee and sugar over high speed until combined and the mixture increases in volume (it will look almost like softened ice cream), 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the mixer.
4. Beat in the melted chocolate and butter over low speed just until combined. Add the flour and nuts and stir just until incorporated.
5. Pour the batter into the pans, dividing evenly between the 2 pans. Bake the brownies until barely set: A crust will form on top, and a toothpick inserted will be very gooey (though not wet like the batter), 20 to 25 minutes.
6. Remove the brownies and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate the brownies (still in the pans) for at least 6 hours to chill and fully set.
GANACHE AND ASSEMBLY
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons milk
7 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
4 ounces white chocolate
1. Place the bittersweet chocolate in a large bowl.
2. In a large saucepan, combine the cream, milk and butter and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and combined with the cream mixture, forming a ganache.
3. Remove the chilled brownies from the refrigerator, and invert the pans over a cooling rack set over a large rimmed baking sheet (the sheet will catch the excess ganache when it is poured over the brownies). Peel the foil liner away from the brownies.
4. Pour the ganache over the brownies, making sure it covers the tops of both batches (do not worry about the sides, as these will be trimmed when the brownies are cut).
5. Set the brownies aside to allow the ganache to cool and set.
6. Melt the white chocolate (place it in a glass container and heat it in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until completely melted). Place the white chocolate in a piping bag, coronet or a sealable plastic bag (after the chocolate is added to the bag, trim one of the tips to the desired size to make a makeshift piping bag).
7. Streak the brownies with the white chocolate, then set them aside to give the white chocolate time to harden.
8. Trim the edges from the brownies, then cut the brownies into squares; each pan makes about 9 (3-inch) squares.
Each of 18 brownies: 574 calories; 6 grams protein; 66 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 35 grams fat; 18 grams saturated fat; 107 mg cholesterol; 53 grams sugar; 162 mg sodium.