The Do's and Don'ts of Edible Holiday Gifts, According to Food Gift Love's Maggie Battista

Make delicious and elegant edible gifts for friends and family this holiday season with Maggie Battista's new cookbook, Food Gift Love.
Peanut Butter Balls

©Copyright White Loft Studio

Copyright White Loft Studio

With the holiday season in full swing, chances are good you're making your list and checking it twice — and trying to figure out what to give all the important people in your life. From hostess gifts to something for your children’s teacher or your friends from book club, one thing rings true: Everyone loves a delicious holiday treat. Maggie Battista’s new book, Food Gift Love, has you covered on all edible gift fronts.

If the idea of making edible gifts is daunting for you, Food Gift Love is the book to guide you through the holiday season. (It’s also a wonderful gift if you’re not inclined to make edible gifts yourself, but you have friends who enjoy that sort of holiday cooking and baking.) The recipes are elegant and sophisticated without being fussy or difficult to produce. Each one comes together wonderfully easily, and the helpful gift-packaging advice will leave you looking like a holiday rock star with minimal effort. Battista shared her top do’s and don’ts for holiday season edible-gift making with us:

  • Host a food-gift-making party. Turn a holiday get-together into a marmalade-making session or chocolate-dipping feast. Attendees can contribute food and gift-wrap supplies. Share the expense, the work, the bounty and the holiday spirit!
  • Put a label on it. Be sure to put the name and date prepared (and, if you like, a date by which to consume it) so your recipient knows exactly how long she or he has to enjoy the edible treat this holiday season.
  • Regifting gift-wrap is OK. Save old but clean gift-wrap and reuse it for new gifts. Making use of old ribbon and paper multiplies your holiday gift decor options and lengthens their lives before they're recycled.
  • Don’t make it perfect — just make it. Food gifts that look homemade will tug at someone’s heartstrings in a great way. Learn to love your crooked bows (or tied knots), your own handwriting and crinkled newspaper as gift-wrap.
  • Don’t overlook the treasure in your trash. Before tossing old jars, cups, drawers or boxes, inspect them to see if they’re giftable. Clean and add them to your holiday decor collection.
  • Don’t forget your hosts. Sure, they chose to host that holiday get-together, but they’re working hard to infuse some holiday spirit into their lives and yours by hosting you. Give them a little something delicious that they can enjoy later when the party dies down.

Battista — the founder of Eat Boutique — is the epitome of an edible-gift savant. Put her on your holiday party guest list and you can bet she’ll show up with something lovely. “The party always gets started with a drink, so I like to supply my host with a bottle of homemade grenadine,” she told FN Dish. “It’s great for fancy booze cocktails and even mixed in with club soda or ginger ale for kids.” Looking for something that pairs well with holiday cocktails? She recommends the book’s Molasses Cookies for any gathering from October to January. “They’re filling, warm and spicy, filled with ginger, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg,” she said. As a hostess herself, she’s always hoping guests will show up with something simple and versatile (like Peanut Butter Balls, recipe below for you to try at home). And, of course, chocolate: “I can always use chocolate, always,” she said.

Order your copy of Food Gift Love here.

Peanut Butter Balls
Prep: up to 3 hours
Yield: 60 to 70 tiny balls

On one of my long stays in Paris, I was invited to a very chic house party in a gorgeous apartment that towered high above Montmartre. In attendance were many Parisians, several Europeans and a few of us Americans. I was nervous about fitting in because I didn’t speak French and I had heard stories about the perfection of Parisian parties. I expected vintage music crooning from an old player and wide floor-to-ceiling windows strung open to let church bells and that perfect Paris light drift all around the fashionable room. To avoid standing out with an average dish, I timed my arrival just so to buy a fresh apple and rhubarb tart from Les Petits Mitrons, a revered neighborhood bakery. I surmised that a local dessert might make me a hit with the swank crowd. Indeed, my first French house party was exactly how I pictured it. Everyone was terribly cool but also exceptionally sweet. And by the time the dessert offerings were passed, guests grabbed a little bit of everything, including my tart. But the real American victory was yet to be won. One of the American guests who had lived in Paris for more than a few years began to pass her dessert. She floated about the apartment, her tray floating, too, filled with tiny bites that became fewer in number the closer she got to me. The Parisians clearly loved it. I managed to grab one of the last sweets on the tray and when the maker explained the ingredients, I flipped. As it turns out, the Parisians love peanut butter and chocolate just as much as we Americans. Despite vintage music, Paris light, perfect fruit tarts and very stylish guests, the biggest hit were these Peanut Butter Balls. The only change between this recipe and traditional “Buckeyes” is the rice cereal. The crunch cuts some of the sweet peanut butter flavor nicely. Crushed corn flakes work well too. Because they are so rich, I prefer small pieces — about 1 teaspoon each — but larger or smaller is just fine.

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup rice cereal
2 cups milk chocolate chips
Special Equipment:
Double boiler

Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Add sugar, peanut butter and butter to a bowl. Mix to combine well — until no trace of confectioners’ sugar remains in the bowl.

Add rice cereal and mix to combine well — it’s easiest to combine with your clean hands.

With a measuring spoon or small scooper, form small balls the size of about 1 teaspoon. Use your hands to pinch, press and roll each into a little ball and place on cookie sheet.

When all the mixture has been formed into balls, place the baking sheet in the fridge overnight or in the freezer for 30 minutes so the balls can chill and harden.

When ready to coat your peanut butter balls with chocolate, prepare the double boiler. In a double boiler set over medium heat, place a bit of water in the bottom pot, making sure the water doesn’t touch the underside of the top pot. Assemble the double boiler. (If you don’t have a double boiler, just place a metal or glass bowl on top of a medium pot.)

Place the chocolate into the top part of a double boiler to melt until a smooth consistency. You may opt to temper the chocolate instead. If you plan to temper the chocolate, reserve half the chocolate for the tempering part of the process.

Roll each ball in the melted chocolate and return to the baking sheet. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours until hard. They will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Gift-Wrap Supplies:
Small bowls

Add balls to bowls. Cut a long length of ribbon and tie in a knot around the bowl. Trim excess ribbon. Gift immediately. Wrap in cellophane if gifting later.

Reprinted with permission from Food Gift Love, by Maggie Battista, copyright © 2015, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Photography by Heidi Murphy.

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