1. Shortbread Secrets – Make them melt in your mouth

  1. Use unsalted butter and pure vanilla extract – you’ll taste the difference in the end result
  2. Use the top rack of the oven, so the cookies don’t brown too much on the bottom
  3. Rotate pans half way through baking, for even cooking

2. Fruitcake Fun – Make a fruitcake that guests will WANT to eat

  1. Pull out that family recipe – that’s where the memories are
  2. Many older recipes or European recipes call for weighted measures – a good kitchen scale is a valuable tool
  3. To cut down on the “strength” of the cake, use apple cider in the cake, and then just brush with a little brandy or rum afterwards
  4. I like to use dried fruits like apricots, cranberries, prunes and cherries and candied zest for a full-bodied, but naturally sweet results

3. Chocolate Truffles – Decadent gifts from the kitchen

  1. Melting chocolate requires a gentle and indirect heat – a double boiler is the best tool (especially for white chocolate)
  2. If melting chocolate in the microwave, stop and stir every 10 seconds until melted
  3. Add flavourings like extracts or liqueurs only after you’ve added cream or butter
  4. In chocolate recipes bittersweet and semisweet are interchangeable, but you can’t substitute white or milk into recipes calling for dark chocolate

4. Entertaining Success – Make Ahead Desserts

  1. End your holiday meal with glamour, by getting the work done ahead with a make-ahead dessert
  2. Cheesecakes and Trifles are holiday classics, and can be made a full day ahead of time, leaving you time to look after your guests
  3. Presentation is key for holiday desserts – a great pedestal cake stand allows you to present with a big “ta-da”
  4. Have your desserts plates, forks and serving utensils already set so that serving is easy and quick
  5. When portioning a cake, pie or cheesecake, cut 2 slices before lifting a portion out – it will come out looking beautiful

5. Successful Squares – A festive addition to the holiday cookie tin

  1. Line your baking pan with parchment paper, so that it hangs over the sides – this allows you to lift the squares out to a cutting board, for easier cutting
  2. I like to use a metal square pan (not a glass dish) for even baking, and a metal pan has cleaner edges (vs the round edges on a glass dish) – I waste less and get consistently-portioned squares
  3. Storing hints – the sweeter the square, the softer it gets once frozen and thawed. Shortbread bars, chocolate squares and date squares all freeze well, well anything with caramel or toffee risks turning soggy.

6. Packaging Gifts for Giving – Get creative and eco-friendly

  1. Look for packaging that can be re-used, but presents beautifully, such as:
    • a bamboo cutting board to bring cheese and crackers to someone’s house
    • classic cookie tins can be used to store ribbons and tags for next Christmas
    • give homemade hot chocolate mix wrapped in a festive mug
    • tie 2 wine glasses to a bottle of wine, instead of using a wine gift bag
  2. Remember to label any gifts from the kitchen, with ingredients (like nuts, dairy, etc)