This week it was my mum’s birthday and I decided that I wanted to try making a little hamper for her. I have seen lots of beautiful hamper ideas on Pinterest, which you can find pinned to my ‘gifts’ board, and wanted to make one of my own. I especially like all the quirky wrapping ideas out there, like the one I saw for a ‘kitcheny’ hamper with utensils inside an oven glove and tied with a pretty ribbon.
My mum is the type of person who really appreciates the effort that goes into a handmade gift (she was DELIGHTED with her Mother’s Day tote bag back in March) and so I try to make sure that I set aside some time when a gift is ‘due’ so that I can give her something she knows I have put some thought and effort into. I was in the mood to make something yummy when I got the idea for the hamper. I inherited my love of chocolate and sweets from my mum and so I know that anything loaded with calories and made with sugar or chocolate will most definitely be favourably received, and here it is:
The hamper contained four different home-made sweets (Macaroon Bar, Scottish Tablet, Nutty Truffles and Chocolate Curls), a pretty mug, four co-ordinating tea towels and a cute vanilla candle in a jar, all sat inside a small wicker basket. Nothing cost a fortune but put together in the basket it all looked amazing. I used two of the tea towels to line the bottom of the basket and then I used some organza strips as ribbon to tie round the other two tea towels which I rolled up and placed alongside the candle and the mug. The basket and the set of tea towels came from Home Bargains and cost £1.99 each. The candle was £1 from Asda. I bought two cream coloured mini gift bags to put the sweets in (a bargain from TK Maxx, reduced to 50p each!) and then placed them at the back of the basket. The chocolate curls didn’t sit very neatly in the gift bag with the other sweets so I used some wax paper and wrapped them up, tying them with another piece of organza. Lastly, I popped some loose pieces of organza inside the mug to make it look prettier. The mug also came from TK Maxx and cost £3.99.
The only other expense was what I spent on ingredients for the sweets, however most of that I already had in the cupboard. You can find the sweetie recipes below. I love how a gift that looks so expensive actually costs next to nothing yet is appreciated by the recipient more than something you just picked off a shelf in a shop. If you have the time to spare, I definitely recommend having a go. It was fun and dead easy!
- 1 floury potato
- Icing sugar (approx. 500-1000g)
- Plain chocolate
- Desiccated coconut (a small handful)
- Boil the potato until it is soft then drain, dry and mash in a bowl.
- (You can do this next part by hand or in a stand mixer – I used my mixer as it saves you from getting a sore arm!) Add icing sugar, approximately a cup at a time, and mix into the potato. The potato will initially turn runny but will slowly start to thicken again as you add more icing sugar.
- Keep adding icing sugar until the mixture turns to a paste that does not stick to your hands (sorry I can’t be more specific about quantities, but it really depends on the size and type of potato you use)
- Form the mixture into the shape you want your sweets to be. Traditionally macaroon comes in a bar but I used a heart shaped silicon mould. You could make balls or discs too. It’s up to you. It might be helpful to dust the tray/mould with icing sugar to stop the macaroon from sticking.
- Place the tray/mould in the fridge for at least an hour, but if you have time, overnight.
- Melt the chocolate in a ban-marie (a bowl over a pan of water)
- Sprinkle the desiccated coconut on a tray and pop under the grill or in the oven until toasted.
- Coat the macaroons in chocolate (a very messy job!) and then sprinkle with some coconut.
- Place on a tray and put back in the fridge to set the chocolate. Once the chocolate is set you are good to go!
- 125g salted butter
- 1kg granulated sugar
- I cup full-fat milk
- 400g tin condensed milk
- Melt the butter slowly over a low heat.
- Add the sugar and the milk, stirring continuously until the mixture doesn’t ‘crunch’ and the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the condensed milk and turn up to a medium heat. Bring to the boil slowly.
- Once the mixture bubbles turn the heat back down and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Test the mixture for hardness by dropping some into a bowl of cold water. If you can take it out of the water and roll it into a soft ball in your fingers then it is ready.
- Remove the pan from the heat and beat the mixture for 5 minutes (I used my stand mixer to save my arm!)
- Either pour the mixture into a deep baking tray and mark off squares or fingers or use a silicon mould to make particular shapes.
- Put in the fridge to cool and harden.
(I forgot to take photos of these before I wrapped them up. They are like brandy snaps but made from soft chocolatey-sponge. They worked OK but were tricky to roll into curls)
- 1 egg white
- 50g caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons double cream
- 25g unsalted butter, melted
- 150g plain chocolate, melted.
- Line baking trays with greaseproof paper and rub with butter.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.
- Whisk the egg white and the sugar together until they are mixed.
- Use a sieve to add the flour and cocoa powder. Stir in the cream and the butter.
- Spoon the mixture onto the baking trays. It will be quite think so should make between 4 and 6 small, flat ‘puddles’.
- Bake for approximately 4 minutes, until the edges of the biscuits start to darken.
- Once you remove them from the oven, use a fish-slice or palette knife to lift each biscuit then wrap it round a wooden spoon handle to make the curl (you are making brandy-snap type shapes)
- Leave to cool then dip in melted chocolate to finish.
- 200g (1/2 tin) condensed milk
- 50g chopped mixed nuts
- 500g icing sugar + 2 tablespoons for coating
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon for coating
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Using a stand mixer, combine half the sugar with the nuts, condensed milk, vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Check the consistency and add more sugar, in small batches, until the consistency is a thick paste which holds together.
- Combine the icing sugar and cocoa powder for the coating and place in bowl.
- Roll the mixture into balls then coat with the icing sugar/cocoa powder mix.
- Place the snow balls in petit-four cases.
- Chill in the fridge to harden.
Sorry that was such a long post, but I’m sure you wanted to know how to make all those yummy sweeties! Enjoy!