Lucy Baker was tired of showing up to dinner parties with a typical bottle of wine. “That’s what everyone does. I wanted to bring something different. I started making things like biscotti or homemade candy. A small token to say thank you,” says the self-taught cook, whose new book, “Edible DIY,” features 75 gift ideas ranging from margarita salt to flavored bourbons. And for those who haven’t spent too much time in the kitchen, Baker assures us that her recipes are “dead simple.”
“The holidays are really stressful and everybody needs some ways to cut corners, so there’s no shame in using store-bought caramels to melt down,” she says.
Here, she lets us into her crafty world.
Why DIY gifts?
“A homemade gift is always appreciated because its very personal and it shows that you really care, that you didn’t go out and just buy something in five minutes. You invested a lot of thought into it. I also think that they end up being really affordable. Most of the recipes in my book will make multiple gifts.”
Best ways to package gifts
“Old takeout containers can be great. You can dress them up with a strip of holiday paper, ribbon or some acorns, and that way you can recycle what you already have. Mason jars are another way to go.”
Popular this holiday season
“Any of the boozy recipes, like the apple cinnamon bourbon — bourbon is huge. If you want something basic, try the margarita salt. [It] takes five minutes to make and it’s cheap.”
Lucy Baker’s Gingersnap Balls
Makes about 30 balls
About 45 store-bought gingersnap cookies, such as Nabisco
1½ cups walnuts
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons maple syrup, honey, or corn syrup
? cup dark rum
1. Working in batches, put the gingersnaps in the work bowl of a food processor and process until they are finely ground. You should have about 3 cups of crumbs. Transfer 2 cups to a large bowl. Reserve the remaining 1 cup of crumbs. Put the walnuts in the food processor and process until they are finely ground. Add them to the bowl with the 2 cups of gingersnap crumbs. Add the confectioners’ sugar and ground ginger and stir until well combined. Stir in the maple syrup and rum. Transfer the mixture to the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.
2. Spread the remaining cup of gingersnap crumbs on a plate. Using a tablespoon, scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture and shape them into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the gingersnap crumbs. Transfer them to a wax paper-lined baking sheet and chill until they are set, about one hour. Store the balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.