Crafts: Cooking And Gifting In Unusual Containers

Mason jars, coffee cans and flower pots are but a few of the containers that have inspired wonderful baked gifts from my kitchen. Learn how to use them for your own favorite recipes.

Who says you can't put old wine in new wine skins? With a little ingenuity, you can create novelty gifts from your kitchen by preparing old standards in new and unusual containers. In most instances, the containers in which the gifts were baked, jelled or cooked become the gift package itself!

For example, some quick breads, such as date nut bread or pumpkin bread cook up deliciously in pint-sized wide-mouth Mason jars. Prepare your favorite recipe. Then lightly spray the interior of the cleaned, dry jars, sides and bottoms, with a baking spray, then fill to about four-fifths of the capacity of each jar. A recipe using about one-and-a-half cups of flour will make five or six pints of bread. Bake at a temperature 25 degrees more than when using metal pans. When toothpick inserted comes out clean, breads are done, probably about half the time as a usual loaf pan would take.

Remove from oven and cool on racks. If batter has expanded beyond the level of the rims, cut off excess. Top with clean canning lids which have been set in boiling water for several minutes, then add screw-on top. Later, cut circles out of checked or other gingham fabric, place on top of lids, and tie around jar neck with yarn, ribbon or colored raffia.

Jam in a Mug

Buy a set of six coffee mugs as a gift for a friend with a sweet tooth. Prepare a batch of strawberry or other jam using frozen fruit and following the directions on package of fruit pectin. Instead of using jelly glasses or mason jars for your batch of jam, pour prepared confection into readied, clean mugs. Melt paraffin wax according to directions and pour over the top of the jam to prevent bacteria from forming. When all is cool, top each mug with matching circle of fabric and ties of yarn or ribbon.

Flower Pot Cake

Follow directions for brandy or rum cake cake, or a simple yellow box or scratch cake using 2 cups of flour. Obtain a new, clean, 5" or 6" clay flower plot. Wash and dry. Cut a double-thick circle of foil for bottom of pot, then line sides of pot with single layer of foil, pressing against sides firmly. Spray with baking spray and dust all lightly with flour before adding cake batter. Bake 40-45 minutes or until cake touched lightly springs back. Cool in pot ten minutes, then turn out onto rack widest side down and cool thoroughly. Meanwhile, wash out pot. When pot is dry, again line the bottom with a double thickness of foil cut to fit.

When cake is cool, return to pot, drizzle with rum or brandy syrup according to directions in recipe, or if you have used a plain yellow cake, cook a simple syrup adding ΒΌ c. brandy or rum during the last five minutes of preparation. When syrup is cool, puncture cake all over the widest surface and brush on syrup. When dry, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, cover lightly with wide circle of cellophane wrap (florist's cellophane works well, but don't use plastic kitchen wrap, as it will be too air tight and melt the sugar topping) tied with glittery ribbon, with a stem or two of silk flowers inserted in the knot. Present as gift within 2 days.

English Muffins in a Coffee Can

Prepare batter for your favorite English muffin recipe. If you haven't tried baking these from scratch before, don't be intimidated""they're quite easy, and foolproof. Ask Mr. Thomas! The recipe from James Beard on Bread is adaptable to this plan. Use recycled coffee cans as baking pans""a perfect size, since when the muffins are sliced later they'll be just right for popping into toaster or grilling on the griddle as commercial ones are. Be sure rims of cans are snag free and oil or butter carefully.

After muffins have baked thoroughly according to recipe directions, remove from cans and cool thoroughly, then return to washed and dried cans, wrap all in colorful foil wrap and tie with raffia ties. This goes well with an accompanying pound can of real coffee, your friend's favorite, whether flavored, French roast or decaf""the perfect matching gift!

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