Teacher treats: Edible gifts teachers will love

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 10, 2008

By Maggie Blackwell
For The Salisbury Post
It’s Christmas. The pundits have finally decided we are in a recession, everything has gone up in price, and you really need to get teachers’ gifts. Every teacher you know is up to here in teacher mugs and Christmas decorations; they have sent out letters asking you not to get them any more.
Why not spend this Sunday afternoon with your child and bake goodies for his teacher? This affords lots of benefits: quality time with your child, lessons about the value of gifts from the heart, sneaked nibbles from the bowl. Sure beats tramping wild-eyed through the mall searching for something you can afford that the teacher will appreciate.
It’s a good idea to ask your teacher if he or she is diabetic or has other dietary concerns before making the gift. Cookies aren’t your only option; toasted pecans and cheese crisps are a real treat, too. It’s also a nice idea to include a 3-by-5 card with the recipe on it.
The Cheese Crisps get their crackle from a secret ingredient: Rice Krispies! One recipe makes 4 dozen crackers, enough for two teacher gifts.
There are lots of ways to serve up a homemade baked gift. You can put cookies in a jumbo Christmas mug from the dollar store. The dollar aisle at Target offers beautiful small Christmas boxes. The dollar store also offers cellophane treat bags.
Today’s recipes offer options for all budget levels. The Mini Meringues are extremely inexpensive, using only a couple of egg whites, a little sugar, and vanilla. You probably have all the ingredients for Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies, except maybe the whole wheat flour and cranberries. Chocolate Crisps are a quick and simple cookie, and who doesn’t love chocolate? Finally, there are recipes for toasted pecans ó plain or seasoned. Put them in a pretty jar and tie with a ribbon.
Mini Meringues
2 egg whites
1/2 C. superfine sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Line baking sheet with parchment. (I use a SilPat mat.)
In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Gradually beat in sugar until a little of the mixture between your thumb and forefinger feels smooth, not gritty. Stir in vanilla. Pipe or spoon small portions onto baking tray and bake 35 minutes, or until dry but not brown. Turn off oven and leave meringues to cool inside.
Makes 36 small cookies.
For a chocolate variation, you can also use 1/3 C. powdered sugar plus 2 Tbsp. cocoa instead of the 1/2 C. sugar.
Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) butter
2/3 C. packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 C. whole wheat flour
1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
2 C. chopped cranberries
3/4 C. chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Blend butter, both sugars and spices until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, sift flours, baking soda, and salt together.
(This is a great chore for your child. Be sure to put waxed paper on the counter so you can capture what he or she spills.)
Stir into butter mixture. Stir in the oats. Fold in nuts and cranberries. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheets, spaced at least 2 inches apart. These cookies spread.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges are crisp and the centers appear dry. Cool on wire racks and enjoy. Makes 24 large cookies.
Chocolate Thins
1/2 C. soft butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C. sugar
1 unbeaten egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 squares semisweet chocolate
3/4 C. sifted plain flour
Optional: nuts, butterscotch or chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and salt, add sugar. Add egg, blend in vanilla; add melted chocolate. Mix in flour and optional ingredients; stir until well-blended.
Drop level tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Dip a drinking glass in water, then sugar.
Stamp cookie dough lightly with bottom of drinking glass; continue to dip glass in sugar, stamp cookie, then dip glass in sugar again. The sugar keeps the cookie dough from sticking to the glass. Bake 12 minutes or until done.
Cheese Crisps
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, soft
1 pound cheddar cheese, shredded (I use extra-sharp)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 C. crispy rice cereal
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position 2 racks in the middle and lower thirds of the oven.
In a bowl, beat the butter and cheddar at medium speed until combined. Add the flour, cayenne, and salt and beat until a crumbly dough forms. Add the rice cereal and beat briefly to combine.
Form level tablespoons of the dough into balls; place on 4 large baking sheets. Using a fork, press a crosshatch pattern into the balls, pressing them into 2-inch rounds.
Bake the crisps 2 sheets at a time for about 25 minutes, until they are lightly browned; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking for even cooking.
Let cool completely.
The crisps can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
Makes 4 dozen crisps.
Toasted Pecans
Spray butter or melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans in a single layer on baking sheet. Spray or brush butter over tops. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes; watch closely.
If they get too dark, there’s no turning back.
When they are ready, a heady aroma fills the house.
Spiced Pecans
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Tabasco
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
2 1/2 C. pecan halves (10 ounces)
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Melt butter in a 2-quart saucepan over moderate heat, then stir in Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, pepper, and salt. Remove pan from heat and add pecans, tossing to coat well. Spread in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan and bake until fragrant and a shade darker, 8 to 10 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.