“Saltines seem like an unlikely ingredient for toffee, but they work remarkably well.” The perfect recipe for holiday gift giving can be almost anything, as long as it comes from your kitchen – and from the heart. A favorite family recipe is a good place to start. A jar of jam or chutney canned when the fruits were at their peak is always welcome. A simple sugar cookie can look elegant with a dusting of sprinkles, especially if it’s tied up in a small bag with a pretty ribbon. The treats don’t have to be expertly decorated. If you can wield a pastry bag like a pro, that’s perfect. But giving a child a zip-top sandwich bag full of frosting with a snipped corner works just as well. Let them have fun shaking seasonal nonpareils onto the cookies; they’re easy to clean up. Include the recipe on the gift tag if you like, or at the very least, add a note about how your treat should be stored and when it’s best enjoyed. Here are some recipes to help you get started, including a White Chocolate Cranberry Scone from Luna pastry chef Nicholas St. Clair, and a wonderful Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie recipe from Eva Roberts at Just American Desserts
For the toffee: Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 250 degrees. Line the bottom of a 13-by-9 inch baking dish with waxed paper and spray the paper with vegetable oil spray. Arrange the crackers in a single layer, salt side down on the waxed paper. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and peanuts in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power until the sugar melts, about 2 minutes. Stir and microwave until the mixtures begins to boil, about 2 more minutes. Stir in the butter and vanilla until the butter melts. Microwave until the liquid begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the baking powder. Working quickly, pour the sugar mixture over the saltines and spread evenly. (If the mixture hardens too quickly to spread, place the baking dish in a preheated 250 degree oven for 5 minutes). Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Invert the brittle onto a cutting board, peel away the waxed paper, and, using your hands, break the brittle into large pieces. Return the pieces, toffee side up, to the baking dish. For the topping: Melt the chocolate chips and butter in a saucepan over low heat until smooth, about 5 minutes. Stir in the corn syrup and, using a spoon, drizzle the mixture over the brittle. Let harden for 1 hour. (The brittle can be stored in an airtight contain at room temperature for up to 4 days.