Sunday, 20 February 2011

Valentine's Gifts

It has been so nice to have a weekend that has been relaxing! I bought two books this afternoon and I intend to curl up in the reading nook and get stuck into one of them this evening whilst Matt is out playing a gig tonight.

Last weekend, however, was another story. It's a tradition in my house to always make some sort of treat when it's an occasion, and Valentine's is no exception. This year Matthew cooked a delicious 3 course meal and as he was in charge of the food, I didn't have to worry about it and could focus all my energy on treats for the office - and boy did it need energy.

My first attempt was a pathetic failure. My idea of making pink marshmallow rice krispie cakes seemed so simple! But the marshmallow mixture was such a sticky mess that I could not cut them into a heart shape (as I desperately wished). So on to attempt number 2: chocolate rice krispie cakes. These wouldn't be sticky, right? And I'd seen so many tutorials online about how easy it was to cut them out with a cookie cutter - surely they wouldn't lie to me?


Once hardened, the cakes just broke apart. Far too delicate for me to give as gifts and I wasn't risking them crumbling over everyone in the office. I tried it many different ways - cutting them out (broke apart) packing them into cookie cutters and then pushing them out (broke apart) and pushing them out of the cutter at the perfect temperature (worked! yippee!! - but blatantly not spending all that time and effort ensuring the perfect temperature for over 40 cakes).

This is the only heart I managed to create. The heart in the cutter broke. Bummer.

So I had to get my thinking cap on. By the time I'd completed my two disasters it was Saturday evening and I had to think of something that I knew would work - something I was confident making. But cakes and biscuits were out of the question. Since going gluten-free, I haven't yet perfected baking where I'd be happy to give the end result to other people. I'm still learning, and I wanted to be able to hand out a little treat that I knew they'd enjoy. Especially as the Christmas Puddini Bonbons went down so well at Christmas.. I needed to keep me reputation up high!

And finally, it hit me. The chocolate florentines! I'd been making these almost every week and could easily whip up some more. Not only are they really cheap to make and naturally gluten free (which is by all means a good thing when giving food to people who aren't coeliac) but they easily cut into heart shapes! (I knew this as I had a batch in my fridge at the time and tested it out - perfect.)

I set to work making the florentines and added a couple of drops of red food coloring to the mixture to get a pinkish tone. Popped them in the oven, the freezer to let them cool down a bit, and started to cut them out. I made two batches in total - enough to make just over 20 large and 20 small hearts.

They were so cute.

But the task wasn't over. I couldn't just take them in in a tin. Oh no - I needed to take them in in a wicker basket, all wrapped up with ribbon. So I spent Sunday evening on the floor surrounded by cellophane and pink ribbon. But it was worth it.

Aren't they adorable? And the basket was almost as exciting as the finished treats themselves! I spray painted this bad boy a couple of weeks ago and it was so perfect for this occasion. I'm thinking of buying a few more to decorate, as they only cost £4 and make all the difference when it comes to presenting gifts.

Everyone at work loved them. Some asked for more (always nice to hear!) and other's took them home to their girlfriends as an extra present (though how they'd pass them off as their own is beyond me, as we obviously don't have a cooker in the office).

But it was great to be able to put a smile on their faces. That's why I do it - sure I like making things, but I like to see the happiness it can bring when others realise that there are people in the world who like doing nice things.

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