For a step-by-step guide to making homemade chocolate shards, click here.
Around the holidays every year, I find myself looking for packages with West Virginia stamps, for I know the treasures they will hold: a blue ball jar with a zinc top full of pfeffernusse--the hard spicy cookies that are meant to be dunked in strong coffee--an Appalachian biscotti, or a bottle of dandelion wine, tasting curiously like a French sauterne, or a brick of cheese made of milk from local cows, aged in a cool cellar.
Aside from the simple deliciousness of these homemade gifts, they represent the time and effort of my generous friends on my behalf, all the more precious to me because I know how busy they are. These gifts are unique, one of a kind, fleeting--refreshing in an age of glossy, mass-produced things. I love getting them.
So a homemade gifts are what I often give to friends who seem to have everything, or to bring as a house gift or token. My motives in giving these homemade gifts are not entirely altruistic. Making my own allows me to avoid holiday shopping mania, to give gifts that have meaning and connection, an antidote to "bought" treasures that my friends have too much of. Protective of my time, I give food gifts that are simple to make, and that I like to eat myself.