Do you find yourself in a bind for an emergency hostess gift? The last few years I was rarely in that situation thanks to diligent canning and preserving. Last year, I made a conscious decision to slow down my jam-making activities to reduce backlog in my larder. As a result, I don’t have many ready-made hostess gift anymore. On the other hand, my friends let out a collective sigh of relief. Finally, no more jam!
Last week I needed to come up with a quick hostess gift while juggling a few other baking projects at the same time. I wanted something easy to make, keeps well, travels well, and can be slowly savoured over weeks. I made sesame candies not too long ago and they certainly fit all the criteria. The only problem was that I was not 100% happy with the result last time.
There is a time and place for rustic broken pieces of sesame brittle but I much prefer a sleeker look for hostess gift. My last batch of sesame candies was painstakingly divided into individual pieces but the recipe really worked better as shards of brittle. This time, I tried the recipe from The Liddabit Sweets Cookbook which is intended to be cut into small bite size pieces.
The main differences between the two recipes are cooking temperature and use of baking soda. I like that Gutman and King’s recipe describes the range of temperature to achieve different texture from slightly chewy sticky to true hard candy. Without baking soda to leaven the cooked syrup, the final texture is entirely controlled by how far I take the cooking process.
The molten sesame syrup filled my 9x9” pan to about 1/2” tall, just the right height once I scored the candy into 81 1” pieces with a bench scraper. I cut the candies with a chef knife before they completely hardened. Totally love the resulting bevelled pillow shape! From start to finish, the candies were made within an hour including clean up. Almost instant gratification!
Of course it is not enough for the content to look good. As hostess gift, the packaging must also be spectacular. I opted for an easy but effective presentation. At my local Japanese housewares store, they sell 5” square faux lacquer boxes for merely $5 each. The boxes are sturdy, reusable, and make stunning serving pieces all on their own. I picked up a furoshiki at the same time, a beautiful one at that! The double-sided pale green and pink fabric was elegant. The colour made me think of cherry blossoms against a background of green lawn. I wanted to showcase both sides of the fabric. Instead of tying it neatly in a knot, I gathered the loose corners and tied it with a matching pink satin ribbon. The folds resembled a flower in bloom. Best of all, both the box and furoshiki are reusable!