Lidia Bastianich and her daughter, Tanya Manuali, have come out with their eighth cookbook, “Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian.”
Serving Mom breakfast in bed is a time-honored tradition on Mother’s Day. But let’s be honest — it can be messy, not to mention something of a challenge for her to balance a tray on her lap and look happy about it.
Still, food is one of the best ways to celebrate this special day, especially when the gifts are made with your own hands.
These edible tokens of love don’t have to be especially fancy or use expensive ingredients to impress. In fact, easier is often better when it comes to recipes that young hands or non-cooks will want to try their hands at whipping up.
For instance, did you know it was possible to make buttery salted caramels in the microwave with just a handful of pantry ingredients? Or that chocolate-covered cherries are almost as easy to make as homemade play dough?
Homemade lollipops are a snap, too, and when embedded with edible flowers and colored in pastel hues, make a stunning visual treat.
Every time Mom takes a nibble of lick or one of these heartfelt gifts, she’ll remember how much you love her.
Gretchen McKay: email@example.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.
Edible Flower Lollipops
You can find edible flower in the produce section of most larger grocery stores. The one I bought were so large, I ended up breaking them into pedals.
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
2/3 cup water
Couple of drops of orange flavoring
Food color for coloring, optional
10 organic whole voila flower heads or pansy petals, washed and patted dry
10 lollipop sticks
If you are using a lollipop mold (recommended), lightly grease it with cooking spray. If you are not using a mold, pour 2 cups of powdered sugar into a baking pan with a lip. Create indentations with the bottom of a glass or other flat-bottomed object. Set aside.
Stir together sugar, corn syrup and water in a small saucepan and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
Bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Continue to heat without stirring until the bubbling mixture reaches the hard-crack stage (302 degrees). Remove pan from heat.
Stir in flavoring and a small amount of food coloring, if using. Be extra careful because the mixture will bubble and sputter with these additions.
When the mixture has stopped bubbling, drop it into molds by the spoonfuls (or powdered sugar indentations) using a metal spoon.
Carefully place a viola flower head or petal face down on the hot candy. Use the end of a lollipop stick to slightly press it into the candy.
Quickly pour just enough hot candy over the flower head or petal to cover the backside, encasing it completely in the candy.
Place a lollipop stick in the candy and turn half way. Allow candy to harden, then remove from molds.
If using powdered sugar to mold, you may choose to rinse off the excess sugar under a thin stream of warm water. Either way, the flower will become more visible once the lollipop is being enjoyed.
Makes 10 lollipops.
— “SprinkleBakes: Desserts to Inspire Your Inner Artist” by Heather Baird (Sterling Epicure; May 2012)
Homemade Caramels. (Gretchen McKay/Post-Gazette)
These are buttery, chewy and irresistible. Wrap caramels in waxed paper to keep them from sticking.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Maldon sea salt or fleur de sel, optional
Butter an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Place butter in a large ceramic or glass bowl, heat in microwave until melted.
Add corn syrup, granulated sugar, brown sugar, condensed milk and salt, and whisk mixture very well. Return to microwave and cook mixture on high power for 6 to 7 minutes, or until caramel registers between 238 and 242 degrees on a candy thermometer. (If it needs a little more time, return to microwave and heat in 20 second increments.)
Using hot pads, carefully remove bowl from microwave.
Add vanilla extract and mix well. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
Sprinkle top lightly with Maldon sea salt or fleur de sel. Place in refrigerator until set, about 20 to 30 minutes. Cut into rectangular pieces and wrap in cut rectangles of wax paper.
Makes about 40 caramels.
— Adapted from food.com
Microwave Chocolate-Covered Cherries. (Gretchen McKay/Post-Gazette)
These are so fun for kids to make, and deliciously creamy.
10-ounce jar maraschino cherries with stems, drained, with juice reserved
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar, divided
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
12 ounces milk or dark melting chocolate
Place drained cherries on a paper towel to absorb any additional liquid.
In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup powdered sugar, butter, ¼ cup cherry juice and almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer until combined.
Add 2 more cups powdered sugar and beat until the mixture forms a soft dough. It should be slightly sticky and the consistency of thick frosting. If needed, add remaining powdered sugar ¼ cup at a time until dough reaches desired consistency. Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes.
Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Flatten dough balls between the palms of your hands, dusting your hands with powdered sugar if necessary. Place a cherry in the center of the dough round, then fold the dough up and over the cherry to completely cover it, leaving the stem exposed. Refrigerate the covered cherries for 20 minutes.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler, or in the microwave at 50 percent. Holding a cherry by the stem, dip it in the melted chocolate and allow the excess to drip off.
Place chocolate-covered cherry on a baking sheet covered with waxed paper. Repeat with the remaining cherries. Allow chocolate to set completely.
Store cherries in an airtight container at room temperature.
Makes 18 to 20 cherries.