Have a Happy DIY Holiday
If you’re like us, then you believe that the best gifts are homemade—and edible, too. With the right equipment, it’s easy to treat friends to freshly baked breads paired with made-from-scratch jams or to go the savory route by jarring your favorite pasta sauce or pickle recipes. All of the items in this week’s guide will help you put a DIY spin on the holiday season—plus, they make perfect gifts for anyone who loves to tackle these kinds of projects.
Once you have the gear, you’ll need the right recipes. Our books Bread Illustrated and Foolproof Preserving feature lots of recipes that are ideal for the gift-giving season. In Bread Illustrated, you’ll learn how to make all kinds of breads, including panettone, English muffins, monkey bread, and more. Foolproof Preserving, meanwhile, is the perfect complement, with 100 recipes for condiments such as jams, jellies, and chutneys.
Give the gift of homemade treats like jerky, fruit chips, and fruit leather with our winning dehydrator. Testers praised the quality of foods dried in this large sliding-tray machine, noting that they retained fresh flavor while also achieving the dry, pliable-to-crisp qualities we were after. Although it’s bulky (the size of a large microwave) and the most expensive machine in our lineup, it also held the most food and completed each task quickly. The spacious square trays fit long slices of beef jerky and round apple slices and slide easily into the unit. The lid lifts off to make it easy to check the progress of drying foods, and the timer allows for truly hands-off, walk-away dehydrating.
A canning pot is an essential tool for large-batch home canning, allowing you to make jams, jellies, preserves, and more. This large stainless-steel pot had comfortable, grippy handles and a clear lid that allowed users to effortlessly monitor the pot’s contents. Its lid had a knob with a built-in dial that supposedly reads when the water is boiling and thus ready for processing, but we found it unreliable. More important, both the pot and the rack are made from stainless steel and emerged from our testing looking almost brand-new.
This jar opener features a game-changing innovation: a spring-loaded hinge that pops the grabbers open when the handles are released. This made releasing jars a smooth, one-handed task by eliminating the need for the user to pry the grabbers back open. It had broad, molded handles that were more comfortable and secure than the classic rubber-coated rods. Its wide, plastic jar grips increased the contact between the lifter and the jar, giving it stronger, more confident hold. It also didn’t rust.
This thermometer, with an oven-safe probe, was the most accurate among those we tested, plus it had an intuitive design. It’s the only model we tested that can be calibrated; we also liked the programmable high- and low-temperature alarms, the adjustable brightness and volume, the on/off switch, and the small knob on the probe that stayed cool for over-the-pot adjustments. You can use this versatile tool for lots of different tasks, including making candy.
This pan, from the manufacturer of the original Bundt pan in 1950 (as well as our favorite full-size Bundt pan), exceeded expectations with its superior design and results. Its mini cakes had tall, defined ridges and an elegant stature, making them perfect edible gifts. The cakes’ gently filigreed edges browned nicely, and the pan’s handles made for easy (and safe) transfer in and out of the oven.
Heavyweight cast-aluminum construction and a silver nonstick finish combine to create a nicely risen, golden-brown Bundt cake that released perfectly. We appreciated the handles, which helped us flip the pan.
This cookie press produced well-defined cookies with ease, and it produced mostly uniform designs even when the dough was warmed to 75 degrees. A toggle that lets you switch from smaller to larger cookies sometimes got in the way; we accidentally knocked it from time to time, making our cookies suddenly change size. This machine’s many moving parts do require a small learning curve, but the payoff—visually appealing cookies with minimal fuss—and the press’s excellent durability are worth it.
This inexpensive, lightweight food mill proved the top choice of every cook who tried it. Despite a relatively small capacity, good spring force enabled it to puree foods quickly and efficiently while allowing just a few tomato and berry seeds to pass through. Its handles were comfortable, and it was easy to lift and crank (a narrow crossbar made it a tad tricky to take apart). Best of all, long, notched legs allowed the mill to feel comparatively stable while sitting high and secure above the food. With this tool in your kitchen, it's easy to make tomato sauce or applesauce that you can bottle up and give as gifts.
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