Before I go back to including foods other than sugar into my food pyramid I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the sweets that most say holidays (and later guilt and self loathing) to me.
1. Homemade caramels. My mother has been making these soft chewy luscious deligths since I was a little girl. Bite size caramel on top and crushed walnuts on the bottom individually wrapped in wax paper twists. Two words: labor intensive. The making of the caramel requires endless stirring and checking of the mixture because too long and you have a solid sheet of inedible sugar- unless you want to lick it (which I have done but with limited success). Then there is the cutting and wrapping. Each wax paper square must be the exact same size as the other and requires a complicated tuck, fold and twist to perfectly encapsulate the caramel. If this was your task there was no eating allowed and Mom would usually end up sitting with you to police the operation (mostly because my brother has no self control- unlike me). Although I put these first on my list they are sadly a thing of the past as she no longer makes them and none of her slacker children have taken up the tradition. Instead we just call her and whine about it.
BREAKING NEWS: Just picked up the mail and my dear sweet mother made me a box of caramels. 2011 is shaping up to be a banner year.
2. Almond Crescents. There are at least 30 names for these things but once again Mom prevails as I have never tasted any as good as hers. As far as I know the recipe is 2 pounds of butter, crushed almonds and powdered sugar. Melt in your mouth sugary rich goodness. This one I could master but again inertia rules so I shamelessly call my mother and mention the drek I recently ate that someone has tried to pass off as her cookies but she has yet to take the bait.
3. Peppermint Bark. There are plenty of store made brands out there but my sister-in-law makes this amazing recipe with chocolate graham crackers turned into a crunchy crust with caramel, chocolate chips melted on top and crushed peppermint candies on top of that. Then you can either break it up into pieces and serve it to guests or break it in half and eat it until you're queasy.
4. Frosted sugar cookies. The classic Christmas treat and, in this case, one that I actually make myself. And none of that Pillsbury roll out dough shit. From scratch cut into Santas, reindeer and bells. Decorated with yummy frosting that is nothing more than powdered sugar and milk and potentially carcinogenic food coloring. LOVE them and next year I will actually make them again.
5. Rice Pudding. A bit esoteric but if you have ever been to Lincoln restaurant in Portland you will know why it makes my list. It is a warm creamy bowl of happiness- often with a lovely surprise like dried cranberries and almonds stirred in. The only thing wrong with it is that it is not always on the menu. My rice-pudding-whore friend Michael has gone so far as to get the chef's husband's business card (he's the charming front of house) but rather then parlaying that into a guarantee of rice pudding the last time we were there he wussed out. Tragic. Still a dessert that reigns supreme in part due to its elusiveness.
So now you know my top 5 holiday sweets- what are yours?