Fashionably Baked – or How to Avoid Holiday Sweets

It started out like one of those days that are similar to a good dream. One of those days that you actually got a good night’s sleep and woke up just knowing something good was about to happen. How cruelly deceptive reality can be. First thing, I packed up the long begged-for Norwegian Wreath cookies that my good friend, who can’t understand why it has to be the Holiday Season for them to get baked. I glibly reply that I am not only zero percent Norwegian but that they didn’t ask me, not even politely, when making the Norwegian Cookie rules. That happy little chore done, I decided to dive in with full culinary aplomb and mix up a chocolate and a vanilla cookie dough for chilling and future baking. Since I attract punishment like a heat-seeking missile (or a homeowner who thinks they can do anything in ONE trip to the hardware store), I decided to make a batch of peanut brittle. I have made peanut brittle over the years and seem to remember it as incredibly easy and amazing to make, kind of like those 5th grade science class volcanoes. The batch of brittle worked like the good fairy had just sprinkled holiday pixie dust on it. I handily boiled, stirred, mixed and poured out sugar then cracked the candy into bite sized pieces, patting myself on my culinary back; Iron Chef, look out!  I was so pleased with my ability that when my darling love came home and declared that we (the plural state was totally figurative, trust me, and is strictly limited to his buying of ingredients) should make a second batch to give as gifts and he would run right down and get me another can of peanuts, I must have taken leave of my senses because I agreed. 
You know how it is when you have this little (tiny) voice way down inside that is past smothering with years of lost memories? One of those minute voices made a plaintive call but I didn’t hear it among the mixing and boiling of more sugar, syrup and peanuts. Oh, it all boiled so nicely and the magic moment when the baking soda is added, the pot of sugar puffed so beautifully that I beamed with pride. I re-buttered the granite counter and declared how I had dreamed of making peanut brittle the minute I laid eyes on that island counter.  So easy to just pour on the cool surface and break it into small chunks.

After I poured the molten caramelized mass teaming with peanuts on the counter, I ran up to check my email and let the candy land cool down for easier handling. So it came as a surprise when after 10 minutes I ran down to break the delectable treat into waiting tins that I found it firmly attached to my counter. I stared incredulously at it. Surely I was just doing it wrong. So I employed a knife, a big sharp butcher’s knife to convince the defiant granite to give up the candy and let me have it. Nothing but a nice even layer of solid peanut rock staring back at me and a few grains of caramelized sugar dust. This just cannot be. I frantically chopped, hacked, even hammered, to no avail. I got the hair dryer and tried heating the edges on high. This had the effect of blowing the sugar dust like they flock Christmas Trees and making it airborne, finely coating every surface in the kitchen. Finally like a reformed cigarette smoker who destroys his house in attempt to find some hidden nicotine stash, I spatulaed the sticky mass to smithereens. The only way it was coming off was in the consistency of powdered sugar with occasional shards of sugar glass flying across the room only to immediately smash into 20 pieces upon coming in contact with either floor, ceiling or wall. I was beyond worrying about giving fashionably hand made gifts. I wanted revenge. So when the last crumb was pulverized into submission and scooped into a waiting pot, I, finally took a breath. I was covered in sugar. I couldn’t walk well for the glass like shards of brittle stuck into the soles of my feet. My hair gave a whole new meaning to spun sugar. And in case you are wondering, no you cannot reheat powdered peanut brittle, it immediately burns and catches fire with amazing speed, requiring lots of loud clashing of pot lids to keep the smoke detectors from adding to the chaos.
It was while I was sweeping the glass like sugar from the rooms (sugar flies with amazing precision to all corners of the house), and mopping up the even layer of stickiness from the grouted tile floors (who ever thought that was a good idea, I want to chop his fingers off) that  voice that was ever so quite tapped me on the shoulder and said loud and clear: The counter has to be cold or the sugar will stick. Thanks a lot, a little to late to be of any use.

Like Kevin from Home Alone, somehow the house got cleaned up, the counters wiped, the cookbook shaken out and wiped down. Every drawer handle that was dusted with powdered peanuts was sponged off. My feet, hoisted up to the sink, were scrubbed until my calf cramped from raising my leg to the height of a Rockette and leaving it there for five minutes. I had to do it, or when everyone came home they would contribute to the melee by tracking the sugar to the farthest reaches of our personal universe. I am sure we will have ants next spring to help with that.
This Holiday Season, I don’t think I will have a problem avoiding all the sugary treats. I don’t actually care if I see another piece of candy or anything made of sugar for that matter. And tonight, I will be having a drink to steady my nerves, something light and not too sweet, thank you!


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