National Lampoons Christmas Baking

Every Thanksgiving, my mom asks everyone what their favorite pie is and makes them that pie for Thanksgiving dinner. Then come Thanksgiving morning, she wakes up early and bakes them all for us! Forget the turkey- I am alway giddy to walk in and see a dozen pies lined up along the counter with a mountain-sized bowl of rest whipped cream by them. "My" pie will always be the sole cherry pie sitting along side the pumpkins, pecans and applies with tiny hearts cut out of the top sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.

At Christmas, she does the same with Christmas candies. Someone will always ask for peppermint bark, peanut butter fudge or toffee, but my standard request is homemade caramels. They are super chewy and so delicious. Thankfully, it takes so long to eat each one or I could consume the entire tray.

When West Elm asked me to create my favorite Christmas recipe, I gulped at the thought of taking on this task myself. Could I do it? Making caramels seemed like some magic skill that only my mom knew how to do... but I scoured Pinterest and found a simple recipe that indicated that maybe others knew how to make them, too.

I'll be honest: I am not good at baking or making sweets. Something about the process is too exact for me, and I just ALWAYS miss the mark by enough to make the result... meh. Even at thirty, I lack the confidence to crank out desserts. Pathetic, I know.


So was the case when attempting my caramels. I wanted to have a day in the kitchen with Viola where we could have some Christmas fun together. All went well, until she started making a mess of everything and stressing me out. And then started to burn a bit in the last (!!) step. I got nervous and pulled them off the stove before they hit the mandatory "248 F." I poured the boiling  into the pan, did the rest of the steps as if the process hadn't gone awry. I was so annoyed by the loss of time, amount of mess, and how many times I had snapped at the toddler standing at my feet in the process. I was doing my best Clark Griswald in the midst of high holiday hopes meeting terrible failure. Not even the jam of the month could redeem the moment.... but, perhaps cinnamon rolls could.

Never one to settle for total failure, I then set out to make a huge batch of Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls, a recipe that is has become a Christmas morning staple in my family over recent years. I've made them before with good success, so perhaps got a little too confident with myself. I cut half the batch way too thin and when baked, they tasted so weird. The good news is: the other half was perfect. Big buns for the win, and the icing laced with coffee & maple doesn't hurt either. Viola wakes up and says "Rolls!?" each morning since, and I have to agree. 

Whatever happened to the caramels? They have been sitting negectled in my fridge ever since. I wasn't sure what to do with them- they took so much work that I hated to toss them... but I didn't want to eat them either. 

Last night, Viola was begging for a "cookie!" as she does approximately forty-seven times a day. After eating all of her dinner, I searched for something small to buy her off. I looked at the caramels in the fridge and figured a one-year old may be the least discerning palette that I could pawn them off on. She ate it and clapped. I laughed. She begged for more, and I had to break her heart by telling her no, but as I filled up my glass of water later that night... I decided to try one of the caramels. And to my surprise- they were actually kinda good. Nope. They weren't moms, but they were respectable. I could totally put them out for guests and feel okay about it. It was a Christmas miracle.

I guess the good news here is: My daughter loved what I made and loved getting to "cook!" with me... so I'm chalking that up to a win. (And I'm also heading out for the airport so that my mom can show me what Christmas baking is all about.)



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