Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The decadence of Christmas and holiday sweets (or rather "Oh my, how sweet thy tooth has become.")

Having grown up in a home with a mother that was a fabulous cook par excellence and partaken of my share (and more) of cookies, pound cake, fruit cake, red velvet cake, black walnut cake, apple pie, yellow layer cake with fudge icing (6 layers, no less), and then breaking out a traditional Better Homes and Garden red checkered cookbook of my own upon my marriage in 1957, I've tasted the sweet side of life in a glorious way.

As the years of my own marriage grew longer and the number of feet pitter pattering around the house grew greater, I established my own traditions of sweet cooking to satisfy the sweet tooth that we all have and that needs tender care during the Christmas season.  I made many, many (hundreds - thousands?) of pressed cookies and packaged them for gifts to kith and kin, to neighbor and friend, and to teacher and preacher. Chocolate, sprinkled, lemon, butter. All of them.

I made pound cake - lemon, cream cheese, chocolate, maple - and I made them large and I made them small. I made layer cakes with pineapple custard "icing" or filling and layer cakes with fudge icing. I made coconut layer cakes and chocolate chiffon cakes. I made chocolate layer cake with peanut butter fondue icing. Oh I made some cakes.

And don't forget the pies - fruit, custard, chocolate, no crust, flaky crust, sweet potato, and even cushaw (just look that one up).

And this was all done with flour, sugar, milk, eggs, butter, shortening, spices, cocoa, chocolate, lemons, etc. That was and is called "scratch" cooking.  I really don't know where that particular name for cooking homemade goodies originated unless it was because sometimes the lady of the house just had to scratch around a bit to see what could be thrown together to make a dish or make a meal.

But let's talk about "Oh my, how sweet thy tooth has become." What do I mean by that?  Well all you have to do is scroll through Facebook, Pinterest, a magazine, or online cooking sites and you'll see. Sweet has become sweeter. Sweeter has become sweetest. And Sweetest has become indulgently, disastrously dangerously, despicably a free ticket on the fast track of a heart attack or some other terrible fate.

Have you seen the pictures and recipes for such creations as:
  • Sugar cookie bark - sugar cookies with a thick layer of white chocolate imbibed with M&Ms (or other chocolates), and sugar sprinkles
  • A bowl of chunks of cake layered with whipped topping and pudding plus nuts and chocolate chips and maybe even a hot caramel or fudge sauce
  • "Cookie bars" made with ready-made, refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough patted in a pan, topped with lots of pecans, then topped with a chocolate egg custard and baked. Definitely an ooey, gooey, decadent, delicious artery clogger.
  • Or how about layering cookies, whipped cream, and hot fudge sauce (two layers at least) and top with nuts, sprinkles, or whatever fancies you.
The idea is to take ready prepared (refrigerated, mixes, etc.) and combine with other high fat, high sugar, sweet products to create beautiful and decadent desserts. But the bottom line is really two-fold. 
  1. Using multiple pre-made products to create a unique or different dessert to serve one's family and friends simply sells more products at the grocery stores. Do you really need to make a pan of some decadent goodie using cookies, pudding, cake, and candies? Really?
  2. Creating products from multiple products increases your intake of fat, sugar, and other unknown ingredients tremendously. Whereas if you create a luscious dessert from ingredients found in most homes (at least in past years), you can imbibe in sweets without totally catching a ride on the fast track to disaster.
All this being said, I don't  always cook from "scratch" these days. I do use refrigerated cookie dough to make cookies. I make use of brownie mix and cake mix to make life a bit easier for me. But really now, do we really need all those sweeter than sweet sweets that use all those extra ingredients? Why put candy on top of candy?

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