For years my mother, my brother, and I baked frosted sugar cookies a week or two before Christmas. Ladd and I decorated them wildly when we were very young (purple reindeer, anyone? rainbow Santas?) and then more predictably as we grew older. Always, we were sprinkle fiends.
Then one year, our mother thought it would be a good idea to make Christmas ornaments using salt dough and glass candy.
We had never made glass candy, but those sticky, colorful shards of melted-sugar-and-corn-syrup were a staple at the bake sales of my childhood, where a nickel would buy you a chunk of candy the size of a domino. If you were careful, that piece could last you a full 10 minutes — unlike chocolate-chip cookies or brownies, which would be gone in a mere three bites.
So although we’d never made glass candy at home, I knew glass candy. And the glass candy I knew was candy to eat, unlike the glass candy Mom was talking about, which was candy to . . . hang on the tree. I didn’t get this at all. Nor did I get salt dough, which tasted nothing like sugar-cookie dough. As we set out on our project, I was dubious.
But in the end, the ornaments turned out to be a hit; it was fun to roll the dough and shape it into balloons, and we loved the way our ornaments caught the glow of the Christmas lights.
We kids weren’t supposed to lick our creations, but lick them we did, as they hung from the tree; the taste combination of salty and sweet, along with the scent of the needles, was not unpleasant. It lingers still.
The holidays are sweets days, and they are gift days. Here at Culinate, we’ve collected some of our favorite holiday recipes for the Sweet 16 blog — a compendium of 16 recipes, one of which we’ll publish each weekday during the first few weeks of December. Check out the blog each day, and enter to win both dessert-rich cookbooks and edible sweets.
Pull up a chair. Here’s the spot for dispatches from Editorial Director Kim Carlson and, occasionally, others on our staff.
Want more? Comb the archives.
A father’s legacy
The vegetarian-cooking pioneer
Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more
Good on everything