I had a plan for Christmas. It involved boxes of cookies and treats, delivered to neighbors and shipped off to friends. The family room walls, recently painted, would no longer be bare. The pets would all have their own stockings, filled with treats, and their stockings would match. In short, I would create a very photogenic Christmas.
We did get the bare minimum done: a tree was acquired from the one tree stand I could find that would tie the tree to the top of my car for me. It took about a week to decorate the tree, which was mostly The Child’s doing, although I can take credit for festooning it with lights, not once but twice, and in the process, learning a Christmas lesson about plugging strings of lights in before putting them on the tree. The Child set up the Christmas Village, which looked festive even after the cat Godzillaed through it, sending miniature trees and New England skaters to their near-deaths on the family room carpet; thankfully, New Englanders are a hardy bunch. I finally replaced the photo frame stocking hangers I bought with The Departed for our first Christmas together, with a vow to update the photos each year as the kids got older, but somehow never did.
The Child rescued the photos of now-departed pets from them as I set out new stocking holders that spell out PEACE: a timeless message, one that requires no annual update.
I never quite got to the matching pet Christmas stockings and boxes of treats. I did binge-listen to the Serial podcast and make possibly the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever made, so it was holiday time spent well, if slightly less than traditionally.
For Christmas Day itself, I planned carefully, getting everything ready and wrapped beforehand. I’d get up before The Child and bake a New England Spider Cake, the scent of which would rouse her from her bed; we’d open gifts together by the twinkle of the tree.
I did get up before her; the Red Dog woke me up several times during the night. Christmas began with a nice hot cup of coffee waiting patiently on the counter while I discovered why he was so agitated all night. The noise of the carpet cleaner roused The Child. We did open gifts to a twinkling tree, but Christmas breakfast consisted of bacon and eggs. Neither of us had the patience or energy to make – and wait for – Spider Cake.
Nobody was disappointed.
There were treats around anyway, of course. The Child arranged some Sour Gummy Stars for my stocking, and Santa made sure her favorite chocolates found their way into her stocking. And a few days before Christmas, I made fudge. I think I meant to put it into gift boxes.
I’ve never made fudge of any sort before, and to be honest, I’ve never really been a fan, having been subjected too often to fudge that tastes of gritty chocolate or is overly sweet or comes in pieces that are much too large, like those big slabs you order by the quarter-pound on some stores. But I ran across this recipe a while ago on Bon Appetit and saved it, because it struck me that a bit of buttermilk tang might be the antidote to the ills of inferior fudge.
It was, and then some. The recipe produced a delicious, slightly tart, delightfully nutty fudge. I used a pan a bit larger than the one called for in the recipe, which produced a thinner fudge that I cut into approximate one-inch squares – a perfect little sweet treat. Just a bite, or maybe two, because that’s all you need when you’re perfectly satisfied.
- 1 cup pecans
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 tbsp honey
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9x9” pan with parchment paper.
- Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, until fragrant and slightly darkened in color, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
- Heat sugar, buttermilk, butter, honey, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until butter and sugar are melted, about 3 minutes. Fit saucepan with thermometer, bring mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thermometer registers 238° (mixture will be pale golden), 6–8 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until cool and thickened, 8-10 minutes. It will be stiff and matte. Fold in the pecans.
- Scrape fudge into the prepared pan and smooth it. Let sit at least an hour, then cut into one-inch squares.