Never one for sweet things when I was a kid, I didn’t get all excited about cookies and cakes during the holidays. So my mom didn’t fuss to make them. Instead, spiced cakes and crumbly, buttery sweets were rolled out for company, for people with a palette more sophisticated than mine. I still can’t get excited about cakes, heavy, literally, with dried fruit. But I have evolved enough to appreciate my family’s delicate and quite unique coconut “rocks” (dense and drier than squares) and Sri Lankan aluwa. The recipes for those as well as for pretty palmiers, studded bark (stud at least some of your bark with salty corn chips—trust me) and more are within.
Though even now, I probably don’t start as early as some of you bakers when gearing up for the holidays, or bake nearly as much as you, I do have my reasons for creating a little stockpile of the sweet stuff. People are so impressed when you serve them homemade marshmallows! More than that, these little bites definitely have their place. They are for those rarest of days, when friends and family hang out in sweatshirts and socks and actually stay for a while, for a board game or just tea. You’d have to wave a magic wand to have that happen at most other times of the year, and you don’t slave over a frying pan or pass around anything requiring a napkin on those afternoons. Even I want make sure I have boxes of sweet, scented and spiced snacks for everyone to enjoy while I beat them at Settlers of Catan.
Some of these recipes are not mine, they were generously donated and slightly adapted during testing. So special thanks to my mom, aunt—and to their moms and aunts—for those treats and the tradition of making them at this time of year, and for so many years. Happy most wonderful time of the year to you all.