Christmas and treats (mostly, but not always, candy) have been inexorably linked ever since my childhood. My parents had certain foods that became "Christmas treats" in my childhood (some of which, such as tangerines and cashew nuts, seem quite common today but must have been less so when my parents were younger); likewise, there are foods that I have come to regard as Christmas treats. No holiday season is complete without these twelve treats:
12 - Brach's Chocolate Covered Peanuts: It's gotta be Brach's. Their chocolate has a dash more salt than most anyone else's, and it's the brand I grew up with.
11 - German Chocolate Cake: My grandmother used to make a remarkable German chocolate cake every Christmas season. That was about the only time I ever got German chocolate cake, so it became a holiday treat from the first time that I tasted it as a child.
10 - Comice Pears: an especially rich, sweet pear with great "mouth feel," the red comice is the Christmas fruit.
9 - Brach's Chocolate Stars: As is the case with the Brach's chocolate covered peanuts, it's gotta be Brach's. I used to get these at Ingle's but they have gone with another brand recently (Zachary's, perhaps?), and both the taste and texture are a bit different.
8 - Cocoa Fudge: I never had creamy fudge as a child. For me, fudge has to be deep, dark, slightly grainy cocoa fudge.
7 - Coconut Cake: Sure, I love coconut cake any time of the year--but it's just not Christmas without at least a piece of coconut cake!
6 - Peanut Butter Fudge: Again, this needs to have a bit of graininess to it--you need to get distinct notes and textures of both the sugar and the peanut butter. Ideally, this should be eaten in an alternating pattern with the cocoa fudge mentioned above.
5 - Planter's Mixed Nuts (without peanuts): These canisters of nuts used to have more pecans in them, but Planter's began cheaping 'em out many years ago. I sometimes add some extra Planters roasted salted pecans to the canister myself, just to get closer to that original mix. I enjoy them so much that I even eat the Brazil nuts (a nut I'd never buy on its own).
4 - Dark Chocolate Covered Cherries: Rich dark chocolate outside, thick liquid cordial center with a crisp, firm cherry inside. These are to be rationed, no more than two a day.
3 - Chocolate Meringue Cookies: I'd never had these before Chris and Markay Appel gave them to me as a Christmas gift years go, and I fell in love with them immediately. Rich cocoa taste, light meringue texture, crisp and crumbly... Again, these are to be rationed, no more than two a day.
2 - Egg Nog Bread: My dear friend Ryan Schwanke first gave this to me several years ago, and now it's one of those treats I eagerly anticipate. It's not a heavy taste--rich and subtle at the same time--but the flavors come out a bit more when it's warmed in the oven.
1 - Whitman's Sampler: I've talked about these boxed candies before, but they still remain the most vital of all Christmas treats. I've gotten at least one of these every Christmas since I was a kid (some all mine, some for the family when I was a kid, and some for Susan and me once we were married). I can't imagine a Christmas without them.