This year, decorate your holiday table with traditional confections that tell a story. These vintage treats–provided by ten North Shore chefs, bakers, and confectioners–are sure to bring back fond memories of sweets just like Mom (or your favorite bakery) used to make. Get the punch bowl down from the attic, break out your holiday oven mitts, and bake your way back to the good old days–or let these confectionery experts do it for you.
If you’re with Charlie Brown in thinking you’ve lost the true meaning of the holiday season, try mixing some nostalgia back into your holiday menu. Begin by whipping up a classic frothy egg nog (because you’ll need to wet your whistle while you bake), like the “Knobby Nog” from Corey Bieber of The Tap Brewpub Restaurant in Haverhill. Since egg nog goes back to the 17th century, you’re well on your way to an old-fashioned holiday. For Cathy Moulton of 17 State Street Cafe in Newburyport, “Christmas time evokes memories of my grandmother’s Snickerdoodle cookies—sweet with the warmth of cinnamon.” For the LaCascia Bakery family in Burlington, it’s all about chewy almond macaroons. “The Italian almond macaroon dates back to the 1700s,” Renee LaCascia says, adding, “It’s one of our top-selling cookies for Christmas.” If you’re looking for a crunchy confection, Dan Tuck of family-owned Tuck’s Candy Factory in Rockport has the perfect recipe for old-fashioned peanut brittle. By baking and assembling unique gingerbread houses, Jeanne Topham of I Dream of Jeanne Cakes continues a holiday dessert tradition that started in the year 1992. Her assorted gingerbread houses make stunning holiday centerpieces, while her original “All Dressed Up” Gingerbread Men are “terrific for favors, hostess gifts, and…eating!” Here’s hoping these old-school holiday treats reunite you with your best holiday memories and the spirit of the season.
Peppermint Bark Hot Chocolate: Serves 4
2 c. milk
1 c. light cream
1/3 c. crushed candy canes
Pinch of salt
6 oz. high-quality semisweet chocolate drops
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine milk, light cream, crushed candy canes, and salt. When the cream mixture just begins to steam, add chocolate and stir until melted. Garnish with whipped cream and/or Perfecto’s Peppermint Bark.
Perfecto’s Caffe, 79 North Main Street, Andover, 978-749-7022, perfectoscaffe.com – Recipe provided by Max Gabriello, owner.
“All Dressed Up” Gingerbread Men: Makes 40 large or 80 small cookies
15 oz. bleached all-purpose flour (dip-and-sweep method)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
6 1/4oz. light brown sugar (firmly packed)
6 oz. unsalted butter, softened
5 oz. light molasses
1 large egg
1. In a small bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and spices. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add molasses and egg and beat until blended. On low speed, gradually add in flour mixture until incorporated. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press the dough together to form a thick flat disk. Wrap it well and refrigerate for 2 hours.2. Preheat oven to 350°. On a floured pastry cloth, roll out the dough. Use cutters to cut out the dough into shapes of your choice? With a metal spatula, lift cut dough onto greased cookie sheets or on parchment-lined cookie sheets, placing about 1 inch apart. Bake for about 8-10 minutes for small cookies and up to about 10-12 minutes for larger ones, or until firm to the touch. Cool the cookies on the sheets for about 1 minute, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. This will make anywhere from 40 large cookies to 80 small ones. This recipe can also be used to make the foundation structure of a gingerbread house of your choice.
I Dream of Jeanne Cakes 978-869-6013, jtcakes.com – Recipe provided by by Jeanne Topham, baker/owner.
Anise Cookies: Makes 3 dozen cookies
3/4 c.vegetable shortening
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. milk
1 1/4 c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. anise extract
1 jigger anisette
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. milk
Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Beat eggs, then add milk; stir and add to mixture. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt, then add to mixture. Add anise extract and anisette. Mix all together thoroughly. Form dough into small balls, then place on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until slightly brown. Cool on rack. Mix ingredients for glaze together. Dip cookies in glaze and garnish with colored nonpareils.
Mirabella’s Bakery, 836 Main Street, Tewksbury, 978-851-4441, mirabellabakery.com – Recipe provided by Anita Mirabella-Potter, manager.
Old-Fashioned Peanut Brittle: Serves 8–10
1 lb. granulated sugar 10 oz. corn syrup
2 c. water
1 lb. raw peanuts
1/4 lb. butter
1 tbsp. molasses 1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large saucepan. Cook the candy over medium-high heat until it reaches 250° on a candy thermometer. Add peanuts, stirring constantly. When temperature reaches 280°, add butter and molasses. Cook to 290° and then remove from heat. Stir in salt and baking soda. Spread thinly on parchment-lined baking sheet until cool. Break apart by hand into desirable sized pieces. Store in a sealed container to ensure freshness for up to 6 weeks.
Tuck’s Candy Factory, 7 Dock Square, Rockport, 978-546-2840, tuckscandy.com – Recipe provided by Dan Tuck, confectioner/owner.
Snickerdoodles: Makes 2 dozen cookies
1/2 c. Crisco
3/4 c.sugar,plus 1 tbsp.
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/3 c. flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 400°. Mix together well Crisco, sugar, and egg. Sift remaining ingredients together and incorporate into the first mixture. Form combined mixture into balls. Roll balls in a mixture of cinnamon sugar (add 1 tbsp. of sugar to 1 tsp. cinnamon). Place on non-greased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes. They will be soft. Let cool before removing from pan.
17 State Street Cafe, 17 State Street, Newburyport, 978-948-3456, 17statestreetcafe.com – Recipe provided by Cathy Moulton, owner.
Traditional Almond Macaroons (Amaretti Cookies): Makes 3 dozen cookies
2 c. almond paste
2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. egg whites
Mix sugar and almond paste together for 3-5 minutes on medium speed. Gradually add egg whites in 4 parts (1/4 cup at a time), mixing each in well before adding the next part. On the last 1/4 cup, mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated. (If you want to color the mix, add a few drops of food coloring.) Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Fill a piping bag with the mixture (add any decorative tip you would like to the bottom of the bag before filling). Pipe the batter onto the cookie sheet and decorate with almonds, cherries, etc. Let the piped cookies sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours before baking. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
Lacascia’s Bakery and Deli, 326 Cambridge Street, Burlington, 781-272-5203, lacascias.com – Recipe provided by Renee LaCascia-Gaffey, manager.
Candy Cane Chocolate Bark: Makes 35 bite-sized pieces
6 oz. crushed candy canes
24 oz. ivory (white) chocolate (16 oz. to melt and 8 oz. left in 1×2-inch pieces)
24 oz. dark chocolate (16 oz. to melt and 8 oz. left in large 1×2-inch pieces)
Parchment or wax paper sheets
Tape down the corners of a sheet of parchment or wax paper on a countertop. Chop 16 oz. of the ivory chocolate into small pieces and place into double boiler. Using a candy thermometer, heat the chocolate to 110°; no higher than 115°. Once chocolate reaches the correct temperature, remove from heat. Add a few of the 1×2-inch chunks of ivory chocolate to the melted chocolate and stir, bringing the temperature of the chocolate down to 87-88°. (You should still have some unmelted chunks left when the chocolate reaches this temperature, so remove and set aside for future use.) If done properly, you will now have a bowl of tempered chocolate and will need to work quickly! Pour the chocolate onto the sheet of parchment paper and spread out in an 8×11- inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Heavily sprinkle the crushed candy cane on top of the chocolate and press lightly into the chocolate before it begins to harden. Allow the chocolate to set for about an hour, then remove from the paper and turn over onto a clean sheet of parchment paper. Repeat Steps 1-5 for the dark chocolate, but bring the temperature down to 89-90°. When the dark chocolate is ready, pour onto the center of the ivory chocolate rectangle and spread out to cover the entire bottom of the ivory chocolate. (You can vary the thickness of the dark chocolate: a thin coating looks best or you can leave the bark plain and not use the dark chocolate. If you choose to use a thin coating, just pour the excess dark chocolate onto a sheet of parchment paper and allow to set and save for later use.) After the bark sets for about one hour, break up into smaller pieces and store in covered containers.
The Chocolate Pan Beverly, 978-922-1040, thechocolatepan.com – Recipe provided by Robert Peiper, owner/chocolatier.
Yule Log – Bûche de Noël: Serves 8–10
chocolate sponge cake
8 large eggs 2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla 1/4 c. milk
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt
(easy) chocolate mousse filling
12 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
3-4 c. prepared whipped topping(use 4c. for less intense chocolate flavor chocolate buttercream frosting
3 c. store-bought frosting, or your favorite chocolate frosting recipe
1. Chocolate sponge cake: Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a 1/2 sheet pan by spraying with non-stick vegetable oil and lining with wax paper. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Place eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat with stand mixer on medium-high speed for about 8 minutes, or until the mixture is pale yellow and has tripled in volume. While ingredients are mixing, place milk and butter in a microwave-safe container and heat in a microwave until butter is melted and mixture is hot, being careful not to scald milk. When mixture is finished, reduce the speed to low and slowly add hot milk/butter mixture. Stop the mixer, then fold the sifted dry ingredients into the egg mixture thoroughly until there are no lumps remaining. Pour batter into the pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched. Allow pan to cool 2-3 minutes. Run a knife along the edges of the cake, and flip the cake onto a sheet of wax paper. Allow the cake to cool completely.
2. Filling: Place chocolate in a large microwaveable bowl. Melt in microwave for 2+ minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth. Do not let chocolate get too hot. Once chocolate cools but is still liquid, quickly add about 1 1/2 cups of whipped topping while stirring quickly. Continue folding in the rest of the whipped topping in small batches until there are no visible streaks; you should have a smooth mousse. (If you have some chocolate bits, don’t worry too much, as they will not be noticeable.)
3. Assembly: Position the sponge sheet horizontally. Remove the top wax paper (which used to be the bottom when in pan). At this point, you can lightly moisten the sponge with some simple syrup and Kahlua or a liquor of your choice (optional). Spread a 1/4″ – 3/8″ layer of the chocolate mousse onto the cake and sprinkle chopped roasted hazelnuts or almonds (optional). Grasp the short end of the sponge sheet farthest from you and start rolling towards you. After you get it started, you should be able to continue to roll the sponge by pulling the wax paper towards you. Try to keep most of the filling in the roll; some filling will be pushed out, but don’t worry about this too much. When you have a complete roll, use the same wax paper to wrap the roll. Place the roll in the freezer for a few hours if decorating the same day; you can also store for a few days prior to decorating.
4. When you are ready to decorate roll, remove the wax paper. Trim the ends of the roll to look neat and then cut about 2 inches off one end, cutting at an angle. (This piece will later form the branch.) Place the log on a platter. Spread a little frosting on the angled cut side of the “branch” and attach to the log. Spread the frosting all over the log. You don’t have to spend too much time making it smooth because it is supposed to be rough bark, and you can always hide the worst areas with meringue mushrooms, chocolate shavings, powdered sugar, candy, etc. Try to minimize getting frosting on the platter; you may want to apply the frosting with a pastry bag to make it a little easier. You can also lightly drag the back of a fork over the frosting to simulate a bark look. Decorate the log as you choose; along with the meringue mushrooms, chocolate shavings, and powdered sugar, you can pipe on leaves, berries, etc. Another idea is to decorate it with different candies and chocolates. (Sometimes, less is more. Just a dusting of powdered sugar to simulate snow may be all you need!)
D’amici’s Bakery, 462 Main Street, Melrose, 781-665-3030, damicis.com – Recipe provided by Joe and Sarah Torretta, owners.
Cranberry-Orange Walnut Stollen with Grand Marnier Glaze: Serves 6–8
2 c. flour
11/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 c. margarine, softened
1 tbsp. grated orange peel 3/4 c. orange juice
1 c. chopped cranberries 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
grand marnier glaze
1 c. confectioner’s sugar
2 generous tbsp. Grand Marnier liqueur
1. Preheat oven to 330° and grease large loaf pan. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Stir in margarine until mixture is crumbly. Stir in orange peel, orange juice, and egg until just moistened. Add cranberries and nuts. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of bread comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. Let loaf cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack.
2. Glaze: Sift confectioner’s sugar. In a mixing bowl, combine Grand Marnier with sugar and whisk until you get the consistency of a glaze. You may need to add a little more Grand Marnier to get the right consistency. With a thin skewer or long toothpick, poke deep holes in top of loaf. Drizzle with Grand Marnier glaze so that it coats the top, runs down the sides, and seeps through the holes.
Ingaldsby Farm, 14 Washington Street, Boxford, 978-352-2813 – Recipe provided by Sheila and Tom Price, owners.
“Knobby” Nog: Serves 8–10
12 large egg yolks
2 c. granulated sugar
1 qt. whole milk
1 qt. heavy cream
3/4 c.Knob Creek whiskey
3/4 c.Captain Morgan’s spiced rum 1/4 tsp. ground clove
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 ground nutmeg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Whisk together (or use countertop stand mixer) egg yolks, sugar, and spices until combined and fluffy. In a small pan, heat half of the milk until the edges just start to boil. While still whisking/mixing, very slowly add the hot milk to the eggs. Strain this mixture into your desired serving vessel. When incorporated, add the rest of the milk, whiskey, and rum. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until cool. Whip heavy cream until medium-sized peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream into the egg nog mixture in 3 small increments. Garnish with whipped cream and nutmeg, as desired.
The Tap Brewpub Restaurant, 100 Washington Street, Haverhill, 978-374-1117, tapbrewpub.com – Recipe provided by Corey Bieber, executive chef.