Monthly Archives: December 2014

The 12 Sweets of Christmas- Bay Area

(Story Reposted from San Francisco Chronicle)
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From sugar plums to figgy pudding, Christmastime is a dessert-filled wonderland. Here are 12 globe-spanning holiday delights from Bay Area bakeries and sweets makers.
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— Michael Bauer, Tara Duggan, Sarah Fritsche, Jonathan Kauffman, Alissa Merksamer and Miriam Morgan


Preserves maker Robert Lambert makes several kinds of this love-it-or-hate-it holiday pastry — a molasses-laden dark version, a white (based on his English grandmother’s recipe) and chocolate-infused — each of which bursts with an array of candied fruits and nuts, not to mention booze. The finished loaves are wrapped in cheesecloth and garnished with a bay leaf and a candied citrus peel star. For the serious fruitcake aficionado, Lambert offers aged versions.
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$55-$75 depending on the kind/age of fruitcake at

Rosca de reyes

Also known as kings’ ring, this traditional leavened sweet bread is eaten as part of the Epiphany celebration on Jan. 6. La Victoria Panaderia owner Jaime Maldonado opts for fresh fruit instead of the traditional dried, adding a garnish of candied citrus. The bakery also makes a Mexico City-inspired version that’s filled with a custard cream. The roscas are available only Jan. 1-7 and are popular, so ordering ahead is recommended.

$21/4½-pound ring; $31/3½-pound ring; $41/4½-pound ring (large enough to “feed the clan,” says Maldonado). Cream-filled version is an additional $10. 2937 24th St. (at Alabama Street), S.F.; (415) 642-7120.
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Classic Christmas cookies

When it comes to Christmas cookies, Two Fish Baking Co. owners Margaret Smith and Hilla Ahvenainen go old school with a mouthwatering assortment that includes raspberry linzer, Russian tea cakes reminiscent of snowballs, colorful apricot and raspberry window panes, chocolate ginger crinkles and, of course, tried-and-true shortbread cutout cookies piped with royal icing. Enjoy throughout the holiday season, but be sure to save a few for Santa.

Price varies by type of cookie. 240 Ritch St. (between Bryant and Brannan streets), S.F.; (415) 970-6965. Also: 35590 Verdant View, Sea Ranch; (707) 785-2443.
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Pio Quinto

Supposedly named for Pope Pius V, this Nicaraguan Christmastime sweet from Lelenita’s Cakes has a base of rum-soaked cake topped with custard, raisins and cinnamon. The syrup that soaks the cake — sometimes called sopa barracha or “drunken soup” — is made with water, sugar, rum and spices. Though it’s usually available year-round, ordering ahead is recommended.

$15/8-inch cake; $3.50/slice. 3743 Mission St. (at Park Street), S.F.; (415) 282-2253.


Silva Bakery makes this pastry specialty of Sao Jorge in the Azores Archipelago, which features a spice mixture accented with anise and lemon peel. The cookies are rolled into the signature horseshoe shape, with small holes cut into the dough so some of the filling can escape during baking.
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$12/dozen at Silva Bakery, 18563 Mission Blvd. (near E. Lewelling Blvd.), Hayward; (510) 278-3322. . $3 each at Cafe St. Jorge, 3438 Mission St. (near Kingston), S.F.; (415) 814-2028.

Bûche de noël

Few bakers have such a refined sensibility as Belinda Leong, and it’s on display in the artful yule logs she creates at B Patisserie. They’re available by pre-order (deadline: Dec. 19) in three luscious flavor combinations: chocolate mint, vanilla raspberry, and passion fruit-mango cream cheese.

$75/7-inch log or $6.50/slice. 2821 California St. (at Divisadero Street), S.F.; (415) 440-1700. Order by phone or in person Tuesday-Friday through Dec. 19 for pickup Dec. 23-24. A limited number will be available in the shop on Dec. 23-24.


Valerio’s Tropical Bakeshop makes this spongy and slightly sweet Filipino cake with rice flour, grated cheese and coconut, and bakes it in banana leaves. It’s available year-round, but is especially popular at Noche Buena (Christmas Eve in the Philippines).

$1.99/4-inch cake; $2.99/7-inch cake. 37 St. Francis Square (at Southgate Avenue), Daly City; (650) 756-2911.

Gingerbread cookies

The 6-inch-high gingerbread men and women that come out of the ovens daily at Copenhagen Bakery are made according to a traditional recipe — not too spicy, but with a kick. If you want them extra-sturdy to hang as Christmas ornaments, or want them custom-decorated, call ahead.

$4.2 5 each. 1216 Burlingame Ave., Burlingame; (650) 342-1357.

Plum pudding

Often accompanied with a hard sauce (see Forager, Pages 2-3), plum pudding — a.k.a. Christmas pudding — dates back to the medieval British Isles. Flavored with molasses, cinnamon and raisins, and spiked with a hearty dose of Jameson’s Irish whiskey, this classic steamed cake is available at the John Campbell’s Irish Bakery in the Richmond District through St. Patrick’s Day.

$10/small (serves 4-6); $18/large (serves 8-10). 5625 Geary Blvd. (near 21st Street), S.F.; (415) 379-9965.


This German sweet bread, also with medieval roots, has evolved from a simple dough of flour, yeast, oil and water into a more complex treat. The version from Marla Bakery owner Amy Brown boasts dark and golden raisins, a hint of citrus, a line of marzipan piped down the middle, and a generous coat of powdered and granulated sugars. Available throughout the month.

$30/loaf. 3619 Balboa St., (at 37th Avenue), S.F.; (415) 742-4379.


San Francisco Baking Institute founder Michel Suas has added this Provencal pastry to the weekend selection at the institute’s cafe, Thorough Bread. The brioche, one of the traditional “13 desserts” of Christmas Eve, resembles a cross-topped sugar-covered doughnut; the airy dough is studded with candied orange rind and perfumed with subtle notes of anise and orange flower water.

$3.75 on Saturdays and Sundays. 248 Church St. (at 15th Street), S.F.; (415) 558-0690. www.thoroughbread

Chocolate-covered marzipan

Kristian Salvesen founded Nuttyness in 2012 because he couldn’t find chocolate-covered marzipan like the kind he grew up eating in Norway, where it’s especially popular at Christmas. He emphasizes almonds over sweetness, with two-thirds blanched California almonds to one-third sugar, then coats each thick bar with dark chocolate. Flavors range from classic almond to slow-burning orange cayenne.

$5.99/2.5-ounce bar; $17.99 3-pack. At multiple retail shops and online at

San Francisco buyers starting to think twice on high asking prices

(Story Reposted from SFGate)
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Listen up, beleaguered buyers. According to Paragon Real Estate, rationality may be returning to the San Francisco property market. “The San Francisco market definitely cooled after the overheated feeding frenzy of the first half of the year,” according to the real-estate firm’s November report. “The competition between buyers for new listings declined to more rational levels: Homes that might have received 5 to 10 offers earlier in the year received 1 or 2 or 3.”
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While getting three offers is still something sellers in most other marketplaces can only dream of, in San Francisco it could be a sign that pricing has finally reached its peak. “The number of expired and withdrawn listings jumped 18% August through October when compared to last year, to over 460 listings, as buyers decided many sellers were pushing the envelope on prices too far,” according to the report.

The home in the gallery above is a perfect example. 316 Warren Drive in Forest Knolls came to market August 21 at $1.695 million for 4 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms in 2,943 square feet. By September 10, the price had dropped to $1.575 million and two weeks later the fully detached three-story 1990 home dropped again to $1.428 million. It sold November 7 for $1.35 million.
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Perhaps for this reason, the trend of underpricing homes in order to create market demand continued in the fall, and seems to be working. In October 2014, 57% of home sales and 31% of condo sales were more than 10% over their asking prices. However, in line with the cooling trend, 11% of homes and 20% of condos sold for within 1% of list price and 12% of homes and condos sold in October 2014 went for under the final list price, including price reductions. In fact, properties that saw a price reduction sat on the market for 81 days before an offer was accepted, versus only 29 days for properties with no price reductions.
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In response, an increasing number of sellers have been removing their homes from market, rather than accepting a less-than-top-notch offer. In October 2014, 16% of home and condo listings expired without a sale; that number climbs to 21% when you include TICs and 2-4 unit buildings.
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Does all of this data mean that a pricing plateau or even (gasp!) a buyer’s market could be on the horizon? Not so fast, says Paragon. “Most of the city’s listings have continued to sell quickly for well over the asking price and luxury home sales hit their highest number ever,” according to the report. “The autumn market has been very strong by any reasonable measure, just not one of utterly crazed competition.”