(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 www.robertlambert.com
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. www.lavictoriabakery.com
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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. www.twofishbaking.com
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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. www.lelenitascakesandservices.com
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. www.silvabakery.com . $3 each at Cafe St. Jorge, 3438 Mission St. (near Kingston), S.F.; (415) 814-2028. www.cafestjorge.com
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. www.bpatisserie.com. 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.
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. www.copenhagenbakery.com
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. www.johncampbells.com
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. www.marlabakery.com
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
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 www.nuttyness.com.