The next wave of holiday parties is on its way, and as I write I’m still trying to figure out what to cook for Thanksgiving. So much to do, so little time—and (in my case) so few clues as to how to bake the required cookies/desserts I’m expected to bring to my mom’s house. I can handle the shopping and cooking, but for some reason baking has always been a magical task to me. Flour, butter, and sugar seem to combine for no apparent reason into so many different variations and require so much attention that I just sort of fog over with wonder when my wife bakes. For heaven’s sake, whether water is ice-cold or just cold should not have such a big effect. Which is why we’ve been brainstorming over the past few weeks with Chef Josh and baker extraordinaire Andy Giamber to come up with ideas for our holiday bakery offerings-so I can make them bake for me.
This year’s offerings are a combination of the traditional and the Willy Street Co-op traditions. We’ll start with the pies. We’ll have Pumpkin pie of course, but in true Willy style we’ll have traditional, vegan, and gluten-free versions of both. The traditional and vegan will feature our own crusts prepared by our crack bakers. I’ve tried them and they are definitely a match for homemade (don’t tell my wife). The gluten-free versions will feature longtime Willy Street Co-op favorite Simple Soyman’s locally made crusts. In addition to Pumpkin, we’ll also feature our Pecan and two types of Apple Pie—our traditional bestseller and a new version with a cinnamon crumble topping that sounds out of this world. I’m advising the Grocery crew to order extra vanilla ice cream.
In addition to Apple pie, we will also be featuring an Apple Fig Cobbler. The cobbler has all the things that make you think of the holidays—red wine, anise, cinnamon, cloves, the whole works. Now that’s a tradition worth starting. But, if you want real tradition, try Cranberry Bread Pudding. Yule time spices and cranberries in a creamy bread pudding that makes you want to actually read Dickens, instead of watching Scrooged for the hundredth time. We’ll be having this one available by the slice, but once you try it (and I have) we’re so sure you’ll like it that it’ll also be available by the sheet. Since this is Wisconsin, and not merry old England, we’ll also be featuring traditional German Stollen. My Austrian grandmother used to make these each year for the holidays, and while it’s rich spiced bread with rum, fruit, and nuts, please don’t call it a fruitcake. No one will be using this for a doorstop in the new year!
Finally, what would the holidays be without cookies? I realized a few years back that the surest sign that either I was getting old, or that the world has gotten a lot busier is the fact that I just don’t have time to bake Christmas cookies anymore. So, in addition to our regular stable of cookies, we’re adding some new flavors just for the season. We’ll bring back that long time Co-op favorite the giant Peace Cookie-a huge chocolate chip cookie with butter cream frosting. We’ll also feature some more traditional holiday fare with sugar cookies in your favorite shapes, and gingerbread men and women. Andy has also decided to share with us his great-grandmother’s recipe for Italian Anise cookies—cake-like cookies with a hint of anise and frosting on the top. What could be more appropriate for the holidays?
So there we are—pies, stollen, bread pudding, cobbler, and cookies-plenty for me (and you) to choose from when you’re expected to bring a dessert to pass. Now I have time to stand in line for the latest Elmo for my nephew.