With all of the baking that has to be done during the Christmas season -- from cookie exchanges and decorating to making gifts and serving guests -- it can be nice (and necessary) to take a break. Ensure that everything on your holiday table for breakfast, dinner, and dessert is special by getting a little help from these nine local bakeries.
When it comes to Christmas dessert, there's nothing more suited to the occasion than the Yule log, or Bûche de Noël. The Bakery Café nearby The Boulders resort is baking one with chocoholics in mind: dark chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and chocolate buttercream. To top it all off, candied cranberries add an extra festive look and flavor. The cake will serve 8 to 10 people and is available now through Christmas Eve. Call 480-488-4100 to order.
There's something magical about the holidays, and there's something magical about this brioche -- so the two a perfect match. If you've ever stopped by Giant Coffee for a cup o' Joe, you've most likely had this artisanal specialty call to you from the pastry case. The super soft bread has a prominent yeast flavor and can be filled with practically anything, including mixed berries and Nutella banana. The dough is artfully twisted over the filling for a traditional presentation that will put a smile on even the most Grinch-like of guests' faces.
Does your family celebrate the holidays with traditional European touches? Be sure to stop by this bakery run by Karl, who hails from snowy Switzerland. With a sharp ginger bite, warm winter spice, and a coating of dark chocolate, this version of gingerbread -- an ideal balance between sugar and spice -- will become a fast favorite at your family table despite the absence of a head to fiendishly bite off. Karl's also has zimtsterne, pfeffernusse, stolen, fruit cake, Yule logs, plain cookies perfect for a decorating party, and gingerbread house kits baked in-house.
If you need a simple baked good to round out your holiday selection (and please even the pickiest of eaters), stop by La Purisima in Glendale. This plain but delicious pastry is perfect to enjoy in the morning with coffee as you gather around the tree, or after dinner as a light dessert. The melt-in-your-mouth cochinitos (gingerbread pigs) are also highly recommended and are a great choice for the kids' table. Call 623-842-1400 to order, and be prepared upon pick-up because this bakery is cash only.
You can't go wrong with ordering anything from Urban Cookies Bakeshop, the Cupcake Wars winner that uses all organic ingredients. But this time of year, the hands-down seasonal favorite is a simple chocolate peppermint cookie. We also recommend the full-flavored ginger molasses bread, buttery roasted pear brown sugar shortbread, and well, anything else you're in the mood for when you place your order by calling 602-451-4335.
Pick out everyone's favorite flavors from the patisserie case at Au Petit Four. Options include classics like Black Forest and Opera (coffee and chocolate) as well as unexpected combinations like Joy (layers of pure mango and chocolate hazelnut mousse) and Exotic (lychee raspberry rouse mousse with coconut). The case contains plenty of other choices too. Pear tarts, carrot cake, Napoleons, and tiramisu are all available in individual portions, and several sizes and flavors of Yule logs can be ordered. Call 602-881-9303, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a dessert with a kick, head to Whoopie Baking Co. in Biltmore UNION to pick up these treats with spicy buttercream fluff sandwiched between two soft chocolate cakes. Other seasonal flavors include snickerdoodle with plenty of cinnamon and Yuletide with peppermint buttercream and candy cane pieces. Although whoopie pies aren't exactly a Christmas tradition, they make a fun addition to your holiday feast.
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Get Iron Chef Jose Garces' Chicago spin on the classic American apple pie at The Saguaro hotel from Friday, December 21 through December 25. These pies are baked in a Chicago-style deep-dish pan so they're perfect for fans of thick, tender crust. The two and a half inch depth also means there's plenty of gooey caramel apple filling in the middle -- plus bacon. The work of art is finished with a streusel crumb topping. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, complimentary apple and chocolate pecan pie will be served from 3 to 10 p.m. with a glass of eggnog.
If you're looking to prepare a stunning breakfast to serve on Christmas morning (after the gifts are unwrapped, of course), be sure to pick up a loaf of challah from Karsh's Bakery. Although it's a traditional Jewish bread, nothing beats day-old challah for an incredible French toast. Get it a day or two in advance and let it sit out unwrapped to ensure that it can soak up lots of batter. Add some orange zest to the mix for an extra special flavor. Call 602-264-4874 to order.