Holiday Treats From 5 Chicago Baking Babes

UPDATE: This post was originally published on December 20, 2013.
We've got nothing against shortcuts, but if you plan on fitting in some last-minute baking, slicing canned dough is not half as satisfying as rolling it. Don't even get us started on the taste. So, to inspire you to look beyond that ready-made cookie tray, we went into the kitchens of five top Chicago baking babes to gather their favorite childhood recipes for holiday yum.
From adult gingerbread to Mandelbrot, these sweet treats are bound to be the first to go. Just don't say you're too busy to whip up a batch. If these pastry princesses have time to squeeze in a tray or two into their schedules, so do you. In fact, we have a feeling you'll be licking the spoon in no time.
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
Leigh Omilinsky of Café des Architectes: Mandelbrot

“My grandma always made Mandelbrot (almond bread) for Chanukah and holiday parties. It's like biscotti but a little different. The biggest question with Mandelbrot was what to sprinkle on top. I remember her using cinnamon, sugar, and walnuts, but sometimes she would use raisins or chocolate. My grandma's friend, Sylvia Rose Stein, always made the best Mandelbrot because she brushed each side with melted butter. My grandma loved it but could 'never allow' herself to use all that butter — hilarious!”
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
1 cup oil
1 cup sugar
3 beaten eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
3 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
11/2 cups chopped walnuts
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
1. Mix together the oil, sugar, and beaten eggs. Add the extracts.

2. Add the flour, baking powder, and nuts.

3. Grease baking sheets. Form dough into five or six loaves and score evenly.

4. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (two tablespoons of sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon)

5. Bake at 350-degrees for 15-to-18 minutes.

6. Remove from oven and slice with a serrated knife. Put back in oven to brown on both sides, about five-to-six minutes.
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
Chef Anna Shovers of the Publican: Sugar Cookies

"Decorating sugar cookies has become our crafty Christmas family tradition. Every year, no matter how old we get, we love decorating cookies. My mom always makes bizarre colors and the decorations are from the '90's, but it still makes the holiday a little more special."
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp brandy (or whole milk)
Pinch of nutmeg, grated
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
1. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; mix until light and fluffy.

3. With mixer running, add egg, brandy, and vanilla; mix until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add reserved flour mixture. Mix until just combined.

4. Transfer dough to a work surface and shape into two discs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

5. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving one inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more.

6. Bake until lightly golden at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes; do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
Sandra Holl of Cafe Floriole: Grown-up Gingerbread Cookies

"These gingerbread cookies are inspired by my Grandma Schilling's pepparkakor (a traditional Swedish spice cookie) that I ate as a child around Christmas. Ours are on the spicy side. I call them grown-up gingerbread cookies because they pack a punch."
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
3 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp clove
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
1 egg
2/3 cup molasses
5 oz butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
1. Cream together brown sugar, butter, and salt.

2. Add egg and molasses, followed by all remaining ingredients. Mix until combined.

3. Wrap and chill dough for at least two hours

4. Roll out dough to about 1/4-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut dough in desired shapes.

5. Place on parchment-lined pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes.
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
Sophie Evanoff of Vanille Patisserie: Blueberry Streusel Muffins

"My family always enjoyed freshly baked, warm muffins on cold, snowy Christmas mornings. I like to add molasses to the blueberry muffin mix — it makes them much richer! The oat streusel crumble is a delicious topping."
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
4 cups blueberries
1 cup flour
1 1/3 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 ¼ cup butter
1 1/14 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2/3 cup honey
4 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk

Oat Streusel:
1/2 cup butter
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
1. Sift together flours, baking soda, and baking powder.

2. Using a paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, molasses, and honey.

3. Add eggs and mix. Alternate adding dry mixture with buttermilk. Fold in blueberries last.

4. Scoop into muffin tin.

For Streusel:
1. Mix all ingredients together until you get a crumbly consistency. Sprinkle on top of unbaked muffins.

2. Bake at 350-degrees for approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
Kym DeLost of Storefront Company: Holiday Cake Roll

"Along with staples like glazed ham and mashed potatoes, food traditions are melded, thanks to our Swedish and Austrian roots. Among the annual pastries at our holiday table are Christstollen, a spiced Austrian fruitcake, and Rulltarta, the Swedes version of a cake roll. Here, I offer a version of my favorite holiday treat — and an ode to my mom."
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 vanilla bean scraped, save pod for soaking syrup
2 tbsp whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable or grapeseed oil
1/2 tsp chocolate extract or vanilla extract
1/2 cup cake flour
1 tbs barley malt powder
1 tbs cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar

Soaking Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 cup water

Chocolate Caramel Filling:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp butter
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, hot
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp bourbon
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Photographed by Heather Talbert.
1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line a 11-x-16 jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Brush paper and sides evenly with vegetable or grapeseed oil.

2. Sift barley malt powder and cocoa powder. Cover parchment paper with alternating layers of both.

3. Whisk yolks, dark brown sugar, vanilla beans, and salt on high until pale and thick. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula.

4. Stir together milk, oil, and chocolate extract. Stream into yolks on low until combined.

5. In a separate bowl, sift together cake flour, barley malt, baking powder, and cocoa powder. Fold in yolk mixture to form the batter until just combined.

6. In a clean stand mixer, whisk whites until frothy and gradually add sugar in three additions until medium peaks form.

7. Carefully fold the white mixture into the batter.

8. Pour out onto a prepared pan and carefully spread an even layer over the surface to the edges. (If some of the batter catches and gaps develop, leave as is. They form "knots" on the surface of the cake log.)

9. Bake for 11 minutes, rotating halfway. Allow to cool completely.

Soaking Syrup
1. Bring sugar, dark brown sugar, vanilla pod, and water to a boil.

2. On medium-low heat, melt the sugars together until dissolved and caramelized.

Chocolate Caramel Filling
1. Whisk butter, cream, cocoa powder, and chocolate until thoroughly mixed.

2. Stir in salt and bourbon. Keep warm.

1. Use a knife or metal spatula to cut sides of sponge cake and remove the parchment. Lie coated side down on workspace.

2. Brush soaking syrup evenly onto cake twice.

3. Spread the warm filling in an even layer on soaked cake.

4. Roll cake into a log and wrap with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.

5. Slice into portions. If you wish to tear portions, the roll of the cake looks more like a log.
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