Sweet Holiday Traditions
If you bake at this time of year, then you're always on the lookout for something new and festive to try. Here, sweets makers in Indianapolis and Bloomington share the stories behind their favorite holiday treats, with recipes for a decadent dessert, classic cookie and easy candy that just might become traditions of your own.
Krissy Tallent's Gingerbread Waffles
Pastry chef Krissy Tallent remembers getting hooked on gingerbread not as a kid in the form of decorated houses and men, but while in school at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
So, when the cold weather rolls in, gingerbread dessert is likely to earn a spot on the menu at Restaurant Tallent, the Bloomington restaurant that she owns with her husband, chef David Tallent, a six-time James Beard Award semifinalist.
This year, Krissy's take on the nostalgic flavor is warm gingerbread waffles in the company of caramelized pears, vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce.
"I'm obsessed with gingerbread. I just love all of the spices," Krissy says, ticking off the warm flavors of cardamom, clove and cinnamon.
Krissy's gingerbread waffles come across as elegant and comforting all at once. Pears and gingerbread are a natural pair, and the salted caramel sauce ties everything together with its balance of salty and sweet flavors.
This dish can be modified for a holiday breakfast, served with local maple syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar and without the ice cream – or, heap it on. Hey, it's Christmas morning, after all.
A. Rene Trevino's Butter Cookies
If there's one thing that people expect from Rene's Bakery in Broad Ripple, it's the croissants. Owner A. Rene Trevino hand-rolls more than 1,000 each week, often tying on his apron at 2:30am to get it all done. At his humble 625-square-foot shop, Trevino makes "pastry for the people," offering everything from fancy tortes to cutout cookies.
Though he loves the challenge (croissants take nine hours, start to finish), Trevino knows how to make things simple, too. His classic butter cookie recipe is ideal for holiday baking traditions at home.
"This dough is pretty straightforward, and it has a great flavor," he says.
During the holidays, Trevino turns out butter cookies in a variety of shapes like snowflakes, snowmen and angels, decorated with icing and coarse sugar. Perhaps the biggest fan is Trevino's son, whose request for butter cookies came unusually early this year: for his sixth birthday in late October.
"He'd been asking for Christmas cookies" – of all things – "for a month or so," Trevino says.
Carrie Abbott's Pralines
Carrie Abbott bought her first praline on a whim, while standing at the cash register of a general store in New Orleans. The texture of the Southern candy – fudgy, but without cream – immediately reminded her of the no-bake cookies that she loved so much as a kid.
That memory inspired Abbott, an Indianapolis candy maker, to start whipping up pralines for Frittle, her line of nostalgic treats.
"Any time I've asked someone about a favorite candy or sweet, it always goes back to childhood," says Abbott, who is an Indiana Artisan. "It really just reminds people of a simpler time, where maybe your biggest decision of the day was to pick out candy."
Frittle, the line's namesake treat, is a bite-size hard candy that is a cross between brittle and fudge (the name is a mash-up of the two). The candy is gluten-free and vegan, and is sold throughout the city.
Pralines are available initially at Yats, the Cajun-Creole restaurant in Broad Ripple. At home, pralines couldn't be easier to make, Abbott says.
"It takes away the mystique of how hard it is to make candy," she says. "Its' a very forgiving recipe and after only two to three batches you'll almost be an expert."