Holidays and food are inseparable: The sugar cookies we bake for Santa, that pecan pie your grandmother makes every Thanksgiving. Cranberry sauce, and tamales, and hot chocolate. Certain tastes feel like the holidays, pulling us back into memories and emotions from years past. Food is often the focus of generations-old family traditions, and so much of what we eat and cook during the holidays we don’t get to enjoy at any other time of the year. In this spirit, three local bakers recently shared their favorites to create—and eat—during this jolly season.
Try not to drool.
1703 Lena, Santa Fe
The smell that wafts from the doors of Bread Shop is enough to lure any bread lover inside. Run by Jacob Brenner and Mayme Berman, partners in business and in life, the star of this bakery is (appropriately) the bread. I die for their focaccia, its pillowy, olive-oily goodness topped with just the right amount of Maldon salt flakes.
Bread Shop just moved into a new, bigger space in November, across the street from their original location on Lena Street. “The number one thing is we are able to make more bread,” Brenner says. They also added a few new baked goods to the menu—including ginger molasses cookies and a breakfast cake—as well as a simple tea and coffee service. They plan to add sandwiches and lunch snacks in the new year.
When it comes to holiday baking, Brenner sticks to his favorite item. “I don’t think you can beat a fresh-baked loaf of country sourdough during the holidays,” he tells me. “It goes with everything and makes your house smell great, and is the best comfort food with butter.”
Smell is part of taste, and has the power to instantly evoke a holiday vibe. “I’ve been loving simple rosemary focaccia,” says Brenner. “It just smells so good coming out of the oven—super piney and perfect for cold weather.”
Keep an eye out for Bread Shop’s holiday special: sweet potato olive oil cake topped with pumpkin seeds. “It looks and tastes like the holidays,” Brenner says. “People have been stoked on it so far.”
418 Cerrillos, Santa Fe
In a bright, light-bathed space inside the Design Center in Santa Fe, Revolution Bakery specializes in gluten-free goods made without refined sugar, fillers, or excess starch. One to tinker in the kitchen since she was young, Dionne Christian, Revolution’s owner, says baking without gluten is a joy that fits with her natural inclination to R&D recipes. “I wanted to create a . . . counterculture for people who were gluten free in the Santa Fe area, and anyone who would be visiting our historic city,” she tells me. “I think I dream in recipe development . . . I really love working in gluten free because you get to completely reimagine a product or a recipe.”
Christian spends hours finding ways to re-create familiar textures baking sourdough loaves, cinnamon rolls, focaccia, and baguettes. At the holidays, she offers a special menu of delicious treats. “At Christmas I bring out new pastries, like a stollen,” she says. “Since I perfected my pastry dough, I am going to make my stollen this year with that.”
A former resident of Poland, Christian likes to reimagine European flavors, textures, and designs sans gluten. “I love making a Christmas roll with poppy seeds and egg cream, and fruitcakes with things like citrus peels.” Christian’s childhood holiday memories include her grandmother’s famous rum fruitcake and her mom’s fried apricot fritters.
Revolution’s holiday menu includes apricot-and-walnut turmeric sourdough, candied-ginger-and-cranberry sourdough, gluten-free stuffing, sugar cookies, ginger cookies, and Christian’s spin on a candy cane cookie. Pre-orders can be made now for pickup on Christmas Eve.
Blue Door Pâtisserie
900 Park and Sawmill Market, Albuquerque
When I step into Blue Door Pâtisserie in downtown Albuquerque to pick up my pecan pie the day before Thanksgiving, the aroma in the bright, airy space takes me right back to a boulangerie in Paris; buttery croissant should really be a perfume option.
Headed by pastry chef Jove T. Hubbard, the baked goods at Blue Door are inspired by French techniques. Hubbard’s favorites to bake at the holidays harken back to his childhood memories of holiday breads with candied fruit. “My mom always made stollen and hot cross buns,” Hubbard says. “Last year we started making panettone, and I really love it.”
Hubbard’s first job out of culinary school was at the Peabody hotel in Memphis, where the pastry shop on the second floor seemed like heaven compared to the hotel’s basement kitchens. “Pastry was all I wanted to do after that. When you make pastry, you’re trying to make something beautiful.”
As well as a daily menu of delectable treats, Blue Door offers special holiday menus. I’ve been a die-hard fan of their pecan pie since I tasted it at Thanksgiving last year. (This year I made the drive from Santa Fe to get another.) Their special Christmas menu includes holiday-themed treats like biscochito cheesecake, white peppermint pound cake, holiday stollen, and pies you can order ahead of time. “We have a different following of people who order around the holidays who aren’t really regulars, but they order every year.” Hand raised, I am one of those people, and plan to be next year too.
Maria Manuela is a freelance writer based in Santa Fe, where she was born and raised. She works with publications like New Mexico Magazine and Hyperallergic, focusing on stories about creative New Mexicans. She spends all her free time with her partner, Joel, and their three pups, Darla, Hamlet, and Pea. She’s working on a collection of short folktales based in the Southwest.