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Bake Along with The Tyee This Holiday Season

We’ve traded recipes in our newsroom for years. This December, we invite you to join us.

Tyee Staff and Contributors 8 Dec 2023The Tyee

There are a lot of good cooks and bakers staffing The Tyee’s newsroom — perhaps unsurprising given our penchant for writing about food and food systems.

We share recipes (and mouth-watering photos of the resulting products) regularly on Slack. This year, we’re sharing them with our readers, too. Let us know if you make any of our recommendations, and share your own seasonal favourites in the comments!

“Last night I made some of those peppermint candy cane brownies Dave introduced us to last year,” Katie Hyslop shared over The Tyee’s internal messaging system last December. “New Christmas tradition for me, if two years in a row counts as a tradition.”

The brownies — which are a recipe our founding editor, David Beers, snagged from his wife, University of British Columbia professor Deirdre Kelly — combine chocolate with the opportunity to smash a bunch of candy canes in a bag with a hammer. That was festive enough for me — I was in.

As with Katie, they’ve become a Christmas tradition for me, too.

— andrea bennett

Left: an overhead photo of peppermint candy cane brownies on a marble plate. Right: The same brownies from a different angle, which shows that they are layered: brownie, pink peppermint icing layer, chocolate ganache.
Photos for The Tyee by andrea bennett.

Peppermint candy cane brownies

Adapted from Barbara Bakes.

Ingredients:

Brownies

Frosting

Chocolate ganache

Peppermint topping

Directions:

Brownies

Frosting

Chocolate ganache

A photo of a sliced Bundt cake, with two slices to the right. Christmas figurines appear on the left.
Photo for The Tyee by andrea bennett.

This recipe came to me via my mom’s mom, Lily Rose (née Peddle), better known to me as Nanny. The recipe card in the collage at the top of this recipe roundup is in Nanny’s handwriting, but it is one of three versions my aunt located in preparation for my entry. The version I bake, detailed below, cuts the lemon flavouring and some of the sugar, eggs and baking time, and adds more butter.

Nanny passed away when I was just seven years old. So my only baking memories associated with her are the sturdy spoon she smuggled out of her hospital cafeteria job, perfect for creaming butter. And wearing a clean pair of underwear on my head to keep my hair out of the batter.

I wear a headband or scarf to keep my hair back now. But if there’s one inheritance fight my sister and I are geared up for, it’s ownership of that Department of Health spoon.

— Katie Hyslop

(A version of) Nanny’s cherry cake

Ingredients:

Directions:

Left: an overhead shot of caramels in a container on a TV tray decorated with geese. Right: A recipe card.
Photos for The Tyee by Christopher Cheung.

No, this isn’t some classic handed down from the mists of holidays past — I saw someone sharing about these on Instagram four years ago and wanted to make them myself. This recipe is adapted from the one for passion fruit caramels on the Love and Olive Oil blog. I opted for raspberry because they have a lovely tang.

Come winter, don’t bother spending money on fresh berries from goodness knows where; buy them frozen instead. I love making them (and The Tyee office seems to love eating them) because, unlike cookies, they can be kept sitting around in a tin for the duration of the holiday season and still taste just as good.

— Christopher Cheung

Raspberry caramels

Ingredients:

Directions:

An overhead shot of matcha Rice Krispies squares on a vintage plate, near a Christmas tree.
Photo for The Tyee by Jackie Wong.

My friend Amanda Huynh is simply great at bringing people together, no matter what’s going on in the wider world. When pandemic shutdowns drove many into isolation, she started a newsletter called “Design in the Time of Corona” to keep in touch with her industrial design students, who at the time were scattered across time and space. The newsletter quickly gained momentum among friends and colleagues who were likewise reaching for a steady, welcoming space of connection and whimsy during a time when things felt uncertain and strange.

When the leaves started to fall near her home in Brooklyn, Amanda shared a recipe in her newsletter called “Midterm Matcha Rice Krispie Treats.” This was something she’d bring to her students during crunch time.

Amanda recommends swapping the matcha with ube powder for bold purple squares. As some of us have discussed excitedly at The Tyee, ube has gained recent renown as the 2023 tuber of the year.

Some notes from me, a Type B baker and home cook to a fault: I’ve only ever made this with salted butter, I don’t have Maldon salt, and I use an old 9-by-13-inch ungreased lasagna pan. Instead of adding salt directly to the mixture, I’ve been sprinkling a bit of pink Himalayan rock salt on top of the finished squares.

All of this is fine! The recipe is forgiving and friendly.

— Jackie Wong

Amanda’s brown butter matcha Rice Krispies squares

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Ingredients:

Directions:

Left: a plate of gingersnaps with a perfect crackle on a floral tablecloth. Right: a recipe card.
Photos for The Tyee by Jen St. Denis.

I often make an army of gingerbread people around the holidays, roping in my kids to help with the cookie cutting. But this recipe is a lighter, chewier version... almost, dare I say, fluffy? At my request, my mom texted me a photo of the original recipe card in my grandma’s writing. We don’t know the original source of this cookie recipe, but my mom says that as a homemaker raising six kids throughout the ’50s and ’60s, my grandma loved to trade recipes with friends in her neighbourhood in Red Deer, Alberta.

I hadn’t made these cookies in a while, and my first batch turned out way too big and spread out. I also overbaked that batch, so those ones will be tea-dippers. To get the desired shape, roll these cookies into small balls (around the size of a bouncy ball), then roll the ball in sugar and set it on the cookie tray. (These are not actually the instructions that come with the recipe so feel free to experiment!)

This recipe is also huge! You can cut it in half if you’re not feeding a family of eight plus various Christmastime guests.

— Jen St. Denis

Gingersnaps

Ingredients:

Directions:

Left: a recipe card in a binder. Right: a tin of Christmas shortbread.
Photos for The Tyee by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

How Chrissy fit into our family I’m not entirely sure. What I remember about her is that she was small and kind and used the formal “missus” and “reverend” when addressing my grandparents, despite being nearly a full generation older.

And I remember her shortbreads. The first secret to their perfection, I was always told, is the forearm-busting 20-minute kneading process. Over the decades, my mother and I continued to make them for each other at Christmas, batches of Chrissy’s shortbreads criss-crossing the country by air in reused cookie tins. Which is fine, because the second secret to their perfection is letting them sit one week before eating.

— Amanda Follett Hosgood

Chrissy shortbread

Ingredients:

Directions:

Left: two hands get ready to punch down bagel dough. Right: several everything bagels on a cooling rack.
Photos for The Tyee by andrea bennett.

Recipes vary in their details, and some bakers are fussy about types of flour, quality of water and just what should go into the dough. But the bagel is a food of liberation and should never become the instrument of culinary tyranny. One should bake them as one eats them, in a spirit of amiably gluttonous experiment.

— Crawford Kilian

Bagels

Ingredients:

In a bowl, mix:

Into a large bowl, sift together:

In another bowl, combine:

In a third bowl, beat together:

For baking:

Directions:

A few fancy whisky glasses filled with water. Each holds a cinnamon stick.
Photo for The Tyee by Michelle Gamage.

Is it just a stick in water? It is. But it looks fancy and we all need to hydrate. Plus your in-laws can't say you didn't contribute to the holiday potluck again. You brought fancy water. Fancy water with spicy sticks in it. Congratulations on winning the holidays.

— Michelle Gamage

Cinnamon water

Ingredients:

Directions:


With contributions from andrea bennett, Christopher Cheung, Michelle Gamage, Amanda Follett Hosgood, Katie Hyslop, Crawford Kilian, Jen St. Denis and Jackie Wong.  [Tyee]

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