Upgrade your holiday bake-a-thon with these cherished recipes from professional pastry chefs.
Pastry Chef, SAP Brunch, Bakery & Brown Bag
Every year around the holidays, Kari Mueller and her mom look forward to making their infamous pecan rum cake. It has been a family favorite as long as Mueller can remember. “We only enjoy this cake once a year, usually on Christmas Eve,” she says. “Even though I am the pastry chef by profession, my mom has mastered the cake along with many other desserts.”
Pecan Rum Cake
1 cup pecans, chopped
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup Myers Dark Rum
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1\2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup rum
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a bundt pan with butter and then dust with flour. Tap out any excess flour from pan. Arrange the pecans evenly on the bottom of the pan. In a medium sized bowl whisk the eggs, yolks, rum and extracts. Set aside.
In a heavy duty mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the cake flour, both sugars, baking powder and salt. Mix for about 30 seconds until mixed together. Add the softened butter and mix for about a minute until combined. Add 1/3 of wet ingredients to the batter and mix for 30 seconds. Scrape sides of mixer and add another third until combined and repeat.
Transfer batter into the prepared pan over the pecans. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
While the cake is baking you can prepare the glaze. Combine the butter, water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add rum. Cool cake for about 15 minutes. Start poking holes in the bottom of the cake with a toothpick. Drizzle the glaze over the cake until all the glaze has soaked in. Invert the cake on a wire rack or cutting board. Wait an hour to serve.
Head Baker & Kitchen Manager, All Seasons Coffeehouse
It’s not the holiday season for Bonnie Huse without her grandmother’s butterscotch pie. “I know all of us grandkids love it, and we (jokingly) threaten that we won’t come home for the holidays unless grandma makes butterscotch pie,” Huse says. The filling requires constant stirring, but the results are well worth it. “The trick is patience, and watching it closely,” Huse says. Fresh whipped cream can be swapped for the meringue topping, if preferred. Huse suggests using your favorite pie crust recipe or buying a pre-made crust to save time.
9-inch Pie Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp shortening
2-3 Tbsp cold water
2 eggs, separated
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
4 Tbsp flour
1 ½ cups whole milk
4 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the crust, stir together flour and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles pea-sized crumbles. Mix in water one tablespoon at a time until dough comes together. Shape into a ball and roll out on floured board 2 inches larger than pie pan. Gently slide into pan. Trim overhanging edges and roll pastry under. Flute edges with fork and prick bottom and sides with fork. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before pouring the filling in.
To make the filling, heat water in a pot of a double boiler. In the top bowl of the double boiler, whisk egg yolks until thickened and light in color. Place bowl over pot of hot water. Stir in sugar, salt, milk, butter and flour until thoroughly combined. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Watch closely to avoid scorching. It will darken in color and should have a smooth pudding-like consistency. Cool. Add vanilla. Pour into baked pie shell. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with meringue if desired.
To make meringue, whip egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Top pie with meringue and use a torch to toast edges if desired.
Chef & Culinary Art Instructor, Fox Valley Technical College
This Swedish tea ring recipe was passed down to Julia Steinhiser by her paternal grandmother. “My grandmother has been gone almost 20 years, but the recipe was something I was able to get some years ago from one of my uncles in her handwriting,” she says. “It’s a very special way to remember her being a pastry chef years after she has been gone.” Steinhiser says the tea ring makes the perfect accompaniment to your morning cup of coffee during the holidays.
Grandma Julian’s Swedish Tea Ring
¾ cup scalded milk
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp butter
¾ tsp salt
1 package yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
1 egg, beaten
2 ½ cups flour
1 to 1 ½ cup soft butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon, ground
¼ tsp nutmeg, ground
½ to 1 cup nuts of choice (optional)
½ cup raisins (optional, or substitute with chocolate chips)
1 egg, with 2 Tbsp water whisked together
2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 Tbsp milk, or as needed to make a thicker glaze (you can also use orange juice)
To make dough, dissolve sugar, butter and salt in scalded milk. Cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in warm water, let sit for 5 minutes until it gets bubbly. Combine scalded milk mixture to yeast and water. Add one well beaten egg. Knead dough until smooth. Let rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down and let rise again 10 minutes. Roll out dough.
Roll/stretch dough out to a rectangle shape, twice as long as it is wide (leave the dough about ½ inch thick). To make filling, mix together the brown sugar and spices. Spread the dough with the soft butter to evenly cover, sprinkle with sugar and spice mix, and then evenly sprinkle with the nuts and raisins. Roll the dough up across the width of the dough (rolling from the longest edge) to form a log. Form an oval ring with the dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, tucking one end of the roll into the other end.
Using a scissors or sharp knife, cut the dough ¾ of the way through going directly down into the ring, each cut 1 ½ to 2 inches apart. Turn each slice onto its side (on an angle) to expose the filling.
Brush with the egg wash and bake in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven until a golden brown color is achieved and the internal temperate of the tea ring is 110 Fahrenheit (use a probe thermometer). Drizzle glaze over top when cool and sprinkle with more nuts if desired.
Pastry Chef & Owner, Whisk & Arrow Sugar Studio
Nea Hahn’s famous cheesecake is a celebration staple in her household, and not just for the holidays. “This recipe is special because it’s the first treat my now husband tried from me, on our first date!” she says. “To this day, eight years later, I make him a cheesecake for his birthday in October. Then some for Thanksgiving in November, and then Christmas.” Hahn suggests personalizing the cheesecake by adding half a cup of chopped berries to the batter. Lemon juice enhances strawberries and lime works for raspberries. Add the citrus zest for more flavor.
24 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cups toasted ground pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick of melted butter
One generous pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all crust ingredients in a bowl then press them tightly on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. In the bowl of a mixer throughly beat the cream cheese and the condensed milk in medium high speed until you get a light and fluffy mixture that’s free of lumps. Stop mixer a couple of times and scrape the bottom of bowl. Turn the speed to low and add eggs one at a time until just combined. Finally add lemon or lime juice and vanilla extract and pour filling over crust.
Before baking, tap cheesecake on the countertop several times to get rid of air bubbles in the batter. Adjust the baking time according to your oven. Low and slow is the key for a cheesecake that’s perfectly level and free of cracks. Bake for approximately 40 minutes uncovered. Cheesecake is ready when it’s no longer giggly, just set. You may have to adjust your baking time according to your oven. Carefully remove from oven and let it cool off before wrapping it in plastic film. Place it in the refrigerator overnight and unmold the next day.