North Fork pastry chefs share their holiday baking recipes

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Pine nut and bourbon caramel tart by Jessica Melendez. (Credit: David Benthal)

There is something about the smell of freshly baked desserts that fill the air on vacation that evokes a Norman Rockwell type of nostalgia. Seasonal aromas and comforting bites are best appreciated when shared. Whether you are a professional chef or a home cook, the desire to create holiday desserts that will wow guests is universal.

We asked three North Fork chefs to reveal their holiday dessert recipes that are easy to make at home and leave a lasting impression on guests. Save these recipes; you will want some for next year too.

Jess morris

North Fork Roasting Co., Southold

Jess’s Spicy Cookie Crinkles. (Credit: David Benthal)

Two weeks before Christmas, it’s baking time for Morris and his Southold family. They gather in the kitchen for a marathon cookie-making extravaganza, a tradition they’ve dubbed Cookie Day.

“We’re going to make six different types of cookies and triple the batch, so we only have hundreds of cookies,” she said. “It’s a Christmas tradition that feels good. “

Chocolate Crinkles are Morris’ favorite holiday dessert. It’s a cookie-brownie hybrid that she’s been making since she was a child. The consistency is like a brownie, and the icing sugar rolled into the dough causes it to crumple as it bakes. As an adult, Morris put his own stamp on the original by making Mexican hot chocolate chips with just a little chili spice for extra warmth.

“I always try to reinvent something in my own style, but especially for the holidays. I want to keep it close to my heart and not make an entirely different cookie, ”she said. “Chocolate and spices go together really well and I’m a little spicy myself. It’s more my style for the next generation.

Mexican hot chocolate crinkles with just a little chili spice for extra heat. (Credit: David Benthal)

Jess’s Spicy Crinkles

2 cups of sugar

¾ cup of vegetable oil

¾ cup of dark cocoa

4 eggs

2 teaspoons of vanilla paste

2 ¼ cups of flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

Powdered sugar to roll

Cream wet ingredients together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and slowly add one egg at a time. Slowly add the dry ingredients to wet after adding the eggs to form a paste. Roll into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for six hours. Roll into one-inch balls and place in the icing sugar. Place on a baking sheet with cooking spray and cook for 10 to 12 minutes at 375 degrees.


Jessica melendez

1943 Pizza Bar, Greenport

Bourbon Caramel Tart and Pine Nuts. (Credit: David Benthal)

Pastry chef Melendez fondly remembers the Easy-Bake oven she had growing up. The love of cooking and sharing food led the Cutchogue resident to culinary school, where she took desserts seriously. She landed her first kitchen job as a pastry chef at Caci North Fork before moving to 1943 Pizza Bar, where she focuses on desserts made with farm-fresh ingredients that complement the cocktails made at the sister establishment. Brix & Rye.

Her pine nut and bourbon caramel pie recipe was born out of conversations with her fiancé, Jonathan Shearman, who is the executive chef of 1943 Pizza Bar. The couple often sit down on Wednesday evenings to discuss the week’s specials and deals. With all this contemplation of delicious food, it might not be surprising that food cravings arise.

“He wanted a nut pie with a lot of caramel and all these different kinds of nuts in it and I was like, ‘Wait, let’s make it more fancy,’” Melendez said. “I like it during the holidays and the winter because it’s bourbon time and it’s nice to incorporate that into the dessert.

This pie was one of the first desserts she made when she started at 1943 Pizza Bar in 2015 and has been a vacation staple ever since.

“I really have a soft spot for it,” she said. “Caramel and spicy bourbon and hazelnut are perfect for the season.”

This pie was one of the first desserts she made when she started 1943 Pizza Bar. (Credit: David Benthal)

Bourbon Caramel Tart and Pine Nuts

Shortbread Crust

2 sticks of unsalted butter

½ cup) sugar

¼ teaspoon of salt

2 eggs

2¾ cups all-purpose flour

Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs and mix until completely incorporated. Add the flour and mix until well blended. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or overnight. Roll out chilled dough to just under a quarter of an inch thick. Carefully place the rolled out dough in a 10-inch pie pan and press down so the dough is flush with all edges of the pan. Remove any excess dough. Using a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the pie shell to prevent the crust from bubbling. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until lightly browned. Let cool.

Caramel Bourbon garnish

1 cup of sugar

2 tablespoons of honey

5 ounces of bourbon

5 ounces of heavy cream

1 stick of unsalted butter

1 heaped teaspoon of vanilla extract

1¼ cup whole pine nuts

Over low heat, cook the sugar and honey until the mixture turns into a deep amber caramel. Turn off the heat and gently add the bourbon (it may catch fire). Turn the heat back on for a few minutes until the hard pieces of caramel melt into a smooth syrup, then add the cream. Once the syrup is combined and smooth, turn off the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Add the pine nuts and carefully pour the filling into the cooled pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Refrigerate pie until cold and firm. Finish by sprinkling the top with a little North Fork sea salt. Serve with spicy whipped cream or your favorite ice cream.


Rachel Flatley

Nick & Toni’s, East Hampton

Jar of white chocolate cream. (Credit: David Benthal)

Crème pâtissière is a must-have holiday dessert for Pastry Chef Flatley, a North Fork resident. The simple dessert is easy to prepare but still offers that mind-blowing factor to wow guests. Creams, she says, are like a blank canvas. The creamy treat can incorporate a variety of toppings and flavors that can be changed seasonally.

The Flatley’s Caramelized White Chocolate Cream Jar with Cranberry Compote is a perfect example. She developed the recipe over the summer to pair it with substitute strawberries and cranberries to turn it into a holiday dessert.

“After playing around with amounts of ingredients a bit, I came up with this recipe,” she said. “The result is a super creamy and very tasty chocolate cream. It’s not too thick, but perfectly succulent and creamy. The warmth of the caramelized white chocolate pairs well with the tangy and spicy cranberry compote. For me, it’s a perfect winter dessert: creamy, spicy, tangy and sweet.

The creamy treat can incorporate a variety of toppings and flavors that can be changed seasonally. (Credit: David Benthal)

White chocolate cream jar

1 ¼ cup of sugar

½ teaspoon of salt

36 ounces of heavy cream

10 egg yolks

4 ounces of white chocolate (can be caramelized)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

To make the creams, combine the sugar, salt and cream in a saucepan and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil then temper the cream mixture in the egg yolks, constantly whisking the yolks. Once the yolks and cream are mixed, pour the mixture over the chocolates and let sit for a minute or two, until the chocolates begin to melt. Whisk the mixture until smooth, then strain into a measuring cup or pitcher Pour the mixture into glass ramekins and place in a double boiler – a cake pan or roasting pan will work as long as the sides of the pan are taller than the ramekins. Fill the pot with enough hot water to halfway up the ramekins. Cover the pan with foil, punch holes in the foil and bake at 325 degrees until the creams are set around the edges but still slightly wobbly in the middle. This should take about an hour, depending on your oven. Check every 20 minutes and carefully rotate the pan to ensure even cooking. Take the ramekins out of the water and let cool for 20 minutes to come to room temperature, then place them in the refrigerator for three hours.

* The caramelization of the chocolate is optional.

To caramelize the chocolate, chop it and spread the pieces out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in a 250 degree oven for an hour, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes until caramelized. Once it is a deep golden color, remove from the oven. If it’s lumpy, place it in a food processor until smooth. It should look like peanut butter. Pour into a jar and store at room temperature until ready to use.

Cranberry compote

1 bag of frozen cranberries

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup of prosecco, riesling, verjuice or water

1 vanilla pod, scraped (optional)

1 strip of orange zest

1 ½ tablespoons grated fresh ginger

3 cinnamon sticks

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat until the cranberries begin to burst and are tender. Pour the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, place the cranberry compote on the white chocolate creams.

Garnish with whipped cream, candied or toasted nuts or white chocolate shavings.


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