Baking Gone Wild! Top 10 Over-the-Top Baked Goods for the Holidays

I’ve been sucked in. For some reason, I can’t stop watching The Great American Baking Show. I don’t know if it’s the soothing voices of Nia Vardalos and Ian Gomez, the adorable British version of your grandma in Mary Berry (seriously – even her name), or the hunkish looks and personality (yes, I am comfortable with my sexuality) of Johnny Iuzzini. Whatever it is, I’m hooked. Then I started thinking about the 150 million dozen cookies my wife baked, the bread we are baking for Christmas dinner, the delicious cinnamon buns we have Christmas morning, the list goes on. We are in the heart of the season of baking. Some savory bakes, others totally sweet. Either way – we have it all. After much thought, eating, and more eating, we have the top ten breads, cakes, and bakes for the holidays. You’re welcome.

In no particular order…

10. Rolo Cheesecake Bars


Thank god for bakers, right?

9. Six Layer S’mores Bars


When a dessert is described as “oozing” with peanut butter, chocolate, and marshmallow, I’m in. Don’t tell me anything more.

8. Chocolate and Toffee Pecan Pinwheels

That is puff pastry. Yes, it does make everything even that much better. Carry on.

7. Pistachio Rum Mini Bundt Cakes

Pistachio Chewy Bite Mini Rum Cakes

Sure, you could make a chocolate bundt cake. But let’s be real – you’re making it from a box and nobody’s going to finish the whole thing. Try these for a change.

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Homemade Bacon and Cheddar Bagels

Bacon and Cheddar Bagel

Three words:


bacon bagel


bacon bagel


bacon bagel bite

If you’re a fan (and who are we kidding, we all are), you need to get in on this bagel making.

These bagels have the lovely exterior firmness of a bagel with an added bonus of a fluffy almost biscuit-like texture inside.  Plus they are filled with bacon and cheddar…and then topped with more bacon.

Need I say more?

Bacon & Cheddar Bagels

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The Endless Road Trip: Now That’s a Biscuit

We’ve mentioned The Reggie on Endless Simmer before, but no discussion of Portland food would be complete without a look at the ultimate breakfast sandwich: a giant buttermilk fried chicken breast layered with bacon, melted cheddar cheese and a runny fried egg, the whole thing placed between two fluffy biscuits and slathered in hearty white gravy. It’s just effing perfection.

More of Pine State Biscuits‘ menu after the jump.

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The Endless Road Trip: Porklandia

Portland, Oregon may seem like the type of hippie-dippie place that knows its silken tofus from its seitan (and it is). But as I recently discovered, these hipsters also know their swine, from head to tail. Oregon is a serious pork-producing state, and Portland chefs get crazy/creative with pig parts of every variety. I ate my way through Porklandia so that you don’t have to.

At Tasty n Sons, nearly every dish, from salads to kimchi to chicken, comes with an egg on top (as god intended). It climaxes with this perfectly golden-brown, intensely crispy fried pork cutlet, served over spinach, with a soft fried egg for a crown.

The Woodsman Tavern is the first place I have ever been served a ham plate and then told the proper order in which to eat the hams, as if this was a fancy wine tasting—from most delicate to heartiest. Each one was prosciutto-thin, but with the full salty taste of a good ol’ Virginia-style baked ham.

Don’t forget the ears! At Whiskey Soda Lounge, a casual spot from acclaimed Pok Pok chef Andy Ricker, they’re stewed in 5-spice and deep-fried until crisp, served with a black vinegar dipping sauce. They’re crusty on the edges and chewy in the middle, with the texture of…well, ear.

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Success with Southern Biscuits

I am a west coaster born and bred; my family hails from San Diego and I happen to live in Seattle, which in many ways is the antithesis of the deep South. That being said, I don’t know how it happened — maybe Paula Deen is a long-lost-great-aunt-twice-removed or something (fingers crossed!) — but I harbor an intense love for Southern comfort food. Sadly, up here in the somber Northwest, I am rarely presented with the opportunity to try my hand at whipping up a grand dixie feast. With the exception of my impressive cole slaw making superpowers, I am pretty inexperienced in cooking Southern food.

So when ES was presented with the opportunity to preview Nathalie Dupree & Cynthia Graubart’s newest cookbook, Southern Biscuits, I knew this was a perfect chance. Fresh off the heels of an authentic creole food binge, I figured it was only fair to prove my love by giving Southern cooking a go myself. Southern Biscuits addressed a double whammy of insecurity, actually — not only am I lacking in the Southern cooking department, I am also mildly suspicious of baking in general. It involves so much precision, patience, adherence to directions…basically all of my weaknesses. Though Nathalie is a James Beard winner, she certainly had her work cut out for her with this book. Teaching a baking-skeptical Seattleite how to craft perfect Southern biscuits is no small feat.

Plus I had been slightly dubious about the breadth (no pun intended) of biscuit options. I mean, how many variations could there be? Turns out, about a million. After it covers the basics, Southern Biscuits also includes recipes for things you can do with biscuits, such as breakfast sandwiches, casseroles, bread puddings, etc. While some of the more complex recipes in the back of the book were tempting, I knew I shouldn’t get too overzealous. I decided to go with an intermediate biscuit recipe that included one of my very favorite ingredients: sweet potatoes.

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