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2011 - December seasonal specialties

Stores, restaurants and bakeries have those once a year treats. What is new? What do you buy year after year?

I liked Semifreddi's gingerbread. It is moist enough with nice spice that doesn't take over.

I always buy Cheeseboard's fruitcake.

Saul's Deli in Berkeley has it's annual outside latke and soufganiyot party on Dec 23rd. I liked this the year I stopped by.



I look foward to Masse's mini buche de noel. There are three flavors and it is great to buy a mini version without making a commitment to a $$$ yule log.

Masse's Pastries
1469 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

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  1. Is La Bedaine making a Buche this Noel?

    1 Reply
    1. You liked Masse's buche de Noël more than La Bedaine's?

      La Bedaine
      1585 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94706

      13 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I like the option of a mini version so I can indulge more often. Can't beat the price on La Bedaine's. If I don't decide to try something new, I'd probably go for La Bedaine this year.

          1. re: wolfe

            No. That doesn't look like them. They are single serving size about $3-$4. I did have some notes on this which stupidly I put in Chow lists that has been broken for months with zero word if it will ever be fixed. I'll stop by this year. They usually start selling them two weeks before Christmas.

            1. re: rworange

              Feelgood Bakery had individual slices of buche de Noel this morning ($4.50). I'm not an expert, so I'll just describe: a very thin layer of sponge cake rolled with chocolate ganache (light in texture, verging on mousse), frosted with a light coffee-flavored buttercream. Delicious and very rich.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I had planned to go there this morning, but got sidetracked. That resulted in the happy accident of having some warm just-baked stollen at Gaumenkitzel.


                Anyway, I wound up eventually at Bonaire Bakery, a place you have written about in the past. It was my first visit there. They had a big fat yule log for $ 19. Have you tried that before?

                I got some Christmas cookies ... some were more successful than others. The two covered with powdered sugar were very good. They also had apple strudel, but there are only so many sweets I can eat.

                Oh yeah, pretty petit fours. Have you tried those?

              2. re: rworange

                When I got the mini Buche de Noel at Masse's the other day it was $6. Were you referring to last year?

                1. re: rightstar

                  Wasn't here last year. Maybe 2-3 Chirstmases past. Did you think it was worth the price? Which flavor did you get?

                  1. re: rworange

                    It was the black forest buche. The cake had a velvety texture with kirsch soaked cherries. My only complaint was that the portion was too small for my wife and myself. However, I didn't want to buy a whole log which was very expensive ($45 for the 10" and $60 for the 15").

                    1. re: rightstar

                      Yeah, that is the nice thing about those mini-logs ... being able to try them witout a major investment. if they still do the lemon, that was suprisingly good, especially since I like traditional usually.

                      1. re: rworange

                        They had a lemon log when I went there.

              3. re: wolfe

                They were better looking than that. I have a picture somewhere. We bought two for, I think, 15 or 16 people and there was not quite enough. Thank goodness for the Christmas cookies.

                1. re: wolfe

                  I guess my add on didn't take. La Bedaine has that Buche pictured now. It is about 10-11 1/2 inches at the bias cut end and about 6 inches at the tall end. It is $18

            2. Fandango jams from Sonoma at the Berkeley Farmers Market only on Saturday for the first 3 weeks of Dec - next market on the 17th is the last. As far as i know, they dont sell anywhere else (correct me if i am wrong, please). However, they sell some unusual jams:

              Blueberry Merlot
              Peach Chardonnay
              Rhubarb Chutney
              Peach Chutney
              Strawberry Rhubarb
              Blackberry Zinfandel
              Indian Blood Peach
              Red Skin Peach
              Blackberry Plum Lime

              A few others I forgot. I always buy a few every year.

              1. Masse's Pastries will have sufganiyot during all of Hanukkah (including this coming Tuesday, the first night of Hanukkah, starting around 10 am, though they are usually closed on Tuesdays).

                9 Replies
                1. re: milklady

                  Very good and fresh but a little stingy with the jelly and $3 a piece. Nice gesture but I could have settled for the non-Hanukah jelly doughnuts at Hopkins Bakery. By the time I got them home I could have convinced them they were sufganiyot

                  1. re: milklady

                    It was more flavorful and filling than the sufganiyot at Saul's. However, some of the dough didn't cook right and was soft and gummy.

                    1. re: milklady

                      I liked the one I had today from Masse's. It was $2.50 (pricey for a donut, I agree). It was filled with a lot of (fairly tart) raspberry filling. It was cooked well. The donut was small, and covered in sandy sugar.

                      I also liked the ones from Grand Bakery - they are all strawberry. They taste like they have a bit of orange flavor in the dough. They range in price from about $1.50-$ each depending on how many you buy.

                      1. re: milklady

                        I guess day old they dropped the price. My left over tasted fine but no jelly??

                        1. re: wolfe

                          It was definitely made fresh this morning, not day old. I could smell the oil and it was a bit warm. It was full of jelly.

                          1. re: milklady

                            Well, whatever, yesterday they were $3.

                        2. re: milklady

                          Good to know (for next year) that Grand Bakery sells them.

                          Has anyone tried See's holiday truffles - eggnog, cranberry orange or apple pie?

                          I was in there and had to give up. One person at the counter ordered seven boxes and was picking them out ... one by one. Another older lady ... and this is no exaggeration ... took 15 minutes to pick out a half pound box. She would ask about each chocolate, think about it, disucss it. When she finished her box she said "I want another half pound box". The holiday spirit left at this point and so did I. Anyway, going to give it another try and was wondering about the truffles.

                          1. re: rworange

                            I wasn't crazy about any of the holiday truffles. The cranberry orange had too much orange (not in a good way, more of an orange-drink way), and the others were way too sweet. I'm a huge fan of the seasonal Mincemeat (lemon buttercream with nuts and raisins) though.

                          2. re: milklady

                            I tried the raspberry and the custard today. The doughnuts themselves were very good. The air holes didn't easily collapse, and it was neither too spongy nor too cakey. Sugar and oil content didn't overpower eachother, and it had a pleasant and consistent flavor. Goto texture overall, including the light crust and sparse sugar dusting. The jelly doughnut had some raw dough in the center, but otherwise they were uniformly cooked. I noted a slight citrus flavor, but could have imagined it.

                            The custard was slightly eggy, but smooth. There was more filling in the custard than the jelly. The jelly was superb--- tart, thick in a natural way, and very fruity. The seeds had been strained. I've eaten a lot of jelly doughnuts in my time, and this had the deepest red color I've encountered. I agree with the above poster that it's pricey at $2.50 and they don't give you much filling. Still, it's a sizable doughnut, very fresh tasting and the jelly one is a better deal than anything I've gotten at dynamo, the (RIP) bombolini at the ferry building, or your standard doughnut place.

                        3. Linda's Bakery on MacDonald in Richmond is taking orders for Guatemalan Christmas tamales ... with raisins, prunes and a slice of pepper. Chicken or pork $2.75

                          1. Any suggestions for a Buche de Noel to be had in San Francisco?

                            1 Reply
                            1. The panettone from Nightingale Breads in Forestville is fab.

                              Peppermint Bark from Williams-Sonoma arrived at our doorstep as a gift from a relative. A layer of bittersweet chocolate topped with a layer of white chocolate studded with big pieces of crushed peppermint. More peppermint and richer chocolates than other versions. This is the one to get.

                              Nightingale Breads
                              6665 Front St, Forestville, CA

                              1. The Bakery in the Ranch 99 Richmond has a large Buche at special $30. It's probably 15" long with 2 extra tree stumps.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: wolfe

                                  Thanks for the tip. What kind of decorations did it have? Any little mushrooms? Do you think I'd need to pre-order, or would it be available if I just showed up on the 23rd or 24th? I'm responsible for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day desserts for 30-plus people and just got jury duty, so I'm thinking I may cheat a bit.

                                  1. Holiday Stollen at Nabolom Bakery - same dough as the challah, light on currants but with lemon meyer icing. Look forward to this and their pumpkin cheesecake each year.

                                    Stopped at Gaumenkittzel - stollen had a pretty crisp dark bottom, so I opted for their whole wheat loaf.

                                    1. Toot Sweets has a yule log for 28.50 -- it's frosted white and seems to have a jam (strawberry? raspberry?) filling. It's less than a foot long. Seems pricey. My husband saw a larger one at B B west for half that, he says.

                                      Is a white yule log (as opposed to a chocolate or coffee buche de Noel) traditional? It's new to me.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Glencora

                                        The first time i had a white yule log was about a year or two after La Boulangerie opened in SF. It was some sort of tropical flavor and disgusting. i also had the other flavor and was less than impressed. I've never felt the need to throw money there again for a yule log.

                                        I went with La Bedaine because i know what i'm getting and didn't want to go with the unknown. i wanted to get to Feel Good, but couldn't make it. Maybe if this goes over well, I'll get one there for New Year.

                                      2. Delessio has a buche du noel but I haven't tried it. We ended up with the malted vanilla cake that year, which was exceptional.

                                        I brought an Arizmendi gingerbread tea cake to Thanksgiving, and it was a big hit. ~$5, delicate and perfect.

                                        1. No gourmet's dream but the two-bite mini brownie cupcakes with mint frosting at Raley's are really good. Picked them up by accident when I was going for the mini cupcakes.

                                          Went to pick up the buche de Noel at La Bedaine and could not believe the lines snaking out to the sidewalk at almost every bakery. Fortunately La Bedaine opened early today and I was in and out.

                                          I forgot how good this place is. they have a terrific leek and hazelnut quiche. it had just come out of the oven all warm, eggy, buttery crust goodness elegantly laced with the leeks and studded with tiny bits of hazelnut.

                                          The light yet coconutty macaroons were great too.

                                          As to the French macaron, Victoria bakery is making them now. The pistachio was actually quite good, nice filling, chew and good pistachio flavor.

                                          1. The Holiday Ravioli from Lucca's Deli on Valencia Street is excellent -- even better than their regular ravioli. They make it several times during the year (also Easter, Mother's Day and T-Day), but it is special.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: SFDude

                                              Funny, I don't like it at all although every now and then I try again. The cheese ravioli is my favorite.

                                              A note that Lucca on Valencia is Lucca Ravioli; the unrelated store on Chestnut is Lucca Deli.