Pastry shop knows not to overdo it
Amy Drew: Light on the Sugar bakery hits sweet spot for treats.
Our family bakes cookies. A lot of cookies. Not so much in number as in variety. Most years we craft more than two dozen varieties. We broke a record in 2018 with 35 different types of cookies on display Christmas morning.
We do a lot of this baking together in my kitchen. For about eight hours every year, the house is filled with my siblings and their millennial offspring mixing, rolling, manning the oven, decorating and cleaning up the sugar. My sisters haul baking sheets, bags of flour, cookie cutters and tins from their house to mine. We were blessed to have our father photographing (and taste testing) all the activity for many years.
Natasha keeps count and frequently bakes a batch or two just to break records. Joseph, a talented baker, outshines us all in making the most intricate cookies. Glen and Marty read, then reread their recipes dozens of times. For Henry, it’s all about the decorating — his sugar cookies look like edible art. Claire delicately sandwiches her pecan lace cookies with orange cream. We count Erika’s buttery caramels as a cookie. Everyone bakes their favorites.
Each year we add new cookies to the repertoire. Ten years ago, my dad painstakingly gathered many of the recipes, typed them into uniformity and put them into binders. He gave us each a copy. The “Kaiser Kristmas Kookie Kookbook” definitely contains a sweet chunk of our family history.
Dozens of the 50-plus recipes are made every year for as long as the oldest of us can remember. Christmas would not be Christmas without kolacky, oatmeal thins, blond brownies, shortbread logs and molasses cookies.
We argue about favorites. Dad’s was never in doubt: Cherry cookie bars. I cannot remember a holiday without this bright red cherry, oat and coconut bar cookie. Mom thinks the recipe originally came from a package of coconut — no one knows for sure. Last year was the first year I made the cookie instead of mom. I was tempted to swap out the maraschino cherries for something fancier. Nope. I’ll always make the recipe the way Dad enjoyed them.
Peppermint says holidays better than any other flavor. No longer content to hang candy canes on the tree, we crush them and add the shards to everything from coffee drinks to cocktails and desserts. The Doyles bake chocolate peppermint stars, the Hansens make peppermint bark.
This year, I’m transforming the family’s favorite chocolate brownie into a holiday delight.
Reminiscent of coffeehouse peppermint mocha drinks and candy shop peppermint bark, these are the brownies to make for
space. Its interior matches the snazzy, mod makeover this once-dreary Aloma shopping plaza has undergone.
It’s also a word you could ascribe to the items you’ll spy in the case.
Cream puffs in alluring flavors like matcha and Earl Grey. Crepe cakes — in thin, gorgeous layers of gastronomic geology. Japanese cheesecake so light they seem apt to float away and panna cotta that I’m about positive would be airborne if not for the cute glass jars weighing them down. And egg tarts. I’ve never met one I didn’t want to eat. These are lighter than any I’ve tried before and just as tasty.
You could stop in and sit awhile — the cooler weather of late makes the bakery’s handful of outdoor seats appealing — but inside feels almost like out, with natural woods, bright whites and lovely live plants creating serenity that’s sublime for sipping.
You could also take out, which you might just — since the holidays approach. You may have more time to linger over coffee, or loved ones in town with whom to share treats. These are like to impress and please on any platter. I couldn’t take a bad picture, quite frankly (and that’s saying something).
Light on the Sugar will take orders for most everything they make. While a day’s advance notice is usually the M.O., they encourage customers to call ahead as far in advance as possible — they’re getting busier as December wears on.
Peppermint has been added to the cream puff flavor roster (which also includes matcha, Earl Grey, Kit Kat, cinnamon, Oreo, New York-style cheesecake, black sesame, ube, strawberry, pecan pie and coffee) and they’ll be doing log cakes in chocolate-banana and mini-reindeer cakes in strawberry in the shop.
Those ordering in advance can get them in any flavor.
Those cream puffs, though. Wow. Big and beautiful, incredibly light and airy, and perfectly not-that-sweet. I can’t imagine anyone balking; it’s just a matter of finding your flavor.
I spill the tea on restaurants week in and week out, but I promise you: I’m not spilling a drop if I pick one up here.
Light on the Sugar Bakery Cafe
• Where: 4270 Aloma Ave. in Winter Park
• When: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily
• Cost: $2-8
• Attire: Casual
• Call: 407-916-0215
• Online: lightonthe sugar.com
Baking merry for the holidays
Since a bakery was on this week’s review roster, and the holidays are a time when sweet indulgences collide beautifully with joyous occasions, here are a few other Orlando-area gems you might consider to jazz up your table, no matter the meal.
It’s a holiday happiness trifecta: Support small business, save yourself time, make your loved ones happy!
Sister Honey’s (247 E. Michigan St. in Orlando; 407-730-7315; sisterhoneys.com)
Fresh on the heels of a huge win at the World Food Championships in Dallas, this SoDo standard will be offering up a festive roster of holiday sweets for pre-order: coconut cake ($44.99), pumpkin gingerbread pound cake ($34.99) and key lime pie ($32.99) but we’re most excited about the Sneaky Doodle cookies ($28.99 by the dozen only). Order deadline is Dec. 14.
This festive goodie scored a super-rare 100 points at the competition for a stuffed cookie round. It’s a buttery cookie — filled with caramel, chocolate and pecans — is lightly coated in cinnamon sugar, drizzled with chocolate and dusted with pecans.
“Cookies are the quintessential Christmas dessert,” says Sister Honey’s owner (and champion baker!) Evette Rahman. “What else do people leave for Santa?”
(1198 Orange Ave. in Winter Park; 321-422-4015; buttermilk-bakery.com)
You’ll find Buttermilk’s extensive cake, pie and tart menu on their website — special orders must be placed a minimum four days in advance — but staffers say the longer the lead time the better, especially during the holiday season. Look for their bouche de Noel and special-edition seasonal pies and other items, too. There were cranberry items a ‘plenty on their counter at press time. Everything here is baked daily and you really cannot beat the impossibly flaky croissants — sweet or savory. Guests will rave. The secret? Come early. There’s no limit on what you can buy and the earlier you arrive, the wider and fresher the selection you’ll have.
Blue Bird Bake Shop
(3122 Corrine Dr. in Orlando; 407-228-3822) They’ve got their holiday menu ready at this Audubon Park Garden District favorite. Cupcakes ($2.95) abound, in flavors that include Candy Cane (vanilla cake with crushed candy cane inside and peppermint buttercream with crushed candy cane on top) and Gingerbread (gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting topped with candied ginger). Cookies ($2.09), brownies ($3.59) and Bundt cakes ($30) also are available. Check out the full list on their Facebook page and be sure to place orders 24-48 hours in advance.
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Cherry cookie bars are a longstanding Christmas tradition for columnist JeanMarie Brownson’s family.
Brownson adds peppermint to her family’s favorite brownie recipe to make a holiday treat. See the recipe inside.
Decisions, decisions: An array of goodies at the Buttermilk Bakery counter.
Fresh and fruit: the lychee and grapefruit teas at Light on the Sugar Bakery Cafe.
Chocolate and confetti cupcakes from Blue Bird Bake Shop. There are far less traditional varieties available, but the classics are still the classics.
Sister Honey’s Sneaky Doodle earned a perfect score of 100 at the World Food Championships in Dallas in October. Order now to gift these stuffed cookies for the holidays.