It's undeniable that holiday sweets and treats give the season its pizzazz. Maybe, back in the day, you made popcorn balls with your mom or wrapped soft caramels with your grandma. Each year, we yearn to rekindle those feelings of togetherness by making such treats yet few of us find the time to follow through. Maybe this year, with COVID keeping more of us housebound, our holiday cookies and fudge recipes will become a reality.
But if not, no need to despair. Just set down the cooking sherry and back away from the kitchen. In December 2019, the staff of Devour Utah came up with a list of locally crafted sweets and snacks that are not only to die for but ready to serve as party snacks or give as gifts. From cookies to candy to nuts, there is no shortage of heavenly bites made by Utah's talented bakers and confectionery makers. We're pleased to republish the list to support these small businesses and to let readers know there is actually some happiness you can buy!
The holiday season is the time for culinary artists to shine, and you can savor their commitment to using top-quality, fresh ingredients and creating their masterpieces in small batches. Not only are these confections something you'll obsess over—they may the start of new holiday gift-giving and hosting traditions.
- Tami Steggell
- Ruby Snap’s ‘Amy,’ a triple chocolate cookie with chocolate buttercream and carmelized cocoa nibs
It's a Wonderful Cookie
Growing up in Saudi Arabia without many modern conveniences (such as a local grocery store!) led Ruby Snap owner Tami Steggell to learn how to cook from scratch. Her mother made everything at home—from tortillas to cream puffs—and proudly passed on her recipes. After becoming a young wife, Steggell honed her culinary skills and learned how to make delicious cookies at home. In the 1990s, she became an avid cyclist and wanted to make delicious treats on her off-training days. Not wanting to waste precious calories on a mediocre product, she soon realized she had a mission. She cashed out her savings and left her career as a designer to open RubySnap.
"What makes us truly different is that every ingredient is hand-prepared, or uniquely sourced—from whole vanilla beans, fresh eggs, rich butter, clean nut butters, pure chocolates and fruits and veggies from quality farmers," Steggell says. Every day, the bakers hand zest, cut, squeeze and peel their ingredients, from citrus to root veggies.
RubySnap produces 450 dozen cookies a day, just for their Salt Lake store. Popular cookies include the Mia, a vanilla bean sugar cookie, with a buttercream beet frosting; the classic chocolate chip Trudy and the cherry-chocolate Suzie. You can also purchase their frozen cookie dough at Harmons grocery stores. (Aimee L. Cook)
770 S. 300 West, SLC
- Aimee l. cook
- Kyung Bakery’s sweet rice balls
Hark How the Balls, Sweet Rice Balls, All Seem to Say, Throw Cares Away
While Kyung Myers excels at baking Korean goods, although she's skilled with French pastries as well. The former baker for the Bill White Restaurant Group in Park City is a self-taught baker, having learned the art 20 years ago. "Over the years," she says, "I have provided breads and desserts to many local restaurants," and she still works with some Park City and Salt Lake eateries including Blue Lemon and others.
Particular about ingredients, she uses real butter and distilled water in her pastries. Using red bean paste and powder, green tea and sweet sticky rice, she prepares a plethora of Korean-inspired sweets and savory items in the bakery that she opened a year ago. Sweet rice balls (3 for $2.99) are a soft and chewy treat that come in a variety of flavors like cake crumb and green tea, and red bean powder. Homemade Korean breads are filled with red bean paste ($1.89) and the large dough pockets of the traditional Korean favorite, koroke, are stuffed with potato, cabbage, onion, carrots and curry ($3.49).
Her sweet breads are filled with lemon and coconut ($2.49) or melon ($2.99). Other standouts include Myers' eclairs ($3.49), fruit tarts ($5.99) and cinnamon caramel sticks ($1.99).
In a season noted for sugar-overload, Myers has carved a niche with her delicious gluten-free, dairy free and low-sugar desserts. Hers is a bakery with a strong following of happy customers. (Aimee L. Cook)
153 E. 4370 South, No. 17, Murray
- Courtesy Photo
- Bohemian Baklava’s ‘Cheesecake’
Love and Baklava Come to You
"Punk'd out baklava"—that's how Elif Ekin describes her homemade treats. Ekin took her mother's Turkish baklava recipe, made a few changes and began selling it at the local farmers markets in 2004. After her success there and having her recipe featured by Martha Stewart in 2008, she began selling baklava and other items at the Tea Grotto, and now has expanded to local businesses such as Laziz Kitchen and BGR. "My baklava is different in that I only use 26 layers. I use a sugar, water and lemon syrup, which makes it lighter, and I do not butter every layer," she says.
She's always up for a challenge, whether it's creating a boozy product or combination—such as bacon and bourbon—or a candy line using dark chocolate. "I will try just about anything," she says.
Elkin makes trays of 96 bite-size pieces ($100 for traditional). Her nuts are ground fine so that ingredients combine well together, and she uses a reduced amount of syrup—just what is necessary to create the texture she wants.
Order through her website. Special orders (and challenges) are always welcome, with a minimum purchase of a quarter-tray. (Aimee L. Cook)
- Courtesy Photo
- Cache Toffee
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Toffee
Cache Toffee founder Lori Darr learned the art of toffee-making from her mother, who made the confection for family and friends as a holiday treat. After mastering toffee-making herself, Darr continues the tradition with her family and friends.
In 2016, she decided to bring her toffee collection to market and launched Cache Toffee. The handcrafted, small-batch toffee is made with fresh local butter and chocolate. The candy has a melt-in-your-mouth creamy crunch that's accompanied by flavors inspired by the changing seasons.
Her Summit flavor ($40/pound) reminds her of fall colors in the mountains. Layered with locally made Solstice dark chocolate, the irresistible toffee is blended with seeds, nuts, dried berries and fruit. It's finished with a sprinkle of sea salt and organic green tea leaves, which Darr says remind her of the musty, damp, fall smell.
"Blondie ($40/pound) makes me think of summer," she says, "with the sun shining in your face. I use Solstice white chocolate, local bean-to-bar chocolate, with mangoes, rum and toasted coconut."
Cache Toffee's use of quality ingredients, she notes, "is what really sets us apart."
Sampler boxes, gift boxes and corporate gifts are available on the website, and you can find many Cache Toffee flavors in local Whole Foods, The Store and Provisions on Main Street in Park City. (Aimee L. Cook)
- Courtesy Photo
- Diverse offerings of trail mixes at Western Nut Co.
Our Finest Nuts We Bring Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum
Quality and tradition keep satisfied customers returning to Western Nut Co. throughout the year for the best nut mixes, brittles, toffees and fudge. Generations of Utah, Wyoming and Idaho families continue to shop here to pass on fond memories of special favorites and treats, especially during the holiday season. Since it was founded in 1966, only the highest-quality nuts—sourced from around the world—are used and roasted at the Factory Store (the roasting can be viewed through glass windows). Plump peanuts, silken cashews, meaty walnuts and pecans, firm almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts and more are oh-so tempting.
Western Nut Co. maintains a quaint old-fashioned shop atmosphere at the retail store but keeps modern by creating new mixes such as the super-nutritious Antioxidant Medley Mix and Golden Spike Trail Mix along with sugar- and salt-free offerings. There are shelves of dried fruits and hard-to-find specialty candies such as Holland mints and Jordan almonds.
As a member of Utah's Own, the store features displays of locally made jams, sauces, fun gifts and décor, and you'll find a huge selection of bee- and beehive-themed items. Creative gift baskets and pre-wrapped gift boxes are available in-store or for online ordering and corporate giving. Holiday kiosks and store displays pop up in malls and grocery stores during the season.
There is truly something for everyone, even a fun Nut of the Month Club that gives superior nuts to those you love all year. Part-owner Lee Mercer says they are happy to help businesses create specialty mixes like the one they are currently working on for a brewery.
Western Nut Co. really knows its nuts! They maintain a strict three-month sell-by date, whereas many stores keep nut products on the shelf a full year. Customers can rest assured that their nut purchase is fresh, whole and delicious any time of the year. (Merry Lycett Harrison)
Western Nut Co.
434 S. 300 West, SLC
- Niki Chan Wylie
- Amour Spreads features ripe fruits grown in Utah
Oh Bring Us a Figgy Pudding
Casee and John Francis delight in bringing together fresh fruit, pure cane sugar and organic lemon juice to produce flavor-filled, jewel-toned jars of Amour Spreads jams and marmalades. This passion has been both their hobby and business for nearly a decade.
Amour Spreads highlights perfectly ripe fruits primarily grown and harvested in Utah. Plums, elderberries, peaches, apricots, chokecherries, tayberries and even heirloom tomatoes follow the seasons into each jar of Amour Spreads preserves. As Amour Spreads uses nothing frozen, when an ingredient run out, they're gone until the next harvest season.
It's their true dedication to traditional artisan ways that have earned the Francises acclaim as craft producers. "It's not about the volume—it's about the quality," Casee says of their products. Their blackcurrant blackberry jam won a Good Food Award in the preserve division in 2016—celebrating the dark, tart and earthy fruit grown in Paradise by local farmers.
Jams are made by hand in traditional copper pans in their commercial kitchen. John says the copper's conductive properties provide an even cooking surface and prevents scorching.
In 2016, Casee and John opened Amour Café near Liberty Park (which, due to COVID, is currently not open to the public for dine-in dining). Hopefully, when they reopen, they will again be serving up savory egg plates and grilled cheese featuring Amour Spreads' Heirloom Tomato jam with baguettes brimming with Black Mission Fig jam and brie. Full jars are available for purchase.
Holiday shoppers can mix and match their favorite flavors of Amour Spreads by ordering online or at other specialty stores like Caputo's and Liberty Heights Fresh. Better still, give a gift that lasts all year. The Amour Jam Club is a selection of 12 jars of jam shipped in three collections throughout the year that reflect the best of the best from Amour Spreads. It's a delicious way to spread the love of local fruits. (Heather L. King)
1329 S. 500 East, SLC
- Courtesy Photo
- Crumb Brothers Almond Croissant
Have Yourself a Merry Little Croissant
Crumb Brothers has been a Cache Valley staple since it opened in 2004. For years, the bakery produced more than a thousand loaves of bread each day—much of which was delivered around Salt Lake City to restaurants and grocery stores. But the retirement of the original owners Bill and Diane Oblock and eventual closing of the bakery in 2015 was cause for mourning by loyal customers—until bread lovers and Logan residents Rudy and Luba Otrusinik bought and reopened Crumb Brothers featuring many of the original recipes and employees.
Since then, there's been significantly more focus on catering to the local Logan community with Crumb Brothers' celebrated artisan breads and European-style pastries. The restaurant offers a drool-worthy breakfast, scratch-made lunch and a hearty Sunday brunch menu. Wine Wednesday dinners also features seasonal dishes and special wine flights.
Yet, it's still the baked goods that customers most clamor for. Using organic flours and locally sourced ingredients—everything from black garlic in focaccia, cherries in the cherry chocolate sourdough or polenta and corn flour in the corn ball brioche—the flaky pastries and crusty breads are showstoppers, whether in the restaurant or at home.
For the holidays, a selection of scones, Danish and croissants are the perfect centerpiece for a winter wonderland brunch, while a sourdough braid or crusty baguette makes a delicious and festive hostess gift.
Customers living to the south of Logan are able to regularly find Crumb Brothers baguettes and loaves at farmers markets from Ogden to Murray during the warmer months. And this winter, enjoy breads and pastries at the Downtown Winter Market at the Gateway, 12 South Rio Grande St., Nov. 14-April 17, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Of course, the best selection of fresh-baked items is always available at the flagship bakery in Logan—and always cause for celebration. (Heather L. King)
291 S. 300 West, Logan
- Courtesy Photo
- “There’s a lot of love in this toffee.”—Linda Peterson, Garden Gate Candy
The Crunch Before Christmas
In 1942, Cornelius Vanderlinden bought Garden Gate Ice Cream, which he and his wife, Helen, operated while raising their family. As time went on, the Garden Gate eventually became a chocolate store.
Cornelius "worked many hours every day," his daughter, Linda Peterson, recalls. After he died in 2009, Peterson became a co-owner along with her mother, Helen Vanderlinden, and sister, Connie Plumb. Operated seasonally, Golden Gate Candy opens for the holidays on the first Monday in November. Its bestseller, Garden Gate toffee, is known for its deep, rich flavor with just the right amount of sweetness.
Each year, members of the Vanderlinden family blend the toffee mixture of sugar and butter in a big copper kettle. When it reaches the optimal temperature, they pour it onto a 15-foot marble slab to cool. Then, Peterson says, they use a pizza cutter to cut the toffee to fit on cookie sheets. They cut the sheets of candy into still smaller pieces and dip them in a thick coating of melted Guittard Chocolate, ordered from California. They then roll the toffee in freshly ground almonds. The nut dusting provides both a flavor and texture to complement the chocolate and toffee.
They also use the imported Guittard chocolate to coat caramels, cinnamon bears and Oreos. "We dip marshmallows and pretzels in caramel and then in the chocolate," says Peterson.
The toffee, however, remains the star. "We ship it all over the United States," Peterson says. "And when we sell out, a day or two before Christmas, we close for another year."
After 77 years, Garden Gate remains very much a family enterprise. "There's a lot of love in this toffee," Peterson says. (Carolyn Campbell)
Garden Gate Candy
928 E. 900 South, SLC
- Courtesy Photo
- Fernwood Mint Sandwiches
I'm Dreaming of a Mint Sandwich
Mint sandwiches, a melt-in-your mouth blend of mint and chocolate, are a top-selling confection at Fernwood Candy, says Bekah Staheli, manager of the Fernwood Factory in Logan. "As far as I'm aware, we have sold mint sandwiches since Fernwood opened in 1947," she says. "They are still as yummy now as they were back then."
The process of making the candy involves pouring a thin layer of velvety-smooth melted chocolate on the factory's large granite tables. The green "mint-chocolate" center of the sandwich is added next, followed by a top layer of chocolate, completing the layers that in essence form a chocolate sandwich. "We still use a big knife to cut them into squares," says Staheli.
Mint sandwiches are available in both dark and milk chocolate, or in packages that include both varieties. They are sold in an assortment of options ranging from a two-sandwich foil-wrapped package and in boxes ranging from 2 to 14 ounces. There is a 2-pound box and it's possible to purchase a bulk order of 10 pounds of mint sandwiches. "People really love them," Staheli says, "and we have a ton of repeat customers. They are especially popular around the Christmas holidays."
In 2016, Staheli's parents, Mike and Linda Staheli, purchased Fernwood Candy from Dick Wood, son of the original owners, George and Leah Wood. The name "Fernwood" is a combination of their last name, Wood, and Fern Street—where their home was located when they were newlyweds. Originally an ice cream parlor and candy store, Fernwood Candy now offers orange and raspberry sandwiches along with the popular mint confection. They also sell other handmade chocolates including nut barks, chocolate-covered pretzels and dipped cookies. Sea salt caramels and pecan logs are also popular during the Christmas holidays, while almondettes are a hit every spring.
Mint sandwiches are available online and at Frost's Books and Deseret Book. At Christmastime, Kroger and Associated Food stores also sell the mint, raspberry and orange varieties of the chocolate sandwiches. (Carolyn Campbell)
6937 S. 1300 East, Cottonwood Heights
This article is republished from the December 2019 issue of Devour Utah.