Two Canadian Pastry Chefs Share Tips for Holiday Hosting and Their Fave Recipes
We spoke to the renowned pastry chefs and cookbook authors all about the best holiday baking hacks in their new book, Earth to Table Bakes.
Pastry chefs Bettina Schormann and Erin Schiestel first met in 2004 while working together at the Ancaster Mill restaurant in southern Ontario. Schormann left to open Earth to Table: Bread Bar in Hamilton, Ont., in 2010. She soon recruited Schiestel as the head baker/pastry chef at the popular restaurant. The recipes in their new cookbook, Earth to Table Bakes (out now!), are a result of the long-time collaboration and friendship between the two bakers.
Here, Schormann and Schiestel talk about their favourite recipes, holiday hosting tips and tricks and why sweet treats are so important.
What are some of your favourite recipes in the book?
Bettina Schormann: I can’t get enough of Erin’s croissants. And then I always like the tarts and quiches made with puff pastry. The crispy layers! Those are my favourite.
Erin Schiestel: I’m drawn to the angel food cake even though it’s so simple. It’s a vehicle for endless toppings. In the book, we pair it with berries, but it can go with anything for any season.
What are your go-to recipes for holiday hosting?
BS: I have an uncle who has celiac, so I always have to get creative with my gluten-free options. Something like the Chocolate Nemesis cake is so delicious and accommodates everyone.
ES: I’m really into Christmas breakfast, so quiche is my go-to because it feeds the crowd, and you can make it into whatever you want.
What are your baking tips for hosts who are juggling a million things at once?
BS: Read the recipe from start to finish and figure out what you can do ahead of time, even if that means days ahead of time. Don’t try to tackle everything on one day.
You write about creating magical memories with baking. Tell us more.
BS: I think baking with your kids is so important. For a while, my daughter was awful to bake with because she’d just reach into the salt jar and throw a handful into everything. But now she likes to level off the cup, and she’s starting to learn about fractions and cracking eggs, and she’s loving it.
ES: Even for adults there’s always that element of wide-eyed surprise and anticipation of eating something beautiful. It doesn’t get old. Everyone’s just so grateful that you spent the time to make delicious things for them.
We often talk about baked goods, especially around the holidays, as a naughty indulgence. But it’s also important to treat yourself and allow for those magical memories. How do you find the balance?
ES: Our baking includes things like full-fat dairy because that’s what makes the most delicious product, which is always what we’re going for. If you’re going to spoil yourself, you may as well just do it. And if you don’t spoil yourself then you’re going to unnecessarily make yourself suffer and your mental health will suffer. I think you need to be nice to yourself.
BS: We are really good at treating ourselves. There is a story of a baker in France who would work all night and then pick out the best baguette to take home. I always thought that was such a special way to think about it. Don’t give away everything—keep the best for yourself.
For sure! And then there are the mental health benefits of eating delicious food with your loved ones.
ES: And sharing what you’re making with your friends and family, or customers even. So many memories are created around working together in the kitchen or sharing what you made with your hands.
What’s the best part of sharing what you’ve made?
BS: At the beginning of the meal when everyone sits down and we all hold hands—I mean, we’re not religious, but we are German—and we shake three times and say “Guten Appetit!” Then everybody just dives into the food. My favourite moment is when nobody is talking because everybody’s eating.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Next, try this decadent dark chocolate and pecan pie recipe from Bettina and Erin’s new book Earth to Table Bakes.