Baking from the Heart

While pastry chefs at Montage Hotels & Resorts create sugary masterpieces every day, they get even more creative during the holiday season, tweaking favorite family recipes and researching local traditions to bring guests a magically sweet experience. Montage Magazine asked chefs to share an easy holiday recipe readers can make at home, creating taste memories to remind you of a Montage moment. Each recipe makes a few dozen, so you can keep some and gift some. ’Tis the season. Find your apron and dive in.


Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies
Stephen Jones, Executive Pastry Chef, Montage Deer Valley

2 cups butter
1 3/4 cups brown sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
Sea salt and sugar in the raw

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Chill overnight. Roll and cut to desired shape and brush with egg wash. Top with sugar in the raw and a little sea salt. Bake at 325 F until lightly golden.


Alfajores Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookie
Chef Luis Ayala, Montage Los Cabos

2 cups soft butter
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups almond powder
4 egg yolks
4 1/2 cups flour (chef uses King Arthur Flour’s all-purpose Sir Galahad)
2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons vanilla
Powdered sugar to toss

In a stand mixer, cream butter, white sugar, salt and vanilla until fluffy. Add yolks one at a time, scraping bowl as you go. Add almond powder and the flour and mix carefully at low speed. Once the dough is mixed, divide into blocks and let stand for an hour. Roll thin between two sheets of wax paper. Bake at 325 F. While cookies are still hot, toss in powdered sugar.


Dulce de Leche

4 cans condensed milk

In a tall pot, completely submerge the cans of condensed milk in water. Bring the water to medium heat, careful not to boil hard. The water should be simmering, the cans will cook for about 4 hours. Turn off the heat and allow the cans to cool completely in the water before opening. Once cooled, open cans and spread the dulce de leche between two cookies to form a sandwich.


Ginger Date Macarons
Lee Smith, Executive Pastry Chef, Montage Laguna Beach

2 egg whites
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, scraped
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1 cup ground hazelnuts toasted and cooled
1 cup dates pitted and finely chopped
Powdered sugar for dusting

Whisk whites to a soft peak, then add sugar slowly, whisking on medium speed. Fold in sugar dates, vanilla, gingers and hazelnuts. Drop onto a baking sheet lined with parchment with an ice cream scoop. Bake at 300 F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and dust with powdered sugar.


Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies
David Sampson, Executive Pastry Chef, Montage Palmetto Bluff

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1 teaspoon red food coloring
1/2cup chocolate chips
1/2cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add egg and vanilla and combine until smooth. Beat in red food coloring. Stir in cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt until just combined, scraping down the sides when needed. Fold in chocolate chips.Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out 1-2 tablespoons of dough and set on baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.


Sweet Potato White Chocolate Crunch
Monet Baniqued, Pastry Chef, Montage Kapalua Bay

For the coconut crunch:
1 /3 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup toasted coconut
For the sweet potato mix:
1 pound sweet potato (peeled and cubed)
131/5ounces coconut milk
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
12 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Pinch of salt

Coconut crunch: Line a 9-by-11-inch pan with parchment paper. Melt white chocolate in a double broiler. Once melted, remove from heat and add the toasted coconut flakes. Mix completely. Pour into the prepared pan, spreading evenly. Set aside.

Sweet potato mix: Steam or boil sweet potato until fork-tender. Drain, then smash with a fork or food processor. In a wide, heavy-bottom pan, over medium heat, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until butter is melted and sweet potato is dispersed. Reduce heat and continue to cook, stirring regularly for about 30-40 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and pour into prepared pan, on top of the white chocolate layer. Spread evenly and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming. Refrigerate to set—a minimum of three hours. Overnight is fine. Cut into 3-by-20-inch units. Serve with whipped cream and toasted coconut crunch toppings.


Crescent Cookies
Amanda Lavin, Executive Pastry Chef, Montage Beverly Hills

1 cup of softened butter
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4  cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of walnuts
1 tablespoon water
Melted butter
Powdered sugar

Cream butter, sugar, and extract with the paddle attachment of mixer until light and fluffy, add the water. Stir in flour and nuts, careful not to over mix. Set dough in the refrigerator to chill for at least 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 F.

Shape cookies into crescent moon shapes, or roll into balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 8-12 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool on a rack.

When cookies are cooled, dip in melted butter and roll in powdered sugar for garnish.

By Sue G. Collins