ADVERTISEMENT

Red-nosed reindeer may be immortalized in merry carols, but candy canes -- those striped, peppermint delights of yore -- hold a special place in every child's heart. Yet for all their holiday charm, candy canes never quite live up to their nostalgic promise once you're past the age of lollipops.

"I take one lick of a candy cane -- and that's enough," says Emily Luchetti, the pastry chef at San Francisco's Waterbar and Farallon restaurants. "It's a sticky mess, and you have the whole thing in your hand."

Christina Tosi, the baking genius behind New York's Momofuku Milk Bar, calls them "the last candy standing." No one, she says, actually wants to eat them -- and yet, we love them so.

So with the assistance of Luchetti, Tosi and their colleagues, we set out to recapture our love for the signature sweet. The result? New wave desserts that capture those signature holiday flavors.

> Momofuku Holiday Cookies

16 tablespoons butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

3 cups cornflake crunch (see recipe below)

2/3 cup mini-chocolate chips

40 peppermints or 18 candy canes

1 1/4 cups mini-marshmallows

Combine butter and sugars in an electric mixer. Cream together on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down sides, add egg and vanilla and beat for 7-8 minutes more.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together. Scrape down sides.

Still on low, mix in the cornflake crunch and mini-chips, just until incorporated, no more than 30-45 seconds.

Unwrap the peppermints and transfer them to a zip-top plastic bag. With the end of a rolling pin, break the candy up into medium to small pieces -- but no smaller than a Nerd. (Do not make candy powder.) Mix the candy and marshmallows into the dough, just until incorporated.

Using an ice cream scoop or a 1/3 cup measure, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Pat the tops of the cookie domes flat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour to 1 week. (Do not bake your cookies at room temperature -- they will not hold their shape.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange dough at least 4 inches apart on parchment-lined sheet pans. Bake for 18 minutes. The cookies will puff, crackle and spread. They should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown toward the center.

Cool completely on pans before transferring to an airtight container for storage. Cookies will keep fresh for 5 days at room temperature, or frozen for 1 month. Makes 15-20.

> Cornflake Crunch

5 cups cornflakes

1/2 cup instant milk powder

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

9 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Pour the cornflakes into a large bowl and crush them with your hands to a quarter of their original size. Add the milk powder, sugar and salt and toss to mix. Add butter and toss to coat. The butter will act as glue, binding dry ingredients to cereal and creating clusters.

Spread the clusters on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until they look toasted, smell buttery and crunch gently when cooled slightly. Cool the cornflake crunch completely before using. The crunch will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature, or a month in the fridge or freezer. Makes about 4 cups.

-- Christina Tosi, "Momofuku Milk Bar" (Clarkson Potter, 256 pages, $35)

> Chocolate-Peppermint Buche de Noel

For chocolate sponge cake:

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons warm water

Butter, flour for the pan

9 large eggs, separated

1 cup sugar, divided

6 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa, sifted, plus more for dusting

1/8 teaspoon salt

For peppermint filling:

2 large egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

Salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 or 2 drops red food coloring, optional

Crushed candy canes, optional

For chocolate glaze:

3 tablespoons heavy cream

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin

Candy canes, to garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the warm water. Let cool to room temperature.

Grease the bottom of an 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Line pan with parchment; butter and then flour the parchment.

With an electric mixer, whip the egg yolks on medium-high speed until light in color and beginning to thicken, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sugar and whip until very thick and pale yellow, 2 minutes. Reduce speed and mix in chocolate. Fold in the cocoa and salt.

In a clean mixer bowl with clean, dry beaters, whip egg whites until frothy and beginning to increase in volume, 30 seconds. In a steady stream, add remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Increase speed and whip until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir half the whites into the chocolate. Gently fold in the rest. Scrape batter into pan, smoothing it level. Bake 22-25 minutes, until the top springs back lightly when touched.

Meanwhile, spread a large clean dish towel on the counter. Using a sieve, thoroughly dust the towel with cocoa powder. Run a knife around the inside edge of the hot cake pan and invert it onto the towel in one quick motion. (It's a messy process. Be prepared for clouds of cocoa.) Remove the pan and parchment. Starting from a short end, roll up the cake and towel together. Let cool.

For the filling. Fill a wide pot with 2 inches of very hot water. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the 2 egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch salt. Set the bowl in the hot water; so the water comes up to the level of the mixture in the bowl. Whisk until almost hot (about 120 degrees), about 90 seconds. Then, using the mixer on medium-high, whip the whites until cool and thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce to medium speed, add butter a tablespoon at a time, mixing until completely incorporated. Mix in the peppermint extract and red food coloring. The filling should be soft and loose. (Chill it for 20 minutes if it's too runny.)

Unroll the cooled cake. Spread the filling to within 2 inches of the edges. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes, if you wish. Then reroll the cake -- without the towel. (The cake can be stored, well-wrapped in plastic wrap, overnight in the refrigerator at this point.)

Set a wire rack on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Set the roulade on the rack.

For the glaze, bring the cream, sugar, 1/2 cup water and cocoa to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer 8-10 minutes, whisking often, until very thick, like hot fudge. Don't let it boil over. Let cool.

While the glaze is cooling, soften the gelatin in 1 1/2 tablespoons water. Melt it in a double boiler, then whisk it into the glaze, and strain the mixture into a metal bowl. Let cool until thick but still pourable, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Pour the glaze over the roulade, covering the top and sides evenly. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. Garnish with crushed candy canes.

-- Adapted from a recipe by Emily Luchetti, pastry chef, Waterbar