Cloying gingerbread people, oppressive fruitcake—these are the bane of the intrepid holiday baker. In defiance of tired Christmas standards, we probed some of Portland’s best dessert chefs for their favorite holiday recipes, with just a few stipulations: no candy thermometer, no pastry bags, and please, no xanthan gum. On our roster is food-cart phenom Kir Jensen with rosemary butter cookies, a lavish and aromatic entry in the Sugar Cube’s arsenal of retro-sassy comestibles; Imperial’s Michelle Vernier with a gooey, taste-of-the-season toffee gingerbread (pictured); and Nostrana’s Cathy Whims with her legendary, creamy, salty, sweet butterscotch budino, adapted from the famed Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. Let the holiday madness begin! 


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