Portland Pastry Chefs Share Their Thanksgiving Dessert Memories

After the maelstrom of pumpkin custard and candied pecans is settled, what do Portland's bakers eat on Thanksgiving?

By Anna Loh November 18, 2014

This year, we delve into the holiday rituals of our local pastry stars—the ones who expertly baked your pumpkin pies and apple turnovers. We quizzed them on their favorite Thanksgiving desserts (most often pumpkin pie baked with their grandmother), their nostalgia-driven cooking styles, and their own standby dishes for the holidays.

Emily Stone, Pearl Bakery:

Favorite Thanksgiving dessert: Pumpkin bread

How it influenced your baking style: My grandmother's pumpkin bread recipe is really old-fashioned and calls for mincemeat. I appreciate the sentiment of cracking open that jar of mincemeat once a year but I also tend to stick with the basics for the holidays. From what I've seen, people don't want to spend Thanksgiving exploring new flavors; they want what they know.

New Thanksgiving traditions: Every year my mother would make and package the same four cookies and pass them on to our friends and family. Every holiday season I make a handful of different cookies, hoping there will be one in the mix that people keep asking for. In ten or so years I'll have an array of treats that are tried and true—my own spin on my mother's tradition.

Sara Nolan, Random Order Coffee House:

Favorite Thanksgiving dessert: A pumpkin pie that my grandmother and I would make together. My grandmother would have me hold my hands under the cold water until it felt like they were ice cubes, and then I would be allowed to help her roll out the dough—that crust turned out flaky every time.

How it influenced your baking style: I was lucky enough to have a very pie-centric family. It seemed like whenever we all got together a pie somehow made its way into the equation. Pies are where I feel the most at home, and cherish each product that I make.

New Thanksgiving traditions: Working, as is the case with many of the bakers I know! But in they panic of trying to get pies to all our customers, there is always a sense of calm and bliss in the work itself, as if I were still just a little girl making pies in my grandmother’s kitchen.

Danielle Hoeft, Lovejoy Bakers

Favorite Thanksgiving dessert: Mint cookies my mother and I would make. It’s a simple short cookie rolled in sugar with peppermint and chocolate chips in them.

How it influenced your baking style: I tend to gravitate toward creating approachable desserts that remind us of our mother's or grandmother's kitchens. Pies, cookies, and simply dressed cakes are the stars of the bakery and my home kitchen.

New Thanksgiving traditions: I still make the mint chocolate sugar cookies every year. It reminds me of those fall days in the kitchen with my mother, plus I just love eating those cookies!

Anne Miller, Gluten Free Gem Bakery

Favorite Thanksgiving dessert: Pumpkin pie.

How it influenced your baking styleCreating a gluten free bakery—I wanted to make our gluten-free items just like "traditional" items so that those who can’t take gluten aren't missing out.

New Thanksgiving traditions: I continue with our Thanksgiving tradition of a family gathering with lots of good food but we use gluten-free bread for rolls and stuffing and gluten-free pies from Gem. And everyone loves it—some family members don't even know it’s gluten-free!

Dominique Geulin, Saint Honore

Favorite Thanksgiving dessert: Growing up in France, we didn’t have a Thanksgiving celebration as part of our cultural heritage. It wasn’t until I first visited Portland in the early 80’s that I discovered it. It really is a very specific holiday to the US, not shared with any other countries in the world (besides Canada on a different day.) Sweet potatoes and pumpkins were not at all popular items in our French cuisine.

New Thanksgiving traditions: After more than 30 years here in the US, Thanksgiving has influenced me to develop some new pastries at the bakery like the Sweet Potato Pont Neuf—a combination of French traditional recipes with traditional Thanksgiving flavors.

Garrett Jones, Back to Eden:

Favorite Thanksgiving dessert: Classic pumpkin pie.  My grandma was known for her pecan pie but for some reason we kids were always told that was the “adult option.”

How it influenced your baking style: Seeing the time that my grandmother spent preparing the food from scratch, including all her pies and pie crusts.

New Thanksgiving traditions: Before my grandma passed, she was so proud of my baking accomplishments and aspirations despite not looking exactly like her traditional recipes. I have always taken great pleasure in recreating recipes to be vegan and gluten-free without sacrificing any flavors, textures or nostalgia.

Lisa Clark, Petunia’s Pies & Pastries

Favorite Thanksgiving dessert: I have never been a person who can choose a favorite anything. Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Mousse Torte, Apple Pie! I always saved room (even if I didn’t have room, it went down).

How it influenced your baking style: I tend to try to combine things into one dessert, what I call “making the perfect bite.” I love bringing the traditional flavors to customers, with a little punch, a little excitement and pizzazz.

New Thanksgiving traditions: I believe strongly in carrying on tradition through all generations. It provides something constant—a foundation. This year, my dad is finally letting us cook the dinner, rather than do it himself. He is almost 68, so I think he needs a break.

Sarah Curtis-Fawley, Pacific Pie Co

Favorite Thanksgiving tradition: My family had a tradition of eating the 'pointy end' of the pie first because we are all crust lovers and liked to save that for last! Also we would poke holes in our pumpkin pie with a fork and then pour sherry on top. 

New Thanksgiving traditions: These days my twist on that tradition is to serve a nice port alongside pumpkin pie—the perfect way to end a holiday meal.

Annie Portlock, Annie Pies

Favorite Thanksgiving dessert: My grandma's candied yams—super old school with a marshmallow topping. I also always loved to make the biscuits. Scratch made, fluffy, with melted butter and honey.

How it influenced your baking style: I really love coming up with new takes on childhood favorites, simple and nostalgic things like Pumpkin Snickerdoodle, S'mores pie, or Princess Buttercup (chocolate chip cookie crust filled with peanut butter cream).

New Thanksgiving traditions: My family and I are pretty non-traditional (one year we did steak and lobster!) But when it comes to dessert, there's nothing better than some straight up pumpkin pie with home made whipped cream.

Tim Healea, Little T Baker

Favorite Thanksgiving dessert: Mincemeat pie. My grandpa's favorite was always mincemeat and he ate it with cheddar cheese, never ice cream or whipped cream. I thought that was so cool, so I started eating it that way too and over time it became one of my favorite holiday memories. In a rush, my grandmother would buy the None Such supermarket brand of mincemeat and doctor it up with chopped fresh apples and spices. I was an adult before I realized that there was actually meat in the filling; I just liked the sweet currants and warm spices.

How it influenced your baking style: I have an appreciation for and interest in old-fashioned desserts and baked goods. One of the reasons I was attracted to artisan baking originally is because it really embraced using traditional methods and techniques…and modernizing those methods for today's tastes.

New Thanksgiving traditions: This holiday season, I'm baking eccles cakes—traditional English cakes of very flaky pastry dough surrounding a spiced currant filling. They remind me very much of mincemeat pie actually, so I guess that's why I fell in love with them on a recent trip to London. I worked on re-creating them with flaky cream cheese dough and a (meatless!) currant filling with coriander, nutmeg and cinnamon. 

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