Carissa’s Serves a Taste of the Holidays

The East Hampton bakery is a wonderland all year—but wait until you see what they’re baking this December.

Carissa’s Bakery is a wonderland all year—but it really comes alive at the holidays. • Photo by Lindsay Morris

What does the premier East End bread-and-pie maker have up her sleeves for this holiday season? As in years past, Carissa Waechter has a list of holiday-specific pies, desserts, and so much more. You’ll want to give yourself ample time to eat through all of these before the season is over. Read on for a full primer on the bakery’s holiday items.

THE PIES: 

Concord Grape Pie

Concord Grape Pie

I love the deep purple American hybrid Concord grape that comes into season mid-fall. I don’t love figuring out how to separate the grape flesh from the large seed. Luckily, I no longer need to, since Carissa is here to do it for me. She uses wild Concord grapes that have been foraged from the North Fork for this jammy, grape-jam-in-pie-form pie. Think peanut butter and jelly sandwich interiors, except with no peanut butter (who needs it, anyway?). While Concords are in season—and that window is short—savor this purple pie without regret.

Chocolate Pie with Pear and Orange

Chocolate Pie with Pear and Orange

With fall comes heartier flavors, and this decorated chocolate pie, a thing of beauty, is no exception. Rich cocoa produces a decadent filling—like the best chocolate mousse you’ve ever had, only better. Tamed by notes of citrus (pop a decorative kumquat in your mouth for good measure) it’s a soft, supple, and kind of insanely rich pie, but, that being said, I could probably eat a whole one in a sitting. Eat it, love it, and order more of it. Repeat.

Bacon Lattice Apple Pie

Bacon Lattice Apple Pie

Straddling the line between sweet and savory, this picture-perfect apple pie features a lattice-top constructed of Mecox Bay Dairy Farm thick-cut bacon. One look at this pie and you’ll see why it’s among my favorite from anywhere, ever. It’s a gorgeous, complex pie, and not for the faint of heart. The crust is speckled with rosemary, making it reminiscent of the best scone you’ve ever had. Buy it for the novelty, but eat it as part of breakfast/lunch/dinner because it’s freaking delicious.

Gingerbread Pie

Gingerbread Pie

This gorgeous, custard-filled pie is a spicy, creamy addition to this year’s holiday list. It’s the best part of the gingerbread (the spice), minus the worst (the often inedible cookie). Like the filling, which is dusted with a generous sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar, the crust itself is spiced. Cozy up with a gingerbread pie and a glass of nog have yourself the merry little holiday you were hoping for.

Fall Fruit Meringue Pie

Fall Fruit Meringue Pie

Wispy dots of elfish meringue dot this iconic pie (when I think of Carissa’s pies, I think of her lovingly piped meringue first), which is filled with cranberries, pears, and ginger. The meringue is of the maple variety and the crust relies on savory notes of thyme and whole butter to counter the sweet meringue. It’s a picture-perfect pie literally bursting with holiday flavors.

Traditional Apple Pie

Traditional Apple Pie

Is apple pie a cliché? If it is, I don’t care—I’m still ordering it. This double-crusted apple pie is made with a local wheat crust with circular cutouts that are almost too pretty to cut into–almost. Top your slice with Carissa’s homemade whipped and sweetened crème fraîche and, um, you may have just discovered pie Nirvana. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Pumpkin Squash Pie

Pumpkin & Squash Pie

Of course, no holiday table would be complete without a pumpkin pie, which I find to be a simultaneously popular and unpopular pie. People have very strong, sincere feelings about pumpkin. As for me, I’m somewhat ambivalent, but this pumpkin-squash number might make me a convert. Made with pumpkin as well as delicata and butternut squashes, the spices nod toward the traditional: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and everything nice. A hard winter wheat crust, milled in house (of course), is the nutty, rich contrast your Thanksgiving guests are waiting for.

Cider Cheesecake Pie

Apple Cider Cheesecake Pie

Would that the figs in my backyard tree lasted into November. Sadly, they are eaten one by young, in their relative youth, right from the tree in September. Never mind. Carissa has the solution for my fellow fig devotees. Her delicate, creamy, and cider-infused cheesecake pie is garnished with dried apples. It may not be traditional, but, hey: Make your own traditions.

Salted Caramel Apple Pie with Rye Crust

Apple Rye Pie

The Apple Rye Pie is fair food gone wild. Made with a ginger caramel, sea salt, and local apples, it’s a caramel lover’s dream come true. A generous topping of caraway seeds is the perfect, nutty compliment to this delicious apple fantasy.

THE NON-PIES: 

The pie’s not the limit—Carissa bakes all sorts of beautiful treats.

For the holiday season, Carissa has added several non-pie options to her holiday list. If you’re not psyched to eat your way through these, well, you may be a little crazy. Here’s what’s in store this year.

Croqeumbouche

Carissa’s take on a holiday classic, which is, essentially, balls of pate-a-choux dough piled into a cone and bound together with caramel. It’s a dramatic, eye-catching dessert and one you won’t regret investing in.

Bûche de Noël

This is not your mother’s kinda-weird-tasting Yule log, rest assured. This sweet, happy dessert encapsulates all that is good about the season. You’ll likely want to order in advance to assure availability.

Chai-Spiced Beignet

These square-ish donuts are proof that New Orleans doesn’t corner the market when it comes to fried dough. Teeming with allspice, cardamom, and ginger, these non-donuts are definitely sugar, spice, and everything nice.

Egg Nog Eclairs

Choux dough piped with egg nog-flavored pastry cream. Count. Me. In. Is it overkill to dip your eclairs in egg nog. If it is, I don’t care, because I’m totally doing it anyway.

Assorted Macarons

These beauties come in many flavors: vanilla, cocoa-orange blossom, honey-saffron, hand-painted lavender, 5 spice-coffee, pistachio, rosewater-raspberry, almond, blood orange-kumquat, lemon, and banana-chocolate. If the flavor you desire is not at the counter, you can special order them for your holiday feast.

THE BREADS: 

Seasonal breads are here—and you’ll want to get them while you can. Here’s what’s available now!

Stout Bread

Sausage and Sage-Black Pepper Sourdough

Pumpkin Tea Bread

Oregano, Calabrian Chili, and Onion Foccacia

THE DRINKS: 

Stopping in to conquer your holiday shopping? The bakery will be serving drinks this year, too. Drink it while you’re mulling over which prizes to take home, or take a cup to go and, ahem, spike it at your leisure.

Mulled Spiced Apple Cider

Hot Chocolate with Homemade Marshmallow

THE GIFTS: 

Carissa’s White + Pink Strawberry Jam would make a great stocking stuffer.

And, if you’re a fan of one-stop shopping, this is absolutely the bakery for you. Buy a loaf of bread for yourself and any of Carissa’s gifts to go:

Fig Jam

Apple Butter

Onion Jam

Hand-Blown Glassware

Seasonal Flowers

Beach Plum Jam

Carissa keeps her pies, desserts, and breads in stock at her East Hampton bakery, but carb lovers can also place special orders in advance, which I suggest doing if you hope to populate your holiday table with these showpieces.

Carissa’s Breads, 68 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, open Wednesdays 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Thursdays through Mondays 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. www.carissasthebakery.com

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Hannah Selinger

Hannah Selinger is a freelance food and wine writer and sommelier living in East Hampton. Her work has appeared in the such publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and RawStory.com. She is the wine columnist for the Southampton Press.