Chestnuts can now be found in many more places than the proverbial open fire. There's the new chestnut pasta at New York City's Balducci's; the fresh, dried and steamed chestnuts sold by Sacramento's Corti Brothers; and Bouley Bakery's chestnut bread, one of the Manhattan bakery's most popular offerings.
Facts about gingerbread from Great Gingerbread by Sara Perry and from Gingerbread by Linda Merinoff:
- It was the "cotton candy" of medieval European fairs.
- Since the Middle Ages, it's been made in people shapes.
- At one time, dark gingerbread got its color from red wine.
- Gingerbread men were once called husbands in England.
- New Englanders were famous for a glazed gingerbread known as muster.
- Emily Dickinson was praised for her gingerbread.
- Medieval gingerbread was made of bread crumbs.
- Queen Elizabeth I had a royal gingerbread maker.
- Thirteenth-century Englishmen ate gingerbrati lozenges.
- A fairy tale by the brothers Grimm created a demand for gingerbread houses.
Chocolate by the Book
One of this season's best sources on the subject is the immodestly titled Chocolate Bible by Christian Teubner ($30; Viking).
A dwarf lemon tree from Garden of Delights is one gift idea sure to bear fruit ($30; 954-370-9004).
Fondant is created by kneading a thick cooked sugar syrup until it be-comes creamy white. It can be made into sweets or flavored and used as a filling for individual chocolates or as a frosting for cakes, petits fours and pastries.