By Lettie Teague and Monica F. Forrestall
Updated March 31, 2015

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.

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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).

Christmas Citrus
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.