Holiday Spirit

3 chefs with some sweet treats
Chefs from Madera, Quattro and Simmer + Sauce share their favorite holiday dessert recipes

by Fiona Kelliher

Dessert always wins during the holidays, whether you're serving a homey favorite or an adventurous new dish. We asked local chefs from Menlo Park's Michelin-starred Madera restaurant, food blog Simmer + Sauce and the Four Seasons' Quattro restaurant for their favorite seasonal dessert recipes.

Chef Eric Keppler, executive pastry chef at Quattro in East Palo Alto, has a soft spot for wintry classics. After growing up in Pennsylvania, the holidays make him crave apple dumplings and jams. At work, it's all about "evoking the feeling of homestyle" while staying true to Quattro's Italian roots. The chef graduated from the baking and pastry arts program at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island and previously worked as executive pastry chef at La Patisserie in Cupertino. At the restaurant, his "Piamonte Sunrise" dessert includes a chocolate hazelnut cream, hazelnut crumb and orange reduction sauce. "Orange, nuts and chocolate, just scream fall and cozying up here while the cold comes in. It's just that whole seasonal vibe," Keppler said.

Piamonte Sunrise Sorbet
1 1/2 cups mandarin orange juice
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon Cointreau (orange liqueur)

In a small pot over medium, heat half of the orange juice with sugar and corn syrup until sugars dissolve. Remove from heat and add remaining juice and Cointreau. Chill until completely cooled, and pour mixture into ice cream maker to process and store in freezer for 4-6 hours.


After training at the French Culinary Institute and working at New York establishments like Montrachet and the Century Club, Andrea Potischman brought her expertise to Menlo Park, where she moved with her family in 2009. Her food blog Simmer + Sauce aims to provide quality ideas to home cooks and document her favorite recipes despite having left the formal business. This holiday season, Potischman will be making a sweet potato tart instead of the classic pumpkin pie. Sweet potato filling, she said, "is a flavorful, slightly less sweet, and subtle alternative that is actually loaded with protein and fiber."

Sweet Potato Tart
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold, diced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4-1/2 cup ice water

2-3 large sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 cups cooked and pureed)
1 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of mace

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Scrub the sweet potatoes and use knife to pierce in several places. Wrap them in aluminum foil and bake for 45-60 minutes until soft. Pulse flour, sugar, salt and butter in food processor until mealy. Add the water in a steady stream until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a round disk and refrigerate in plastic wrap for 30 minutes. On floured surface, roll into a 14-inch round and press into a 10-inch tart pan. Refrigerate the tart shell for 15 more minutes. Peel cooled potatoes and puree for about 1 minute until smooth. Combine the sugar, eggs, cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and mace in mixing bowl. Whisk in about 1 1/2 cups of sweet potato puree. To assemble, place the chilled tart shell on a baking sheet and pour the filling into the shell. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 F and bake until the filling is firm and slightly puffed around the edges, about 35-40 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.


Hynn Yam, executive pastry chef at Madera, says that his international background helps him approach the craft "in a globally inclusive way." After stints at Hong Kong's three Michelin-star L'Atelier de JoÎl Robuchon and Swine Hotel, he eventually moved on to the Rosewood Hotel Beijing and oversaw six restaurants and two banquet halls. Now at the Silicon Valley Rosewood, he finds that the local farmers markets are hard to beat. "It's a very special thing to have that relationship with farms nearby," he said. His apple tart tatin is a "classical representation" of the typical apple tart. "Try it with different apples to make it sweeter or tarter," he said.

Apple Tart Tatin
1 sheet puff pastry
powdered sugar
Bake a 10-inch circle of defrosted puff pastry for 10 minutes at 380 F. Place parchment paper on top, layer a sheet pan on the paper and press down to flatten. Bake 20 more minutes with the sheet pan covering the pastry. Remove the sheet pan and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. Let cool, coat with powdered sugar, and bake at 500 F for 4-7 minutes to caramelize.
Apple tatin:
3 pounds or six golden delicious apples (or other baking apple)
Lemon juice as needed
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups hot water
2 vanilla beans
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup sugar
5 teaspoons pectin NH

Peel and dice apples into 1/2-inch cubes. Place into water and lemon juice. Heat sugar, stirring constantly, until dark golden. Add hot water, vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks. Add apple cubes and simmer for about 15 minutes or until apples are tender. Let cool, remove vanilla and cinnamon and strain out caramel mixture. Mix sugar and pectin together and toss with strained apples. Place apples into a 9-inch greased cake pan. Bake for about 15-18 minutes at 340 F.

1 stick butter at room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup cake or all-purpose flour
Mix all ingredients together until crumbly. Bake at 350 F until golden brown.
Place apple mixture on top of puff pastry base and toss crumble on top.