Spring Garden Bakery makes holiday treats

by Brian Clarey

Spring Garden Bakery makes holiday treats Lets get something straight: I don’t “do” Christmas cookies, fruitcake, gingerbread, candies… any of that. Oh, I’ll eat all of that stuff (I’m partial to snickerdoodles). But you’re not going to find me dashing around the kitchen with baking sheets and cooling racks and snowman-shaped cutters. I’m not particularly handy with a pastry bag. And I I don’t like to have sprinkles in my kitchen because they work their way into everything, like sand. So I like to outsource my Christmas baking.

When Melissa Michos bought the Spring Garden Bakery three years ago, she had people like me in mind. “These are the fruitcakes,” she says to a customer in her Greensboro shop. “They have apricots, pecans, pineapple, raisins….” She’s wearing a green elf hat. A sign next to the stack of leaves finishes the list on ingredients for her: cherries, papaya, dates “and lots of brandy.” “We use dried fruit as opposed to candied fruit,” Michos says, “and I think that makes it better. Soaking it in brandy notwithstanding.” Each fruitcake is dense with fruit and nuts, with a sturdy cake binding it all together. They are neither pressed tight like nougat nor glazed with sweetness, and a slice stands pretty well against a cup of coffee. “We’re into our second batch already,” she says. There are 54 in a batch, she says. It is 11 a.m. “[The recipe] preceded me,” she says. “It basically comes with the building.” Business is brisk a week before Christmas, with gingerbread men, traditional butter Christmas cookies, hand-rolled truffles and loaves of ginger, pumpkin and orange spice move from countertop to shopping bag. Amelia Mattocks, in reindeer antlers, estimates she’s baked a couple thousand butter cookies in the last two weeks. “And that’s not even counting the gingerbread men,” she says. The gingerbread men have been moving pretty well, too, Michos says. “Those large gingerbread men,” she says. Plain. “They’’re empty,” she says. “The schoolkids decorate them. There’s been a trend this year.” Parker Collins squats in front of the display case, studying the wares. “I put in an order every year,” he says. “Tons of different baked goods. The gingerbread men… every year.” He adds an oatmealraisin cookie on impulse and picks up his two boxes, heads out the door. “From October through Christmas we stay pretty busy,” Michos says. The Christmas sugar cookies are cut into traditional shapes: stockings, snowmen, bells… then dusted with bright sprinkles after cooking in the bread oven. They are thick like shortbread and a bit more moist. They, too, hold their own against a cup of coffee. “Butter is the key,” Michos says. “Lots of it.” The cookies come out of the kitchen in large batches; the boxes fill and pile on the shelves and tables; they go out the door in ones and twos, sometimes with a fruitcake tucked under an arm.

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Butter, sprinklesand gingerbread, that is what Christmas cookies are made of. INSET:Amelia Mattocks has baked thousands of them this year. (photos by BrianClarey)

Spring Garden Bakery & Coffeehouse 1932 Spring Garden St. Greensboro 336.272.8199