Anybody who thinks Americans are eating only rice cakes and celery has never visited a Baltimore area bakery in December.
Bakers go bonkers during the holidays. All those cakes, all those cookies, all those items that somebody's Grandma, used to make and that her modern day descendants gotta, just gotta, have for the holidays.
At Otterbein's Bakery in Northeast Baltimore the Otterbein brothers predict they will bake 30,000 pounds of sugar cookies this holiday season. To keep up with demand, the brothers have moved to a larger store and rented two nearby apartments that serve as cookie warehouses.
At Leidig's bakeries in Howard and Montgomery counties, the demand for their sugar cookies, stollen, applesauce cake, black walnut cake, Santa cake, gingerbread, and yes, fruitcake, is so strong that the bakers work a second shift.
"Over and above our usual rolls, and cookies and cakes, we make an extra 10,000 cakes for the holidays," said a Leidig's owner, Dan D'Alonzo. Right after Thanksgiving, D'Alonzo moves a bed into the office of the Glen Burnie operation that serves as the bakery's main kitchen. He and a supervisor take turns sleeping and processing the the stream of orders for baked goods.
Down at Patisserie Poupon, near Baltimore's Shot Tower, it looks like a record year for yule logs. So far, at least 200 of the chocolate, Grand Marnier or hazelnut logs have rolled out the door, said Joseph Poupon. They come in lengths of 8, 12 or 24 inches.
During the rest of year people may say they only want "a little piece" of such a rich dessert. But during the holidays, Poupon tells customers to forget what people say and count on them indulging themselves. If you figure one inch of yule log per person, you'll never be sorry, Poupon said.
At Haussner's, the ovens are turning out waves of Christmas cupcakes. Haussner's makes the cupcakes throughout the year, decorating them with a rosebud. But during the holiday the cupcakes are bedecked with images of Santa or poinsettias, and they fly out the door, said Steve George, Haussner's general manager.
George estimated that the bakers make 3,000 more cupcakes than normal for their East Baltimore landmark restaurant and their operations in Columbia, Fells Point and Timonium.
A substantial number of their holiday bakery customers, George said, are folks coming back to their old hometown. "Wherever they are in the world, people come back to Baltimore and their families at Christmas," said George.
Often a part of that homecoming tradition is eating a Christmas cupcake, he said.
And then there is Rudolph the Reindeer. He is a loaf of bread shaped into the form of areindeer. He has a French bread body and feet, pumpernickel tail, pastry antlers, marzipan eyes, and, of course, a red spun-sugar nose. While technically Rudolph is edible, mainly he is cute.
This is the fourth year that Philippe Bind, the baker at the The Bread Place Bakery in Annapolis, has made Rudolph The Bread Nose Reindeer. He makes about 120 a year and sells them at about $18 a piece. It takes him two days to do it properly. On the first day he bakes the bread. On the second he fits the pieces together and works on cosmetics.
Bind and Richard Savel, the owner of the bakery, came up with idea of making a bread reindeer. They figured that in addition to the coffeecakes shaped like Christmas trees, to the gingerbread guys and gals, the yule logs, the stollen, the butter almond cookies, the gingerbread sleighs, and the fruitcake soaked in tea, the world could not resist a reindeer made of bread.
They were right of course. Once you've seen him, you gotta take one home to the kids. And who can keep from calling him "Rudolph The Bread-Nosed Reindeer?"