Get schooled in holiday baking this December

By Jessica Koslow

“’Tis the season,” announces Chef Clémence Gossett, co-owner and head pastry chef at The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories, as she welcomes us into its state-of-the-art kitchen on the third floor of Santa Monica Place.

It’s a cliché as old as time. But when it comes to holiday baking, well, ’tis really the season.

It’s the time of year when Candyland ceases to be just a child’s board game and becomes the world in which we live — a world of sweets. It’s a time of family gatherings, office parties and bountiful dinners, and what we usually remember after all the hubbub is over are the desserts we indulged in.

It’s also the time of year when holiday cookies are everywhere! Decorating holiday cookies is a family tradition for many. The night before Christmas when Santa shimmies down the chimney, what do families leave for him? Cookies and milk!

This year, instead of leaving St. Nick gingersnaps or regular ole chocolate chip cookies, get fancy and festive with a plate of decorated sugar cookies. It’s a skill that can come in handy if you have an occasion on the calendar when you’ll want to impress, say a new partner and their family or, of course, Santa himself.

All throughout the month of December, The Gourmandise School is offering a helping hand with their holiday cookie and pastry baking classes. While you’ll have to get on the waitlist for the school’s Dec. 8 or 9 Holiday Cookie Decorating classes, as of press time, spots remain open for the Holiday Cookie Workshop on Dec. 16 at 2:00 p.m.

During the classes, you’ll spend three hours learning pro tips, like: Roll out your cookie dough between two sheets of parchment paper, so you don’t have to pour flour all over your counter.

When rolling the dough, start in the middle and roll forward, stopping shy of the edges so they don’t become thinner than the middle and burn.

Freeze your dough. Lay the parchment paper on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer. Cut out your cookies cold. Then bake your cookies until they are golden on the edges. Let them cool on the cookie sheet — never use a cooling rack.

Chef Gossett also shows you how to make your own decorating piping bag, if you don’t have your own store-bought icing bag. Take a Ziploc freezer bag, cut a hole in it and fill it up with frosting.

It might look like making sugar cookies is easy, but these few tips can make all the difference between flying high or being frustrated. And the biggest takeaway from these classes is that baking should be fun (right?!).

Fun and fruitful, like chef John Pitblado’s sweet swirled Lussekatter rolls.

Chef Pitblado, who’s half Norwegian and half Swedish, introduces his class on Scandinavian Christmas Pastries (which has sessions at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 6 p.m. on Dec. 14) by letting us twirl his perfectly sweet, s-shaped saffron buns with our own hands and dotting them with golden raisins and Swedish pearl sugar.

One of his pro tips is using potato flour, which stays moist for days, he boasts. The Minnesota native also offers helpful advice like, “Never pick up your spoon while mixing the dough” or “Never grease a pan, except for a Bundt cake,” and spouts amusing one-liners like, “Baking without salt is sad,” “The freezer is every pastry chef’s best friend,” and “Overdecoratitis is a real problem.”

For the very ambitious, chef Gossett shows you how to roll out a lovely Yule log, fill it with jam, chocolate mousse or French or chocolate buttercream, and dress it with a pillowy meringue, including mushroom-shaped meringues, and other deliciously cute accessories, like cranberries and chopped pistachios. (Her 7th annual Yule Log Bake class happens again on Dec. 23 at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.).

You might not have the fancy KitchenAid gadgets at your disposal that The Gourmandise School lets you borrow for a few hours during your class, but you’ll definitely leave a little more confident about baking than when you came.

Classes are BYOB (bring-your-own-beverage), so you can sip wine and beer with your goodies at the end of class. Water, coffee and tea are included. You should also remember to BYOC (bring-your-own-container) to take home all of the creations you’ll be whipping up.

The Gourmandise School’s holiday baking and decorating classes start at $75. Visit to review the full schedule or sign up for a class.