I'm beginning to wonder why I should bother with my feeble attempts at Christmas baking, when John Kraus and his Patisserie 46 (4552 Grand Av. S., Mpls., 612-354-3257, www.patisserie46.com) crew do it so much better.

Case in point: I've become addicted to Kraus' star-shaped Zimtstern, a chewy, ground hazelnut treat with a zesty cinnamon kick, topped with a luxurious swipe of gently golden royal icing. Kraus told me he eats one for breakfast every day. Just one? Now that's a steely discipline.

Kraus also culls favorites from his childhood. "My mother's people hail from Sicily," he said, which explains the sugar-milk logs rolled in toasted sesame seeds, a paragon of Mediterranean simplicity. Ditto the lovely dome-shaped egg/orange cookies, and their equally delicate citrus bite.

Several of the bakery's year-round standards also make excellent yuletide stand-ins, including the sublime pecan sandies, the crusty-but-moist coconut macaroons and the absurdly buttery coin-shaped chocolate cookies, which are temporarily embellished with an ingredient I thought I would never see at Patisserie 46: crushed candy canes.

"I get kind of crazy around Christmas," Kraus said with a laugh. "I have a 7-year-old who dictates some of this, and he wanted candy canes. So we have candy canes."

Another don't-miss item: a fantastic cardamom-laced stollen, packed with dried fruits but minus the marzipan. "The recipe is from an old Alsatian baker," said Kraus. "It's my favorite, and it's the best I've ever had."

Funny, I was just about to say the same thing.