The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes from the Texas Hill Country’s Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe

pastry queenNative Texan Rebecca Rather decided to move her Austin bakery to the delightful Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, and local legend Rather Sweet was born. A self-taught pastry chef, Rebecca baked her way through childhood and adolescence, decided that she had to find a “real” (non-food) job after college, eventually went into the catering business (where she burned out two Thermador ovens in her home kitchen), was an executive pastry chef for Tony Vallone in Houston, and found her greatest happiness having her own bakery.

Rather Sweet serves a full gamut of baked goods, from sweet and savory kolaches, giant Texas muffins, and scones at breakfast to hearty entrees such as All-Sold-Out Chicken Pot Pie, sandwiches and quesadillas. The Pastry Queen captures all of these Texas-influenced recipes in their down-home goodness, lovingly captured in mouthwatering photographs and atmospheric pictures taken at the Rather Sweet Bakery and Caf�. Each recipe is personalized with an introduction by Rebecca about the origins of the recipe, possible substitutions, or a favorite memory attached to the dish.

Many of the breakfast recipes for quick breads and muffins also give conversions for muffins (both regular and Texas-size). Several of the cakes do as well, which is perfect for birthdays and coworkers (it’s less messy to bring in individually frosted cupcakes than fuss with cutting and serving a frosted cake!).

If you’re a scone lover, prepare to be delighted. Rather includes standards such as Peach Jam scones and Chocolate Chip Scones, but also includes savory options such as Apple-Smoked Bacon and Cheddar. Muffin lovers will rejoice at the Essence of Orange and Whole Lemon muffins, and the Eddie’s Autumn Pumpkin Bread and Fresh Ginger-Pear Quick Bread will wake up your taste buds in a flash!

Rather has also written The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style, but there are plenty of seasonal recipes perfect for your next Thanksgiving celebration, such as the Autumn Pumpkin Quick Bread, Bourbon Pumpkin Tart with Streusel Topping, Cream-Filled Pumpkin Roll, and Larger-Than-Life Praline Cheesecake.

Texan cuisine also make an appearance, including Hill Country Peach Cobbler, Peach Queen Cake with Dulce De Leche Buttercream Frosting, Buttermilk Pecan Pie, Southern Comfort Apple Pie, Texas Tortilla Soup, Brie and Brisket Quesadillas, Gorditas, and Nuevo Texas Waldorf Salad.

Tex-Mex and Mexican influences abound in the divine Mexican Chocolate Fudge-Pecan Cake rich with cinnamon and vanilla, Dulce de Leche Arborio Rice Pudding, Muchas Leches Cake with Sugared Almonds, and Dulce de Leche Macaroons.

If you’re looking for more traditional fare, there’s Espresso Creme Brulee, Tiramisu with Homemade Ladyfingers, Mars Pies and Grasshopper Pie, but with the Texas-sized bounty of creative desserts, why not try something new?

The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to follow. Helpful tips are sprinkled throughout, along with ideas for presentation. There are some truly spectacular desserts here (sky-high meringues, Tuxedo Cake, etc.), but all are manageable for novice cooks.

Be warned: this is not a book for those thinking about going on a diet! The recipes are loaded with butter, cream, sugar, and other indulgences; in Rebecca’s own words, “I don’t do low-fat desserts. If I am going to eat dessert, I want it to be really, really sinful.”

Rebecca has also written two other cookbooks, The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style and Pastry Queen Parties: Entertaining Friends and Family, Texas Style, although her first book remains my favorite of the three. Rather Sweet closed several years ago, and Rebecca’s second restaurant, The Pink Pig, has closed as well.

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