The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style
Rebecca Rather is the owner of Fredericksburg, TX iconic bakery Rather Sweet, which regularly appears among the country’s top bakeries. Her first cookbook The Pastry Queen included many of her signature recipes from her Rather Sweet bakery and Rebecca’s Table restaurant, including breakfast items (kolaches, scones, giant muffins, quick breads), cakes, tarts, cookies, and other confections, along with light lunch offerings.
In Pastry Queen Christmas, Rather and her bakery offer Texas-themed seasonal recipes, from colorful cranberry margaritas and prickly pear martinis to more traditional libations such as old-fashioned eggnog and rustic cowboy coffee. Appetizers run the gamut from Italian savory rice balls, shrimp remoulade, and zucchini timbales to inspired sides such as mascarpone grits cakes, blue corn blinis, and oysters Rockefeller soup.
Carnivores, fear not! Your ranks are well represented by numerous seafood, beef, lamb, and pork recipes; there’s even a Cajun turkey thrown in to boot. Vegetarians will find their options few and far between; even the green beans are wrapped in bacon.
As usual, Rather’s desserts sparkle, from traditional standbys such as cranberry walnut scones and apple-spice layer cake to more modern creations such as panna cotta parfaits with hibiscus-berry compote. Other choices include sticky toffee pudding, apple dumplings, red velvet cupcakes, Christmas coconut cake, and an overachiever’s dream of a gingerbread cabin, complete with template.
I found the organization to be less easy-to-follow than Rather’s first cookbook The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes from the Texas Hill Country’s Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe; here, recipes are arranged by occasion (Holiday Open House, Ranch Barn Brunch, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve), which isn’t always intuitive if you’re simply looking for a dessert recipe to try.
The photographs and Rather’s own contributions really make Christmas in small-town Fredericksburg come alive, from the showstopping parade down Main Street complete with a Texas Longhorn steer with his horns wrapped in lights, to the Santa charity race, to relaxed barn brunches with family and friends. I happened to be at Rather Sweet the day after Christmas last year, and the beautiful Christmas tree decorated with paper cupcakes and sweets was featured in the entry, just as shown in the cookbook. Also, there are more “how-to” photos prominently featured, particularly where the more difficult layer cakes are concerned. There’s also a kid-friendly section that includes homemade lollipops and homemade ranch dip with veggies that will be sure to appeal to the little ones. Rather offers decorating tips as well, including how to make tortilla cutouts and fry them so that they will last throughout the season.
A gem of a cookbook, Pastry Queen Christmas won the 2008 IACP Cookbook Award Winner for best American cookbook, and it’s easy to see why: a celebration and preservation of Christmas in the Texas Hill Country, Rebecca’s recipes will add holiday cheer to your festivities during the holidays and all year.