The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-Hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style

The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-Hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style

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by Rebecca Rather

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It's Christmastime at the Best Little Bakery in Texas

The annual Fredericksburg Christmas parade marks the beginning of the Texas Hill Country's holiday season, which means the Pastry Queen is kicking into high gear at her Rather Sweet Bakery and Café. As party invitations pile up in the mailbox, Rebecca Rather is up to her elbows in sticky


It's Christmastime at the Best Little Bakery in Texas

The annual Fredericksburg Christmas parade marks the beginning of the Texas Hill Country's holiday season, which means the Pastry Queen is kicking into high gear at her Rather Sweet Bakery and Café. As party invitations pile up in the mailbox, Rebecca Rather is up to her elbows in sticky meringue, creamy chocolate, and a sleigh full of savory treats to meet the entertaining needs of her neighbors.

In The Pastry Queen Christmas, Rebecca shares nearly 100 traditional recipes reflecting her made-with-love-from-scratch philosophy and the tastes of small-town Texas. Show-off desserts such as Chocolate Cookie Crusted Eggnog Cheesecake, Sticky Toffee Pudding with Brandy Butterscotch Sauce, and Warm Pear Ginger Upside-Down Cake with Amaretto Whipped Cream are the perfect toppers to a family-style feast of Texas Spice-Rubbed Roast Pork, Baked Apple Pear Chutney, Brown Sugar Bacon, and No-Peeking Popovers. Still hungry the next morning? No problem-this country girl does an impressive breakfast, too: Bite-Sized Sticky Buns, Sweet Potato Scones, Cast-Iron Skillet Potatoes, and Mexican Ranch Chilaquiles ought to fill you up.

And if you're still looking for excuses to entertain this season, you'll find ooey-gooey baked goods wrapped up as gifts, homemade craft and décor ideas to make your home sparkle, and holiday-worthy menus guaranteed to make your gathering a Texas-sized success. Tree-trimming, cookie decorating, and Santas running down Main Street . . . Christmastime is here.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Though Rather is kno with Alison Oresmanwn as the Pastry Queen, the author and baker-owner of the Rather Sweet Bakery and Café in Fredericksburg, Tex., covers a lot more than baked goods in this comprehensive collection of holiday recipes from her native state. Organized by event (holiday open house, brunch, Christmas Eve, etc.), Rather offers an array of ideas sure to keep table legs groaning and belts loosening. Red velvet cupcakes get a jolt of sour sweetness from mascarpone cream cheese icing, and a delicious Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadilla is topped with a colorful pecan and cranberry salsa laced with orange zest, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and jalapeno. Decadent Creamy Chicken Lasagna, Oysters Rockefeller Soup and Chocolate Cookie-Crusted Eggnog Cheesecake each guarantee a memorable event, and Rather's Texas roots shine through in a duo of holiday martinis featuring prickly pear syrup, tamales with a tomatillo sauce, and a corn bread dressing (Mother's Best) so loaded with flavor that diners will forget any other kind exists. Helpful advice on advance preparations and clever variations abound; rounded out with packaging ideas for edible gifts and complete instructions on baking, assembling and decorating a gingerbread house (including templates), this is sure to become a holiday favorite. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Rather is the owner of the Rather Sweet Bakery and Café in Fredericksburg, TX, and author of The Pastry Queen, a collection of favorite recipes from the bakery. Fans of her first book may be a bit surprised to find that her second book includes more savory recipes than sweet ones, though there are plenty of desserts here. The recipes are grouped into menus for occasions, and most chapters also include a smaller selection of recipes and ideas for other holiday festivities, such as "A Cookie Decorating Party for Kids." Rather has an engaging style, and color photographs add to the book's appeal. For most baking collections.
—Judith Sutton

From the Publisher
Winner of 2008 IACP Cookbook Award: American category

"[This] adds up to big fun in the kitchen. Rather neatly balances unpretentious style with some adventurous flavor combinations . . . Let your sweet tooth be your guide."
-Baltimore Sun

"The Pastry Queen Christmas is such a calling card for Fredericksburg that it ought to be required material for the town's real estate agents. Ms. Rather's stories about the residents are so engaging, the photography is so luscious, you'll feel you know the town when you're done. But the recipes, straightforward and accessible, are the reason to buy . . . Ms. Rather has updated and elevated classics just enough to be enticing but not unreachable."
-Dallas Morning News

"This feel-good cookbook is full of irresistible menus and recipes to help you build family traditions and make you the most talked-about party thrower in your circle. Rebecca Rather shows you how to do Christmas proud."
-Gale Gand, author of Chocolate and Vanilla

"Rebecca Rather is not my daughter, but with amazing food like this, we'd claim her as our own any day!"
-Dan Rather, former anchor of the CBS Evening News

"Rather Sweet Bakery is one of the most enchanted places in the Texas Hill Country; every confection oozes Rebecca Rather's love of excess. It makes sense that in her glorious second book Rebecca would apply her characteristic warmth and Texas-style flair to the holidays."
-Paula Disbrowe, author of Cowgirl Cuisine

"Rebecca Rather loves to bake and cook, and she does so, and writes about it, superbly. THE PASTRY QUEEN CHRISTMAS is a classic of great food, spectacular sweets, and truly heartfelt reminiscences of family and friends, all served up with a big dose of Texas holiday spirit."
-Nick Malgieri, author of How to Bake and A Baker's Tour

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter one: Holiday Open House
The annual Christmas parade in early December signals the beginning of the holiday party season in Fredericksburg. Long before that, local hostesses and businesses begin calling to inquire about catering. Last season, I provided desserts for a party in a magnificent home with breathtaking views of the night sky and the valley below. (City lights that dim the starlit sky are foreign to us here.) I put together several platters of mini Key lime pies, a bakery favorite included in this chapter. (At the bakery, and in the recipe on page 35, the pie is king-sized, making it much faster to produce than the bite-sized versions.)
When customers ask for advice about giving holiday parties, an open house is always my first suggestion. Casual by definition, open houses work for groups of all sizes and ages. Serving the food buffet style frees you to move around and mingle with guests. Careful advance planning and do-ahead recipes are your keys to success. Many of the recipes in this chapter can be made at least one day before serving. (My Creamy Chicken Lasagna on page 24 can be made the day before and baked just before serving, and just about every dessert in this chapter can be made early.) When planning your menu, try to balance make-ahead recipes with those that need fixing the day of the party.
When testing and developing recipes for this book, my coauthor and I shared a running joke involving a fictional Aunt Susie. On particularly grueling days, after testing numerous recipes with many left to go, I'd say, "Just get Aunt Susie to do it." We'd crack up and soldier on. There was a kernel of wisdom in our jest. You may or may not have an Aunt Susie, but enlisting family and friends to help with preparty cooking is an ingenious way to make party prep as much fun as the event itself. Plan the menu, buy all of the groceries necessary, have all of your recipes on hand, and invite a couple of friends over to help. Some of my most rewarding conversations have taken place over the kitchen counter. This approach could even work with your teenage children, although you may have to offer financial incentives.
One of the best things about Christmas in Fredericksburg is that everyone seems to get into the holiday mood, including Beau, the bakery dog (above). It helps that we have our own little spirit of Christmas, Rosemary Estenson. The owner of the Fredericksburg Brewery next door to my Rather Sweet Bakery and Café, she's one of the town's chief Christmas organizers/enforcers. If Main Street merchants don't have their Christmas decorations up in time for the Christmas parade, they hear about it. This year, Rosemary paid a visit to Root, a clothing store on Main Street, to suggest that the window decorations needed beefing up. Owner Castle Heep complied and was glad she did. Her store looked extra festive for an open house held the night of the parade, and the place was packed.
Old-Fashioned Eggnog
Classic eggnog is not easy to make, but it is sure to dazzle your holiday guests. This version is cooked, to kill any bacteria in the eggs. And it can be made mostly in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Just before the guests arrive, whip the cream, fold it into the eggnog, and serve with a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg. One taste of this, and you'll happily give up grocery-store eggnog for good. Lucky for me, I don't have to go farther than my backyard henhouse for fresh eggs. I have Silkies, Rhode Island Reds, and Araucanas and I've named each hen after a first lady. (Unfortunately, Nancy Reagan ran off a while back, never to be seen again.) Each breed produces a characteristic egg. My favorites are the light blue-green Araucana eggs. Aside from standard chicken feed, my brood gets to feast on leftover bakery products, which I suspect gives their eggs a special Rather Sweet flavor.
{ Yield: Six 1-cup servings }
31⁄2 cups heavy cream
6 large eggs
11⁄2 cups sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1⁄4 cup Myers's dark rum
1⁄2 cup whiskey (preferably Crown Royal) or bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
In a large saucepan, heat 21/2 cups of the cream over medium-low heat until it begins to steam but not boil. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and salt. Using a heatproof measuring cup, measure out 1 cup of the hot cream. Gradually pour it into the egg mixture to temper, whisking constantly. In a slow, steady stream, pour the egg-cream mixture back into the saucepan with the hot cream. Continue to cook, whisking constantly over medium-low heat, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a large bowl and let stand until cool, at least 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Stir in the rum, whiskey (or bourbon), vanilla, and the 1 teaspoon nutmeg. Finish preparing, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
To serve, use an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to beat the remaining 1 cup cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the eggnog mixture. Transfer the eggnog to a pitcher and serve immediately. Top each serving with a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg.
TIP: The difference between freshly grated nutmeg and the finely ground stuff you find on the spice rack is enormous. Fresh nutmegs are available in the whole-spice section of most grocery stores. Grating the hard, round spice is much easier with gadgets made especially for grating nutmeg. Microplane and Zyliss make good ones.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

A pastry chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author, native Texan REBECCA RATHER has been proprietor of the Rather Sweet Bakery and Café since 1999. Open for breakfast and lunch daily, Rather Sweet has a fiercely loyal cadre of regulars who populate the café's sunlit tables each day. In 2007, Rebecca opened her eponymous restaurant, serving dinner nightly, just a few blocks from the café. Rebecca is the author of The Pastry Queen, and has been featured in Texas Monthly, Gourmet, Ladies' Home Journal, Food & Wine, Southern Living, Chocolatier, Saveur, and O, The Oprah Magazine. When she isn't in the bakery or on horseback, Rebecca enjoys the sweet life in Fredericksburg, where she tends to her beloved backyard garden and menagerie, and eagerly awaits visits from her college-age daughter, Frances.
ALISON ORESMAN has worked as a journalist for more than twenty years. She has written and edited for newspapers in Wyoming, Florida, and Washington State. As an entertainment editor for the Miami Herald, she oversaw the paper's restaurant coverage and wrote a weekly column as a restaurant critic. After settling in Washington State, she also covered restaurants in the greater Seattle area as a critic with a weekly column. A dedicated home baker, Alison is often in the kitchen when she isn't writing. The Pastry Queen Christmas is her second book with Rebecca Rather. Alison lives in Bellevue, Washington, with her husband, Warren, and their children, Danny and Callie.

From the Hardcover edition.

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4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I also like the pastry Queen, and My favorite recipe is the bacon cheddar scones...
Guest More than 1 year ago
All of the food items are within the reach of your kitchen cupboards. Ms. Rather takes all the guesswork out of what to make during the holiday season, thus creating more time to do what is really important - eat!
Veggiechiliqueen More than 1 year ago
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.
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