Monday, February 11, 2008

The Pastry Queen

I'm trying to cut back on my baking a bit -- maybe cut it down to two or three times a week rather than five or six... I can quit... really I can...

But I will still post a blog tonight, focusing on another one of my cookbooks. This is actually a post about two cookbooks in one blog -- both of them by Rebecca Rather who owns the Rather Sweet Bakery in Texas. Her first book is one of my all-time favorite books, and I have been making her Tropical Carrot Cake recipe for years now for my birthday. I originally found the recipe on epicurious, so when I found the book that had the recipe -- The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes from the Texas Hill Country's Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe -- I had to buy it.

This is a truly great baking book. Unlike the rather large (but still excellent) Dorie Greenspan book, there are only a few types of each recipe in the book, two or three muffin recipes, two or three scones, a few cakes, four or five cookie recipes -- but I am convinced that each of those recipes is the best she has to offer because her recipes are excellent. In fact, a few of her recipes are on my top ten list of best recipes ever (okay, it might actually be more than 10, but you get the point) and I have made them over and over.

For example: Bacon Cheddar Scones, Pumpkin Streusel Bread, and her Chocolate Chip Cookies to name three off the top of my head. I have also loved her Orange Date Bread despite my initial skepticism, her Almond Bliss German Chocolate Cake, and her Giant Orange Muffins. Those are just a few of the great recipes from that book, and in fact, I have had very few problems with any of the recipes in the book so far. The Turbo Charged Brownies were not my favorite, but they were still good, and the Pecan Pie Bar recipe made a ridiculously huge pan of bar cookies, but those are small quibbles, not genuine complaints.

So it was no surprise that I was quite excited to receive her second cookbook -- The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-Hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style -- from Chris' mom for Christmas. This book is a bit different since it's not just sweets -- it seems to be almost evenly divided between sweet and savory recipes. (The first book had 6 or 7 savory recipes at the end so I guess it wasn't all sweets.) I delved right into the book of course and the first thing I made was a Caramel Apple Cake. It was quite yummy, but didn't seem to go together quite as smoothly as most of the recipes from the first book.

I also made the Eggnog Whiskey Cakes, and they were okay --- not slam-dunk/home-run fantastic -- but still good and worth making. The Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies were actually a disappointment compared to most of her recipes -- a nice concept, but I didn't like the cookies or the frosting as much as other variations I've had of the same things. However, the Carlton Chocolate Chewies were very good -- but I had a few problems with the recipe. I made the Cranberry Walnut Scones and again, the flavors were quite good, but for some reason mine looked like a mess and were incredibly soft for scones. I never have figured out if it was my techniques or the recipe in question since I've had the same problems with other scone recipes recently.

Overall, the first book is great, fantastic, wonderful and lots of other adjectives. The second book is good -- no question I'm glad I own it -- but it seems like some of the recipes were a bit more rushed with this book than with the first book. I will keep making things from it, and I'm sure I will enjoy sampling the recipes, but I can't give it the unqualified thumbs up that I can give the first book.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

the pastry queen deserves our undying love & adoration for the bacon cheddar scones alone, but i agree with all those others you mention in the "great" paragraph. hooray, texas cooks!
-jb

cheddar cheese said...

mmm...bacon cheddar scones...mmm...

while i'll miss your oh-so-delicious treats, not a bad idea to give yourself a break...

praying for a break said...

no! don't listen to cheddar cheese! you don't have a baking problem, in fact, if anything, you need to be baking MORE than you are right now... I also need to move in next door to you and Chris (or be the crazy dude living in your attic/basement), but that's a different matter...