Native Texan Rebecca Rather has a made-from-scratch philosophy that has garnered her Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe in Fredericksburg, Texas (pop. 10,432), loyal fans both near and far. None of her recipes is prepared from a boxed mix, and the only thing in the freezer is bacon, she claims. The proof is in the taste, and Rather says, "I think people can tell the difference."
During the holidays, the award-winning pastry chef, known as the Pastry Queen, likes to blend traditions, whether it is looking to the kitchens of Texas Mexican and German immigrants or the cowboy culture of her own forebears. Tempting morsels like My Mother's Best Corn Bread Dressing, Mr. Vallones Italian Cookies and Coconut Snowballs are tasty evidence of her down-home cooking philosophy.
While the Pastry Queen is busy in the kitchen baking up yummy goodies, the town of Fredericksburg rolls out the red carpet for locals and tourists alike during the holiday season. "It's close to impossible not to get swept up in the Christmas spirit when it is all around you," says Rather, who helps to kick off the season's festivities by riding on horseback during the town's annual Christmas parade.
For those who can't make it to Fredericksburg to visit Rather's shop, a copy of her award-winning cookbook will have to do. The Pastry Queen Christmas, Big-Hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style is packed with 95 traditional recipes reflecting the tastes of small-town Texas and is broken up into themes such as the Holiday Open House, Building Gingerbread Houses and Ranch Barn Brunch. Every recipe is created with love using the made-from-scratch philosophy of the big-hearted pastry chef, who extols the pure joy of "cooking great food with and for those I love during the holiday season."
Story by Gigi Ragland, a food writer in Longmont, Colo. Recipes adapted with permission from The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-Hearted Holiday Entertaining, Texas Style by Rebecca Rather with Alison Oresman, © 2007. Published by Ten Speed Press.