I’d been travelling a lot for the past 30 days, and it finally caught up with me in Austin. I was there for the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference ( a meeting I have attended every year but one since 1996), and when the conference was over, I was supposed to head to Albuquerque and Santa Fe to learn about the local foods and culture. But I came down with a knock-out respiratory infection, and the doctor said my infected ears wouldn’t be able to handle the changes in air pressure from flying.
I called the New Mexico trip’s sponsored and, sounding remarkably like Harvey Fierstein, croaked my story into the phone. Lucky for me—and for readers who want to learn about the foods of the region– I may be able to make the trip next September.
So there I was, “stuck” in Austin. Poor me.
One nanosecond before my self-pity would have kicked in, the Pastry Queen galloped toward me on her meringue-white horse. She swooped me and my equally-stranded husband up in her arms and carried us off to her cottage-palace in Fredericksburg, Texas. Rebecca Rather, dear friend and enormously talented Pastry Queen, gave us the key to her Queendom and rode off into the sunset.
How cool is her house?
As special as the inside of her house is, the outside is even better. Just past a garden full of whimsy and non-nonchalant beauty are her animals. Allow me to introduce you to the most handsome, swaggering fellow a chick could hope to meet. His real name is Clint Eastwood, but I call him The Pompous Rooster.
He struts his stuff around the yard like he was all of the Fab Four in one, and the hens swoon in his wake like smitten teenyboppers.
Because this is Texas it makes perfect sense that I should happen across the fattest largest pig I have ever seen. She is a sweet thing, and clearly can’t help it that she is big-boned.
Rest assured none of the animals you see here are raised for human consumption. Rebecca has a separate farm with over 300 pigs for that. These are her pets.
She also has a pet horse, with whom she played footsie just before we arrived, which is why she is on crutches. Here she is in front of her reknowned cafe, Rather Sweet.
Just to be mannerly, we had to sample her many creations. Her Butterscotch Brownies with Brown Sugar Icing rocked our sugar-loving souls. The recipe is from her book Pastry Queen Parties, one of three she has written to date.
Rebecca Rather’s Butterscotch Brownies with Brown Sugar Butter Icing
Makes 2 1/2 dozen (30) 2 x 3-inch bars
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
4 cups confectioners sugar
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
To make the brownies:
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 13 x 18-inch pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.
- Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium high until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat 1 minute.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture on low speed until incorporated. Stir in the pecans and pour into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake until just set and slightly puffed, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before icing.
To make the icing:
- Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan set over medium heat. When the mixture bubbles lightly, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 more minutes. Set aside.
- Using the paddle attachment on the electric mixer, beat the confectioners’ sugar, half-and-half and vanilla on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the melted butter mixture and beat until combined. Pour over the cooled brownies and spread evenly. Allow the brownies to sit at least 30 minutes for the icing to set. Cut into squares.
Rebecca’s do ahead tip: make the bars up to three days ahead but leave in the pan un-cut. Cut the day they will be served.