I realize that it's nowhere near Christmas, despite the First Baptist billboard on I-10 advertising their Christmas church services (which you apparently have to purchase a ticket to attend? WTF?!) that make me want to claw my own eyes out with rage every time I drive past it. It's not even October yet, Greg. [Note: Second Baptist and First Baptist are not the same church; corrected per the comments section below.]
Despite that, I'm making a suggestion now for your Christmas lists: Houston Classic Desserts, a collection of recipes from timeless Bayou City institutions that the bakers and cooks in your life will go nutty over. Written by native Houstonian and ex-restaurateur Erin Hicks Miller, the book is available on Amazon (pre-order now!) or a bookstore near you. Miller cobbled a collection that showcases both iconic desserts such as the Creole bread pudding at Brennan's and the tres leches at El Tiempo Cantina as well as more modern takes like the Delirio de Chocolate at Artista and the deconstructed Bananas Foster from *17, but the book is more than just recipes.
Each chapter features a small but helpful section of tips at the beginning before getting to the meat of the matter: the stories behind the recipes. Some of the characters featured in these stories have moved on to other projects and some of the restaurants are no longer -- Plinio Sandalio's featured dessert for Textile is an example of both -- but that's to be expected in a city like Houston. What matters is that the recipes are still there, a snapshot in time that will likely be studied much the same way we pore over old Junior League cookbooks from the 1940s today. Cookbooks are time capsules of trends and tastes, and I can see a cookbook Houston Classic Desserts being passed down and eagerly read by future generations.
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Of the nearly 40 recipes featured in the book, a few did stand out as favorites. It's especially difficult to resist running home to make the top two on my list and refusing to share the resulting desserts with anyone at all, lurking in a corner with a pan of chocolate cobbler like Gollum until I consume every last bite.
Here are my top five recipes from the book:
1. Chocolate cobbler from RDG + Bar Annie 2. Fluffernutters from Rebecca Masson 3. Buttermilk pecan pie from Haven 4. Sticky toffee pudding from Feast 5. Half-baked chocolate chip cookie from Mo's
Hicks Miller will be signing copies of her book starting next week on Thursday, October 14, at Arturo's Uptown Italiano (1180-1 Uptown Park Boulevard) from 5:30 p.m. at the official launch party, complete with tastings of some of the desserts from the book. She'll also be signing copies at Barnes & Noble (5000 Westheimer) that Saturday, October 16, starting at 1 p.m., so stop by and pick up a sweet treat for yourself or anyone on Santa's good list.