While Austin’s pastry chefs spend most of their days creating the finest sweets in the city, the desserts they choose to make in the comfort of their own kitchen remains a mystery — that is, until now. In line with Sweet Week, Eater found out what sugary creations the dessert-focused cooks enjoyed whipping up at home. While many go for variations of simple staples like cookies, brownies, and Rice Krispie treats, others continue went on a more nostalgic route.
Kerstin Bellah, executive pastry chef of Juniper
“When I need something sweet at home that's not the pint of ice cream I keep on standby, I usually opt for making a batch of cookies. They're quick and easy, even after a long day, and I keep them pre-scooped in the freezer so I can just bake of as many as I want whenever I get a craving.
“Growing up, my dad and little brother insisted on there always being cookies in the house. Since I couldn't stay out of the kitchen, I decided to start tampering with different cookie recipes. It was the experimentation with cookies — what type of butter I used, replacing some of the butter with shortening, changing the granulated or brown sugar ratio, altering the bake time, oven temp, etc. — that piqued my interest in baking many years ago, so making a batch of cookies is still very nostalgic for me.”
Angel Begaye, pastry chef of Trace
“I enjoy making banana bread; it’s one of those oldies but goodies, because it’s so simple and delicious. Banana bread reminds me of baking with my mom when I was growing up. I love bananas and sometimes I don’t get to eat all of them before they become very ripe, so I put them in the freezer and when I have enough, I turn them into a fresh loaf of yummy banana bread. The smell is amazing, fills the room, and always brings wonderful memories of home.”
Laura Sawicki, co-owner and pastry chef of Launderette/Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon
“Good old fashioned apple pie is truly my all-time favorite dessert to make at home. The flaky, buttery, crunchy crust filled with layers of cinnamon sugar apples is stunning in its simplicity, and deeply satisfying. I love baking pies all year round; there are so many amazing combinations of fruits, but none are as delicious as the modest apple pie.”
Mary Catherine Curren, executive pastry chef of ELM Restaurant Group
“I like sticking to a cuisine or theme for a dinner. My favorite is when my husband [chef Andrew Curren] cooks something from a country whose desserts I don't know much about. I do some quick research and come up with something I can throw together. Most recently, I baked a Greek Samali cake to pair with his grilled lamb gyros.”
Abby Love, pastry chef of Dai Due
“What I make at home is almost always chocolate. Since I can't work with it at the restaurant it's ALL I WANT outside of [locally-minded] Dai Due. The sluttier the better: Rice Krispie treats with chocolate and peanut butter? Check. Triple chocolate cookies? Check. Brownies with peppermint patties shoved down in there? Awesome. I love rice chex that's covered in chocolate and peanut butter and tossed in powdered sugar, we called it puppy chow.
“When I go to dinner parties I almost always take fresh churned ice cream. It's mad simple; you get to use the highest quality dairy and eggs, whatever flavors you want, and it blows people's minds to taste the difference between freshly made and fresh off-the-shelf.”
Janina O’Leary, pastry chef of Play Dough pop-up bakery
“The most common is an olive oil shortcake. As you can imagine, my son Declan has a strong sweet tooth, so I make the short cake because the simplicity allows us to incorporate whatever seasonal fruit we have around the house. Plus, he likes making the whip cream.”
Philip Speer, owner and executive chef of anticipated Bonhomie
“I love to set up ice cream sundae bars on Sundays for me and the girls. It is so much fun because we have so many toppings here at the house. We always have candied nuts, sprinkles, chocolates, cookies to crumble, fresh and dried fruits, nuts and all sorts of sauces from all of the food schlepping I do! I usually make myself banana split though, my favorite ice cream treat…”
Emily Davis, pastry chef of Uchi
“My favorite sweets to make at home are cookies. I don't think there's anything better than a cookie that's right out of the oven, and my go-to recipes are snickerdoodles and sea salt chocolate chip. When I want something fast and easy to make, I usually throw together some "Rice Krispie" treats with whatever cereal I have laying around, or chocolate peanut butter "no bake cookies.” I also love making pecan pie because every time I went to my great grandmother's house while growing up, she'd make us a pecan pie with pecans from her tree. Over time, I've adopted her tradition for when my family gets together.
Olivia O’Neal, owner and head baker of Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop
“I love getting seasonal fruits and making simple cobblers. Fresh fruit tossed with a little bit of brown sugar and lemon juice, then topped with a simple oatmeal crumble. It takes only a few minutes to throw together and we always serve it warm out of the oven with fresh whipped cream.
“My son is an also a chocolate chip cookie addict. We often make his favorite cookie together, but they're usually kitchen sink-style with lots of different additions: almond butter, remnants of trail mix, pretzels, cranberries, peanut butter, banana and whatever else we have in the cupboard! Muffins are a staple; we make them with the same kitchen sink approach, using extra fruit we may have and seasonal veggies.”
Dee Dee Sanchez, pastry chef of Jack Allen’s Kitchen
Sanchez’s favorite sweets to make at home are “all kinds of cookies and cakes.” When making desserts at home, she is drawn to the “simplicity of cookies and cakes;” their “inherent versatility allows them to be packed with different things like nuts, chocolates and fruits.”
Tavel Bristol-Joseph, pastry chef of Emmer & Rye
“The first is banana bread with toffee crumbles. I love bananas and they are a staple in my household. It seems like every week there's always one or two overripe bananas that end up in the freezer so every time I get to six bananas, it's time for bread.
“Second is ambrosia, a simple creamy dessert that I enjoyed as a child in the West Indies. My aunt would make it every Sunday. Over the years I've done some different versions of it, but my favorite would have to be the mixture of sour cream, condensed milk, fresh grapes, bananas, pineapple, melon, ginger, cinnamon and Caribbean spice rum.”
Loren Solomon, pastry chef of Walton’s Fancy and Staple
“My favorite thing to bake at home is salted chocolate chip oatmeal cookies; over the years they’ve become the treat my friends ask for most. I'm continuously tweaking the recipe. Also, when I'm desperate for something sweet, I tend to make Rice Krispies treats with whatever cereal we have in the pantry (French Toast Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, etc.).”
Soraiya Nagree, owner and head baker of La Pâtisserie
“I have three kiddos so when I make desserts at home, I try to keep it a bit more nutritious than I would if it were just me. I love making banana bread and banana muffins at home and always top off the banana creations with chocolate chips so they have a bit of fun in them. The other thing I love making is the oatmeal raisin cookies from the recipe on the Quaker Oats lid. I know it seems bizarre, but sometimes the recipes on the backs of raw ingredients are the best ones! If I want to treat my husband to a favorite, I make him chocolate souffle. I don't do these often, but it is definitely one of my absolute favorite sweets to eat and make. He loves it with a creme anglaise and splash of Grand Marnier.”
Susana Querejazu, executive pastry chef of Odd Duck and Barley Swine
“Oatmeal raisin cookies. Everyone likes cookies—I keep them in my freezer and bake a couple off at time.”
Bria Jones, pastry chef of Patika Wine and Coffee
“I don't bake at home very often, but when I do, it's usually pretty simple things to share with friends. Chocolate chip cookies are probably the first recipe I ever learned as a kid with my grandma, and that's still my go-to treat. Although these days I'm lucky if they ever make it to the oven — salmonella be damned, nothing beats a bowl of cookie dough.”
Leo Ferrarese and Marco and Francesa Silvestrini, co-owners of Dolce Neve
The Dolce team has three favorite traditional Italian desserts that they love to make at home: cherry crostata; ciambellone, which is an Italian version of a less sweet bundt cake that is typically served for breakfast; and naturally, tiramisu. Marco and Francesca’s grandmother often served these traditional Italian desserts, so they love to continue to make them just like she did.
Amanda Rockman, executive pastry chef of the South Congress Hotel
“I'll be honest: I love making gooey fudge brownies at home. Sometimes my husband and I get creative; we add ground coffee, toffee bits, sea salt, dried cranberries — things we find deep into the cupboards to jazz it up.”
Annabelle Turner, pastry chef of Vox Table
“My favorite sweet to make at home is definitely jam, which I'm absolutely counting as a dessert since it is most frequently used as an ice cream topping in my house. I usually buy way more fresh fruit than I can finish and end up trying out different ice cream flavor combos. My favorites from the summer have been strawberry-melon, peach-tarragon and pickled huckleberry. Afterwards, I spend some time canning anything that I haven't eaten right off the spoon. Fact: it is impossible to do this without humming 'Jammin' by Bob Marley.”
Desere Hernandez, pastry chef of Dine
“There's so much I enjoy making at home. It's usually comfort desserts when I'm home, like cookies, especially peanut butter and macadamia nut. I really love the fall when it starts to get cold because I love making warm desserts like fruit cobblers and crisps. I also like to have banana bread and breakfast muffins, mostly for my daughter when she is running late for school. When I'm home, I like to be simple. Every now and then I'll get a little creative for my family, but I always make something chocolate for myself.”