Celebrate the Holidays With a Decadent Finale
By Robin Barr Sussman
Whether gifting, serving or exchanging, sweets are always welcome during the holidays. Get a little help from a nearby bake shop or glean inspiration to create your own scrumptious treats like the gingerbread cookie recipe we’re sharing from Ooh La La Dessert Boutique. These sweet spots in various neighborhoods craft signature cookies, bars, pies, tarts, cakes and other surprises. Icing on the cake: each serves up a unique setting if you decide to linger.
Dessert Gallery: Upper Kirby Shop
for Desserts, Gifts and Stocking Stuffers
Founder and CEO Sara Brook crafts an original array of bars, cookies, pies and cakes as well as Christmas and Hanukkah sugar cookies, ginger houses, luscious holiday cupcakes, petit fours and snowman macarons. Want something specific? Have the pastry team custom design your masterpiece. And don’t forget the stocking stuffers for the sweet tooth: chocolate dipped holiday pretzels, a cookie decorating kit, macaron sampler and peppermint bark (if you haven’t tried white chocolate peppermint bark, you’re missing out). Petite sweets, tres leches, truffle and cake ball samplers are a few holiday gift boxes to consider for personal or corporate giving. The sleek and sunny spot has comfortable seating, coffee, a lunch menu, free wi-fi and plenty of parking.
3600 Kirby, 713-522-9999, www.dessertgallery.com
Ooh La La Dessert Boutique:
Westside All-American Bakery Rises to Any Occasion
Experienced hostesses rely on the award-winning treats at Vanessa O’Donnell’s beloved sweet shops in Town & Country Village and two locations in Katy. The classically trained pastry chef and her elves craft a cookie for any occasion including the artistically piped Christmas cookies that are almost too pretty to eat. New this season are the cleverly designed hot chocolate macarons and eggnog macarons as well as holiday cupcake truffles and festively decorated cupcakes. Classics making their annual appearance include gingerbread molasses cookies and the shortbread cookies cut and decorated in festive holiday themes, glittering cake balls, caramel pecan bars, and two cheesecakes: triple chocolate and peppermint bark. If you want to sit a spell, some OLL boutiques sport patios, a milk shake bar and local gelato.
770 West Sam Houston Pkwy North, Suite 500, 713-465-6338; 23920 Westheimer Parkway, Katy, 281-391-2253; 20155 Park Row, Katy, 281-492-6166; www.oohlalasweets.com
Neighborhood Bakery Café With a Cult Following
Common Bond is expanding now with two Inner Loop locations and more planned around town. Stop for artisan breads, cookies, a rainbow of macarons, cupcakes, specialty holiday cakes and other modern creations, as well as a full breakfast and coffee bar, brunch, epicurean lunch and dinner, and wine and beer. Popular holiday additions include two flavors of panettone (iconic Italian holiday cake studded with dried fruits and nuts), a spectacular mocha mascarpone tart, a yule log cake, classic pies, gingerbread men and molasses cookies. For a holiday breakfast, several new scone flavors beckon and, if you love croissants, there’s no better almond croissant in Houston (several flavors available daily). If seeking a special dessert for New Year’s Eve, order the strawberry Champagne cake soaked with Champagne and filled with layers of strawberry jam and strawberry buttercream. How can you top that?
1706 Westheimer, 713-529-3535; 2278 West Holcombe Boulevard, 346-327-8393; www.commonbondcafe.com
The Kitchen at The Dunlavy:
Sweet on the Eyes and Palate
If taking your out-of-town guests to breakfast or lunch, this striking “glass treehouse” perched on Lost Lake/Buffalo Bayou will impress with its chandelier-draped dining room and inviting deck floating in the trees. Executive chef Jane Wild was formerly a pastry chef, so the desserts are outstanding. Expect a variety of pastries including mile-high scones, seasonal coffee cake, and cookies like chef Jane’s salted chocolate chunk, oatmeal-cranberry with coconut and white chocolate chips, and pignoli, a delish gluten-free Italian cookie with pine nuts. Last month’s whole pies in smashing flavors included Balcones bourbon and San Saba pecan pie, Texas wild flower honey pie, citrus rum pumpkin pie, brown butter apple cranberry pistachio pie, and gingerbread cake (gluten-free available). Order pies at exploretock.com/thedunlavy. For a savory breakfast, avocado toast with poached egg and the lox and bagel platter are favorites.
3422 Allen Parkway, 713-360-6477, www.thedunlavy.com
CHEWY GINGER MOLASSES COOKIES
This mouth-melting classic cookie recipe comes courtesy of pastry chef-owner Vanessa O’Donnell of Ooh La La Dessert Boutique. Warm from the oven, the puffy, chewy cookies beg for a glass of cold milk. Package these gems in a clear disposable box with ribbons for a house-warming gift or serve to friends, family and Santa.
6 ounces butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 whole egg
¼ cup molasses
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ground ginger
sanding sugar for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a processor, mix together butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on medium speed, scraping down the sides occasionally, until very light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well on medium speed. Once the egg is incorporated, mix in the molasses.
In another large bowl, add all dry ingredients and combine until incorporated. Slowly add dry ingredients into butter/sugar mixture on low speed until all ingredients are incorporated. Be careful not to over mix! Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes to one hour.
Portion out cookie dough into balls and roll in coarse sanding sugar. Allow the cookie dough to come to room temperature and then press down dough balls slightly. Space evenly on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes, then turn pan around and bake for an additional ten minutes or until cookies are golden brown.
Yield: Eight large or one dozen medium cookies