Pastry Revolution

Step aside, cupcakes, Austin has a new favorite dessert

Step aside, cupcakes, Austin has a new favorite dessert

Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_ice cream_june 2012_paggi house
Paggi House Courtesy of Paggi House
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_ice cream_june 2012_swifts attic
Swift's Attic features a popular popcorn & a movie ice cream. Photo by Kelsey Orr
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_ice cream_june 2012_creamsicle
TRACE features several ice creams including dark chocolate stout and passion fruit and beet vanilla bean swirl, served with strawberry maldon salt shortbread. Courtesy of Trace
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_ice cream_june 2012_la condesa
La Condesa features a special "birthday cake" ice cream. Courtesy of La Condesa
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La Condesa Courtesy of La Condesa
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_ice cream_june 2012_paggi house
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_ice cream_june 2012_swifts attic
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_ice cream_june 2012_creamsicle
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_ice cream_june 2012_la condesa
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_ice cream_june 2012_la condesa2

A great chef aims to bask in originality, but culinary trends are hard to resist. In fact, peruse various menus in Austin and you’re likely to come across countless similarities and nuances across the map — especially when it comes to pastries. 

For years, the cupcake and macaron reigned as the powerful king and queen of Austin desserts, with cake balls and cake pops closely following behind as their heirs. And no matter how tired you grew of biting into yet another cupcake or macaron, the desserts' bright colors, familiar textures and demure designs made them nearly impossible to resist at places like Hey Cupcake!, Austin Cake Ball and La Boîte Cafe
 Ice cream has been growing in popularity on the Austin culinary scene for the past several months, and this frozen sweet is appearing as a revamped, upscale treat all around town. 
 
But revolution is in the air, and a new pastry is preparing to overthrow the old king and queen. 

Ice cream has been growing in popularity on the Austin culinary scene for the past several months, and even though it’s a classic American favorite, this frozen sweet is appearing as a revamped, upscale treat all around town.
 
Austin pastry chefs are retreating to the kitchen and transforming this famous dessert using unexpected and local ingredients. 

Laura Sawicki, pastry chef of La Condesa, isn’t one to follow in others’ footsteps; in fact, she is known for her tendency to breakaway from traditional pastry styles and shine while doing so. Sawicki confessed that she, amongst other pastry chefs, is preparing numerous ice creams and sorbets for her menu. She believes businesses like Lick and CoolHaus have transformed what Austin residents expect from their ice creams and has also influenced chefs to test recreations of the dessert as well. 
 
Sawicki utilizes local vegetables, herbs and fruits to highlight seasonal flavors in her frozen concoctions, such as Negra Modelo ice cream, carrot sorbet, blue cheese ice cream and birthday cake ice cream.  
 
“I think [the ice cream trend] has a lot to do with the climate since it’s so hot here, but a lot of ice cream shops and ice cream trucks are utilizing fun, quirky flavors to produce new and exciting ice creams,” she says. “There are a lot of different approaches to this universal dessert, and the weather is the perfect vehicle for this artistry.”

Josh Matlock, pastry chef of Paggi House, agrees with Sawicki’s assertion that chefs are experimenting with foreign flavors in their ice creams and sorbets. “People are getting more comfortable with unusual flavors in their desserts and ice creams,” he says. “I prefer to do one frozen item for every dessert on my menu, in fact." Some of Matlock’s ice cream and sorbet flavors include rhubarb and smoked caramel.
 
 “There are a lot of different approaches to this universal dessert, and the weather is the perfect vehicle for this artistry.”
Janina O’Leary, executive pastry chef of TRACE, confesses that Austin’s creative culinary culture is what has influenced her to reinvent and reimagine her ice creams and desserts. “I think a lot of pastry chefs have become inspired by what’s going on in Austin,” she says. “The city is developing into a respectable culinary town and a lot of fresh, new talent is coming here to work.”
 
O’Leary has tested several ice creams and sorbets on TRACE’s new menu, including tarragon ice cream, peach sorbet and a beet sorbet with a vanilla bean swirl ice cream. Her culinary inspiration is also drawn from working with farmers and local ingredients. “What people are eating locally really drives my menu planning,” she emphasizes. 

Callie Speer, pastry chef of Swift’s Attic, says that most upscale restaurants tend to feature ice cream on their menus, but that she has just recently noticed more boutique, avant-garde ice cream shops opening up around Austin. “There has always been Amy’s Ice Creams, but nobody has hit that niche until recently," she says. Speer has several playful recreations of ice cream, such as popcorn ice cream and beet sorbet, on Swift’s Attic’s menu and recently collaborated on her husband’s — Philip Speer’s — green strawberry sorbet.
 
“Ninety-nine percent of my dishes have sorbet or ice cream in them,” Philip Speer says. “I’ve been looking into it, and I think ice creams are on the list for the next big national trend. It’s all about the temperatures, the textures and the flavors.”