Quietly, in the midst of holiday fretting and shopping, Little T American Baker is baking up treats to make the elves blush. A little-known fact: pastry chef extraordinaire Kristen D. Murray works under the radar at the SE Division Street bakery while plotting her next move.
Murray's "Holiday Basket" is the kind of gift you want to hog for yourself: five hand-crafted bundles of labor-intensive joy. One bag alone holds a dozen beautiful meringue kisses holding bergamot-scented ganache and punky spikes of Swedish sugar. Chocolate says hello in a heap of chunky fruit and nut clusters, each hiding little crunches of hazelnut praline. Hazelnut shows up again in financier bars gilded with fresh marmalade fashioned from three kinds of candied fruit. Even a pair of gingerbread people make an appearance, wearing surprising floral perfumes to match swanky royal icing.
And just when you think duck fat has made the rounds, Murray tucks the rich substance—the secret of a great rustic pie crust—into linzer cookies pooled with homemade raspberry jam. This is a taste of the farmhouse: deep, unselfconscious, and elegantly earthy.
All this, plus a speciality from owner and baker-magician Tim Healea: fruit cake rebranded as something more akin to brown butter pound cake than a cloying block of distraction, each slice a not-too-sweet density of cake, fat walnuts, dried plums, and sour cherries. Slice it up and slather on goat cheese to double the pleasure.
The whole shebang can feed a party. For this level of art and detail, it's a deal at $55. Order from the bakery, through New Year's. Feeling lucky punk? A few baskets are usually on hand during the day.
Little T American Baker
2600 SE Division St