Jessica Duggan learned what she knows about desserts from her grandmother.
That includes baking in her grandmother’s style: Don’t get too fussy, use real butter, let the fruit be the star of the pie.
That means Duggan cooks down the fruit for her pies and makes a crust from scratch. “We don’t put a lot of sugar in our fruit pies. We try really hard to keep things as natural as possible,” said Duggan, who opened her Tattered Apron Bakery on Sept. 24 in South Hill. It’s a full-service bakery serving a range of desserts, plus drip coffee from Caffe Appassionato.
Her love of chocolate grew from her grandmother’s famous lava cakes. She recalls surreptitiously eating the center out of one, for which her sister was blamed — and spanked. She still feels terrible about that.
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She describes her grandmother’s cherry-studded pineapple upside down cake as a thing of beauty. “It was buttery, beautiful, dense, and it was homemade.”
I recall Duggan telling me more than a year ago, “I really enjoy that old-fashioned thing, something your grandma cooked for you. I want my desserts to taste as good as that.”
Surveying the case at her new bakery, I’d say she nailed that old-fashioned baked goods thing. Powdered sugar-coated lemon bars, long wedges of cream cheese Danish, squat slices of coffee cake and ganache-coated brownies dominated the selection.
Duggan grew up in Chicago and moved to the Northwest a little more than a decade ago. She worked in a medical office for a number of years. Tattered Apron is her first dessert business. She operates it with husband, Brian.
Her first time selling desserts was in 2014 at the Puyallup Farmers Market. She later expanded to the Tacoma and Orting farmers markets. Her customers gravitated to her lattice-topped pies, but she also sold fruit-filled cobbler bars and cinnamon rolls.
Moving to a brick-and-mortar bakery allows her the freedom of a broader selection than what she could sell at her farmers market stand. In addition to the pies for which she’s known and the above-mentioned desserts, she’ll also offer cheesecake and cake by the slice (whole versions are available by pre-order), as well as muffins, scones, several kinds of cookies and croissants. Pastries are priced around $3-$5 each. Cake and pie by the slice are $4.50-$5.95. Offerings change frequently.
It’s this newspaper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service during a restaurant’s first month, which is why the focus here is on descriptions. Here’s a look at what was fresh in the display case last week:
Lemon bars: What creates that crumbly, terrific texture in the shortbread crust? “Oats,” said Duggan. The rich shortbread base was topped with a sticky, tart lemon curd and a dusting of powdered sugar. $4.
Brownies: Was that coffee I tasted in the thick, fudge-y brownie? “Yes, there is both coffee and dark chocolate in the brownie,” said Duggan. I liked the one topped with ganache and chopped peanuts. $4.25.
Cobbler bars: These kind of made her famous at the farmers market. The fruit bars come with a pastry crust base topped with a thick layer of cooked-down fruit (marionberry or raspberry-coconut are favorites) and finished with a cobbler-style topping. $4.
Danish: I haven’t seen a Danish like this in I don’t know how long. The long rectangle wedge was made with a cream cheese dough and topped with shortbread crumble and toasted almonds. It tasted like the Danish that I remember eating as a kid. $3.95.
Pumpkin muffins: Duggan goes heavy on the spice here. Her rich, dense muffins are fueled by cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg. $3.
A few more things to know:
Seating: It’s limited, but there are a handful of chairs.
Gluten free: Cookies, carrot cake and banana bread the first week.
Tattered Apron Bakery
Where: 14207 Meridian Ave. E., Puyallup; 253-845-4365 or facebook.com/thetatteredapron.
Hours: 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. “ish” Sundays.