The Proper Baking Company made a smashing debut on Sunday at the Dallas Farmers Market, selling British tarts, cakes, biscuits, cold meat pies and hot Scotch eggs. For owner Tina Miller, who's also sous chef at the Blind Butcher, the day marked the fulfillment of a long-held dream.
"My family owned a 16th-century pub in Lincolnshire, England, and my mum and I always talked about starting a bakery," Miller says. "Baking and getting together with family are so connected in England; it's a huge part of the culture."
At the Blind Butcher, Miller already had a following for her savory meat pies and Scotch eggs, but she longed to share her favorite baked sweet treats with the public, too. Immediately after announcing her baking venture on Facebook, homesick British expats placed early orders for the holidays.
On Sunday, a mix of Brits and Americans queued up for the baked goods sold at the Proper Baking Company's charming market stall. Some picked up preordered Bakewell Tarts ($30, or $5 a slice). The buttery lattice-topped crust cradles luscious frangipane (almond cream) and a ribbon of homemade Texas strawberry jam.
"I do everything from scratch, sourcing local products," the owner says. "That's the way it's always been done in England."
Her Miniature Victoria Sponge Cakes ($3) make ideal teatime treats. The vanilla cake layers complement the velvety buttercream and bright strawberry jam filling. True to tradition, the top is dusted with powdered sugar. A large cake sells for $25.
The beautiful biscuits ($3) taste as good as they look. The Bourbon Biscuits are two dark chocolate shortbread rounds, sandwiching chocolate buttercream; don't expect a drop of bourbon whiskey -- the treats are named for Bourbon royalty, not the booze. Melting Moments are melt-in-the-mouth shortbread rounds filled with vanilla buttercream.
Miller takes special pride in her towering, hearty Pork Pies ($6), which she learned to make from an award-winning baker at a pub back home. The well-seasoned pork is baked in a lard pastry crust; the meat shrinks as it cooks, and the resulting gap is injected with pork jelly -- like aspic atop pâté. Miller says the savory pie is traditionally served cold or at room temperature and brought on picnics or country walks. It's also a British favorite on Boxing Day (Dec. 26), served with mustard, pickles and chutney. Try it for a quick dinner with a salad and your favorite ale.
Launching the Proper Baking Company has eased her homesickness, says the 30-year-old Miller. That's partly because she's connecting with other British expats who call in orders. She's eager to win over American palates, too.
"I want to show Americans what we have, what we can do," Miller says.
Her mum should be proud. An hour before closing on Sunday, only one tart remained at the table. That's a jolly good start.
BY Tina Danze, Dallas freelance writer
The Proper Baking Company: Located at Dallas Farmers Market, Sundays only, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 817-807-5414; properbaking.com. Preorder before 10 a.m. on Thursday for pickup Sunday at the Farmers Market; weekly menu specials are posted each Wednesday on Facebook.