12 Sweet Midwest Bakeries
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Minneapolis: Salty Tart
Visitors shoulder in beside south Minneapolis locals, peering through windows at a chef filling pillowy brioche with vanilla bean pastry cream. The brioche channels owner-chef Michelle Gayer's childhood memory of doughnut holes—amped up with the skill that has earned her two James Beard nominations and a culinary cult following.
Foodies gather at Salty Tart's windows in the Midtown Global Market to watch Michelle and her team at work almost as much as they come for treasures like the coconut macaroons, a Minnesota State Fair legend with toasty brown shells hiding exponentially coconuty insides that glisten like quartz.
Salty Tart—true to its name—is no sweet and petite bakery. Michelle handles the classics flawlessly, but she's ever eager to swap icing swirls and frosting flourishes for bold new flavors, such as cupcakes flavored with beer or red wine. The lineup is seasonal, creamy, nutty, flaky, salty, boozy and, oh yeah, sugary. But only in good measure. "When pastries are too sweet, it's hard for people to enjoy," Michelle says.
The daring approach perfectly suits the frenetic vibe of the surrounding indoor market. Perhaps it's not where you come for a quiet cup of coffee, but if you're ready to join fellow adventurous foodies in stretching the boundaries of baked goods, Salty Tart is a sweet destination (saltytart.com; 612/874-9206). -- Gus Axelson