Lutunji Abram built his bakery on a uniquely beautiful dessert: Southern-style peach cobbler. For the past four years, she’s sold it at farmers’ markets, restaurants and grocery stores around the Twin Cities – but on Saturday May 14, Lutunji’s Palate Bakery & Cafe is finally opening in a space of its own. Located on the sunny first floor of the Gatsby Apartments near downtown Minneapolis, the bakery is an exciting addition to both the Elliot Park neighborhood and the local bakery scene, where Southern-style desserts are a relative find. rare.
“It’s a luscious Southern style, because of its juiciness – it’s meant to be moist and juicy in texture with the peaches,” says Abram of the Cobbler’s defining characteristics. “And it’s meant to be sweet, to be honest. I’ve had people say ‘Oh, you use canned peaches?’ Well, let me give you the story. You are talking to a researcher now.
Abram deliberately uses canned peaches for their juiciness — the practice dates back to the 1950s, she says, when the Georgia Peach Council founded National Peach Cobblers Day to boost sales of canned peaches. His preference is canned kosher peaches, which blend sumptuously into the cobbler: there’s no syrupy taste, no metallic spiciness. Peaches hold their shape, but pull apart easily under a fork.
Then there is the crust. Abram makes two varieties: a “butter-butter” version and a vegan version made with coconut oil. The way she tells it, Abram’s vegan crust recipe was born when she was stuck in a demoralizing job search years ago, baking crust after crust in her kitchen to cope. “One day, I literally heard my highest power say, ‘Searching for Vegan Crusts,'” Abram explains. “I say my highest power because vegan was nowhere in my vocabulary. …I grew up in a house where your crust was Crisco and lard mixed together, or you weren’t a baker.
Vegan Cobbler is a close approximation to buttery butter: it has the same caliber of sweetness, the same fragrant blend of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. The crust retains its texture – crispy around the edges, doughy and dense in the medium cuts – and the coconut oil taste is slightly high compared to the cobbler’s flavor profile, giving the lemon an extra kick.
“My nephews love the peach vegan cobbler,” says Abram. “It blesses my soul, because we grew up on butter butter, with a lard crust. My grandma, I’m sure she’s looking down from the sky saying, “You ran away with this one.” She makes a big bet on vegan baked goods, noting the growing demand for alternatives that retain the characteristics of classic milk-and-buttery desserts. Besides buttery peach and buttery pecan — which are really accessories to his vegan cobblers – Abram’s entire menu is vegan.
She is also deeply interested in adding nutrients to her desserts. At the new bakery, look for red velvet cupcakes made with organic beets and oranges, gluten-free coconut cake bites, and vegan sweet potato pie. Its Peanut Butter Fig Cookies are baked with Irish Sea Moss, a mineral-rich seaweed. “If I have to make an apple pie, I put turmeric in it, because turmeric is anti-inflammatory,” she says.
Since starting her business Lutunji’s Palate in 2018, Abram has been cooking in the kitchen of the historic Calvary Church in south Minneapolis – Pastor Jeff Cowmeadow offered her the space, which initially encouraged her to transform her peach cobbler hobby into a business. Sharing the kitchen with four other businesses, Abrams has managed to sell his desserts in grocery stores across cities – his new kitchen gives him the ability to increase sales even further (Goldbelly is a future goal).
Abram raised $70,000 in community donations to open the new bakery and cafe. She has also found immense support from local chefs and restaurateurs – from Tomme Beevas and Brian and Sarah Ingram, who have had her desserts on their restaurant menus – to Sammy McDowell and Justin Sutherland, who have contributed dishes to the menu. . Look for turkey and seitan pastrami sandwiches at Sammy’s Avenue Eatery, and chili cheese and crackers at Sutherland’s Handsome Hog.
Abram envisions Lutunji’s Palate Bakery & Cafe to be a community gathering space for the Elliot Park neighborhood, where apartments are plentiful but cafes and restaurants are relatively scarce. And, true to her background (Abram has a master’s degree in organizational leadership), she will retain the social enterprise element of her business: Lutunji’s Palate Bakery partners with local organizations that help businesses employ young people, adults and formerly incarcerated men.
Then there is the crucial question: Does Abram herself prefer buttered peach cobbler or vegan? Diplomatically, she likes both – but on the rare occasions when she eats dessert, she opts for vegan. Her secret, she says, pairing it with cashew milk ice cream.