A Texas City baker is known for creative combinations and kindness
If you love sweets and find it hard to choose between a brownie and a cheesecake, a cookie and pie, or a cake and a cookie, then Kaitlin Stafford might just be your new favorite person.
Stafford is the creator of the stuffed cookie. As the name suggests, it’s a cookie stuffed with another dessert for a decadent taste sensation. Creations include an oatmeal cookie stuffed with apple butter, a graham cracker cookie with key lime pie, a snickerdoodle with carrot cake, and the Smorkie, which is a chocolate chip cookie with home-made marshmallow and chocolate ganache.
“I came up with the idea about 10 years ago when I was pregnant and craving crazy flavors,” said Stafford, who lives in Bayou Vista. “I was deep in my pastry chef dreams and making peanut butter cookies and chocolate brownies and thought it would be great to combine both. I stuffed the brownie inside the cookie and have been making stuffed cookies ever since.”
Stafford and husband, Ryan, late last year opened Bear Fruit Bakery, 611 Sixth St., which already has a loyal following. Along with stuffed cookies, patrons love the bakery’s cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, home-made pop tarts, muffins, pies and other treats.
Baking from scratch is important to Stafford, whose food philosophy is simple: “It should be over-the-top delicious, healthy and home-made.”
Stafford was born in Texas but spent her formative years in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where she worked in her family’s restaurant, Gypsy Joynt, first as a waitress and then as pastry chef. When her family brought their popular Gypsy Joynt restaurant to Galveston’s downtown, she followed but left the restaurant four years ago to find her own way.
“Originally, my dream was to be an award-winning pastry chef,” Stafford said. “I thought I’d only be a success if I had a James Beard medal around my neck. Now, I’m more interested in how food can create memories, bring people together and give people a seat at the table.”
Inspired by their friends Mike and Kat Bouvier of Hey Mikey’s Ice Cream, which also has a Sixth Street presence in Texas City and a downtown island shop, the Staffords have given away $30,000 to other local businesses struggling to respond to COVID-19. It was a generous decision for a small business open less than a year.
“Sure, it has seriously depleted our bank account, but it has given us back so much more in terms of peace of mind, joy and love — the things that really matter,” she said.
Creating interesting flavor combinations is another source of joy for Stafford, whose white chocolate, mint and cucumber cookies were featured in the New York Times.
“My mom taught me there are no rules in cooking, and all about the importance of great flavors,” she said. “Everything I do is in honor of my parents. Mom taught me to think outside the box when it comes to flavor and try weird combinations. I love opposites like strawberries and sharp cheddar, but it’s also great to combine complementary flavors, too.”
Stafford is passing this love of flavorful home cooking to her children, Rocklin and Ruby, and plans to enlist their help baking pies for Thanksgiving Day, and then other baked treats for Christmas, she said.
“I don’t usually bake at home, but over fall I’ll be busy baking up a storm, so come December it will be like Mrs. Claus’ pantry.”
Apple pecan muffins will be one of the baked goods she’ll make this fall, she said.
Stafford developed the recipe from a cake taught to her by her mother.
“They are really delicious, and when you bake them, your whole house smells like the most amazing fall candle ever,” she said.
Kaitlin Stafford’s Apple Pecan Muffins
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
¼ cup orange juice
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups chopped apples (Stafford likes to combine Granny Smith and Honeycrisp)
1 cup chopped pecans
3 large apples, sliced thin with peel remaining
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 F and position a rack in the middle.
Mix all the wet and dry ingredients in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until thoroughly combined. Add chopped apples and chopped pecans.
Line a large 12-cup muffin pan with tulip or jumbo liners.
Portion batter out between muffin liners, filling each liner up to the rim of each baking cavity.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon together to make the cinnamon sugar.
Lay 3-4 sliced apples on top of each muffin and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake at 350 F until the edges are golden brown, the apples have roasted and the top of the muffin has just firmed up with the middle cooked through. You should be able to touch the top of the muffin without the middle sinking.
Let cool — or don’t — and enjoy. Perfect with a cup of coffee, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or both.