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Check It Off



My holiday shopping mantra is simple this year: If you can't eat it, it's not on my list. I love buying consumable gifts, because they offer a DIY charm without spending time in the kitchen. In Memphis, many small businesses offer a delectable assortment of food gifts. Here are a few of my favorites:

Monkey Bread Bakery

Teachers at Riverdale Elementary School in Germantown know all about Monkey Bread Bakery's gourmet treats. Kindergarten teacher Sarah Moske tested her recipes by leaving goodies in the teacher's lounge. Almost three years later, Monkey Bread Bakery is going strong, offering 4- and 9-inch pies in six flavors (including chocolate-chip pecan and apple crunch), tarts in 10 flavors (including macadamia coconut and raspberry chocolate), and cupcakes in 30 flavors (including a banana and peanut butter variety called "Fat Elvis."

"We also have a holiday cupcake which is dark chocolate cake baked with crushed candy canes and topped with peppermint-vanilla buttercream icing," Moske says.

Moske still has her day job — she cooks in the commercial kitchen of a nearby church — so all baked goods are made to order. Regular cupcakes sell for $1.75 each, and a munchkin (two or three bites) is 75 cents. Delivery is available.

Monkey Bread Bakery, (833-1128)

Mary's Memphis Crunch

Mary Durham has been perfecting her almond toffee for 25 years, tweaking the recipe of a college friend to make it her own. The end result? A perfect toffee that's all about the crunch.

"I use lots of almonds inside, and I sprinkle toasted almonds on the top," Durham explains. "I also cook the toffee to a certain temperature that produces a wonderful taste and richness."

Durham works full-time as the program director for Special Kids & Families, so send an e-mail to order. Mary's Memphis Crunch is available in two sizes. The small bag is $5.50, and the 15-ounce box is $18. Shipping is available.

Mary's Memphis Crunch,

Shoaf's Loaf Bakery

During the summer farmers markets, the team of Melinda Shoaf and her daughter Sarah bake 100 loaves of bread every week, along with dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, and sticky buns. During the holidays, the duo doesn't slow down, offering the same whole-wheat baked goods boxed in seasonal wrapping.

"You can't find a more delicious and nutritious loaf of bread," Sarah says. "My mom grinds our flour from organic wheat berries."

The bakery's recipes are a family affair, too. The cinnamon rolls came from Sarah; the dinner rolls came from her Aunt Velma; and the sticky buns came from her mom.

The bread, rolls, and buns can be special ordered by e-mail or purchased at the Cooper-Young farmers market on Saturdays in the Tsunami parking lot. Bread is $8; dinner rolls are $6; and a half-dozen box of cinnamon rolls or sticky buns is $15. But be forewarned: The cinnamon rolls are hard to give away. My friend Tyler eats a package every week.

Shoaf's Loaf,

Cake Bliss

When the economy stalled, caterer Hilda Osarogiagbon got creative, perfecting her recipes for pound cakes in a dozen different flavors: butter, lemon, peach, blueberry-lemon, rum marble, rum-infused raisin, vanilla bean, lemon ginger, poppy seed, cinnamon walnut, coconut lime, chocolate chip, and chocolate-chocolate chip.

Osarogiagbon's favorite is rum marble, because she likes the old-fashion density and flavor of cakes baked with rum. Do her customers agree?

"Not really," Osarogiagbon says. "The most popular cakes are blueberry lemon, lemon ginger, and coconut lime. They are different and delicious."

Last month, Osarogiagbon started displaying her pound cakes at Shara's Paperie. Stop by to place an order or e-mail Osarogiagbon directly. Cakes come in 8-inch and 10-inch sizes, along with a double-decker stack that serves 26 people. Prices range from $20 to $50.

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