Little BIGS: It’s all pastries + hand pies
You can forget everything you thought you knew about doughnuts…
When you open the door into Little BIGS, you are welcomed with rows and rows of pristine doughnuts that lie glistening on rolling racks. Savory hand pies are piled in baskets by the register and that’s pretty much it – pastries and hand pies in a rather unlikely location off the beaten path in South Portland.
Pamela Fitzpatrick Plunkett, who co-owns Little BIGS with her husband, James Murray Plunkett, learned her craft from legendary baker Nancy Silverton. Silverton is well-known for revitalizing the art of European-style sourdough bread in the United States at La Brea Bakery in California.
Pamela recalls those days, “I was a fine arts student and wanted to do something with my hands and baking reminded me a little of sculpture class.”
Anyone who has tasted her doughnuts can attest to their ethereal nature coupled with intense flavors. Pamela’s approach is simple,
“First, I want the thing to taste like the thing and not just like sugar, as in: lemon is tart and chocolate is chocolate. I think my years as a bread baker have served me in understanding that doughnuts do not have to taste like sweet air. By using a pre-ferment and by taking care of the dough, one can create a doughnut that has all the characteristics of great bread: structure, crust color, and creamy interior. It’s all about paying attention to what the dough wants.”
Anchoring the savory side of things is James, and while his offerings range from traditional pork tourtiere to Indian-spiced samosas, he really shines when it comes to the chili-filled hand pies, which are a nod to his Texas roots.
“Frito chili pie is a national dish down there, and even as a young man I found myself heating up a can of Wolf Brand Chili and dumping er’ straight into a bag of Fritos. With foods like this I’m not looking to show people something they’ve never seen before, but rather I want to show them something they’ve seen a million times, but have mine stand out.”
Although James does have some formal culinary training at New England Culinary Institute, he insists that one of the most important landmarks of his cooking career came at the age of seven. Tired of being put on dish duty for his family, which consisted of dirty plates from five other siblings, his mother responded to his complaints by offering a promotion, “Well, start cooking dinner.” He never looked back from there.
When I inquire of the name, Pamela explains that it means “little things with big flavor,” to which James adds, “the logo is a slightly refined version of something I scribbled on a napkin while sitting at a bar in Chicago.”
Both can agree that their best work lies in their crueller, and they share one fresh out of the oven every single day. “It reminds me of French toast, and I love French toast,” says Pamela.
While watching the business grow, they have truly embraced the location. “We are here to stay. We want everyone to know that within 24-hours notice we can pretty much produce and deliver anything you can dream up, with our own ‘bells and whistles,’ of course.”
It’s all of those “bells and whistles,” like serving the doughnut hole on top of the doughnut that it came from and their luscious, citrus-curd filling that will surely make Little BIGS a South Portland institution.
340 Main Street | South Portland | 207.747.4233 | Like Little BIGS on Facebook