Boston’s Queen of Pretzel Croissants Is Back

Rae the Baker has resurfaced at True Grounds, a café in Somerville's Ball Square, and you’re going to want to line up for these exceptional baked goods.

Overhead view of several baked goods, including a pretzel croissant, manoushe, and babka.

An assortment of Rae the Baker’s True Grounds treats, with the famous pretzel croissant in the foreground. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Bostok, miso morning bun, pretzel croissant—if this trio of sweets sounds familiar to you, you’re going to want to sit down for this news: Rae the Baker is back. Take the newly extended Green Line over to Somerville’s Ball Square and pay a visit to True Grounds to find baker extraordinaire Rae Murphy, who is serving up old favorites and new treats.

To the uninitiated, Murphy—better known as Rae the Baker—drew long lines of enthusiastic baked goods seekers during her Plum Delicious pop-up hosted by Field & Vine in Somerville in 2018 and 2019. The three aforementioned items drew particular acclaim, especially the impossibly buttery pretzel croissant, and fans flocked to the Union Square events over and over to stock up on croissants and get a chance to chat with the always-friendly Murphy.

Plum Delicious was “an incredible experience,” Murphy says. “Getting to meet so many Somervillians and see their enjoyment first-hand was validating in a way I had not experienced before. I owe so much to [Field & Vine owners] Andrew [Brady] and Sara [Markey], and their professional and personal support has meant so much to me. They, along with countless other chefs and coworkers, have really helped me bloom.”

A crown-shaped laminated pastry with a sugary exterior sits on a green background.

Miso morning bun (kouign-amann) from True Grounds. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

The Tatte and Bronwyn alum was able to parlay the Plum Delicious success into a planned storefront in Somerville’s Gilman Square—but then 2020 happened. “I gave it all I could—and came so, so close—but ultimately couldn’t get the doors opened during the pandemic,” says Murphy. “It was a stinging disappointment. However, it was also a master-class learning opportunity and has been instructive for my next attempt.”

Now, Murphy is head baker and head of production at True Grounds, which has been open since 2004 and recently came under new ownership. Murphy, with new owner Tanner Spees and his team, is rebooting the True Grounds menu with “some crowd favorites and new tastes” while also bringing some new additions to sibling spot Creations Coffee in Wakefield Center.

“I’m super excited to once again offer my pretzel croissant, miso morning buns, cookies, babkas, and bostoks, and I’ve been in the lab (read: kitchen) working on some secret projects that I’m excited to release when the time is right,” Murphy adds via email, noting plans to introduce new pastries and “reimagined sandwiches, salads, and flatbreads” to the Somerville café in the coming months.

A piece of thick, baked French toast covered in powdered sugar sits on a white background.

Bostok from True Grounds. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

“One of my favorite parts of coming aboard a new café is the opportunity to ask all of my new coworkers what kind of food they grew up eating and what they like to make for special occasions,” says Murphy. “That flow of ideas and recipes reignites my creative passion like no other.”

So, what might customers find on the menu?

  • That famous pretzel croissant. “The star of the show,” says Murphy. It’s hand-laminated and loaded with goat milk butter, washed in a lye bath (“safe to eat, I promise!”), and topped with pretzel salt. Murphy credits the croissant’s success to a “wonderfully developed, earthy taste” from the goat milk butter, balanced by the “metallic salty exterior.” (She notes that the team has been playing around with making egg sandwiches on these, so keep an eye out.)
  • The miso morning bun. “This salty, sweet, caramelized, crunchy delight is a kouign-amann, a croissant originating from the Brittany region of France,” Murphy explains. It’s rolled out on a table covered in sugar instead of flour, “resulting in a croissant experience like no other.” The not-so-secret ingredient? Miso. “We use a flavorful red miso to cut the intense sweetness inherent to the pastry.”
  • Bostok. The staff favorite is a twist on Murphy’s popular Plum Delicious iteration of the “baked French toast,” she says. Here, thick-cut brioche is soaked in orange blossom syrup and topped with house-made jams and almond butter. It’s “sweet and fruity, floral, nutty, custardy, and crunchy,” says Murphy—and perfect for sharing. Watch for it to expand into daily rotation on the menu. (Almond and strawberry flavors currently star, and “Verrill Farm always comes through with some great produce,” says Murphy.)
Two laminated buns with a pretzel-like exterior and salt sit on a black background.

Pretzel croissants from True Grounds. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

  • Rotiboy. “Our good boy is back!” Murphy describes this one as “a funny little pastry that is winning hearts over one at a time.” She starts with a soft, Japanese-style cinnamon milk dough, wraps it around salted vanilla butter, and tops it with an espresso cookie just before baking, yielding a soft bun with a crunchy topping, not to mention “a swirl of melted salty goodness in the center.” (Try pairing this with something from True Grounds’ selection of Cambridge-based Broadsheet coffees, she says.)
  • Cheesy pow! (You have to say it with an exclamation point.) It’s a riff on a classic pão de queijo, the tapioca flour-based Brazilian cheese bun. “We use a blend of cheddar and Gruyère cheeses, paprika, and mustard to elevate the taste of our pow,” says Murphy. “They’re the perfect size to take home for sliders—or to eat on the way home.” Conveniently, they’re available all week.
  • Cookies. A variety of cookies will make appearances, says Murphy, such as her “fruity, floral” chocolate chip cookie as well as Linzer cookies, chai pinwheels, shortbreads, and more. “I love leaning into earthy and floral spice blends and feel fortunate to have Christina’s [Spice & Specialty Foods] and Curio Spice so close,” says Murphy. “I’m rich in paprika.”
A sort of diamond-shaped open pastry has a filling of a red peppery feta with black sesame seeds.

Manoushe from True Grounds. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

“I’m so proud of and grateful for the team and how they have embraced me and the challenges that I bring,” Murphy continues. “The staff here is really incredible, an amazing collection of hard-working creatives.”

That creativity shows up on the drink menu, too. “Lately I’ve been hooked on a chocolate gingerbread latte,” says Murphy, “and the mulled cider caramel latte has got me thinking about Amish apple fritters. Our ras el hanout is finding a home in a Moroccan latte, and I’m working on a halva syrup as well.”

While the dream of her own location still “burns brightly,” says Murphy, she’s “thankful and excited” to be working with the True Grounds crew and experimenting with “new, memorable recipes that stick in people’s minds.”

A twirl of golden-brown pastry is studded with big pieces of sugar and sits on a blue background.

Fig walnut babka from True Grounds. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Want to get a taste? The best time to spot the specialty pastries at the Ball Square café is on weekends, starting at opening at 8 a.m. “We do sell out, so the sooner, the better!” says Murphy.

“There’s nothing that makes me happier than making someone’s Saturday morning sweet,” says Murphy. “I’m incredibly excited about the future and can’t wait to show the world what True Grounds and Rae the Baker can offer.”