29 May 11 • MAV

I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally be writing today about a project I’ve been working on for some time now. It’s a brand new publication called Baker’s Notes and it has a whole lot of heart … not to mention wonderful recipes, charming stories and gorgeous photographs.

Let me quickly start at the beginning …

This past December I got a random email from Sonja, one of the owners of Scratch Baking Co. here in South Portland, Maine, asking if I would like to chat some time about her idea for a new publication. After some good productive talks, where I could tell right away we were completely meant for each other (I mean come on, it’s a bakery for goodness sake!), my creative team and I became collaborators with Sonja, Allison and Bob (the three owners) and we were on our way.

Beyond the fact that my team and I have felt positively giddy to be working with such a respectable and amazing local small business, we are now happy to call the Scratch family our dear friends. That means a lot to us and really more than I can even express here in words on a computer screen. Creative work, to us, is more than just ‘work’. It’s about connecting, imagining and producing an idea or a something that will be more than just a passing phase or craze. It’s about finding and harnessing love and the spark of life.

Baker’s Notes, Issue No. 1: Foundations released just a few weeks ago and we are so proud of it. In conjunction with the release I’m happy to be bringing you this first of two posts about Scratch Baking Co. and the publication. This week: a little Q&A with the owners (and an awesome recipe) and next week: I will make the famous Scratch Baking Co bagels (a recipe you too can find in Issue No. 1)! Oh boy oh boy!

So, without further adieu … get to know a little more about Scratch Baking Co.. The photographs here were taken this weekend at around 6:50 a.m. just before the doors opened on a very busy Saturday morning.

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When did Scratch open its doors? Were you nervous?
SONJA: We opened 6 a.m. the morning of June 6th 2004. I think I would have been terrified if I hadn’t been so tired! I think I mostly just wanted to get through the first day so I could go back to sleep.

What’s your favorite part of the day in the bakery?
SONJA: My favorite part is in the morning right before we open, everything looks so beautiful and yummy … almost like a still life painting.
ALLISON: Favorite part of the day is pulling bread out of the oven that we have worked really hard on, each phase of the process has come together, each person has put their love into it and it is dark red crust crackling … smelling like wheat chex and light a beautiful expression of itself and all the bakers.

What is something in the bakery that each of you is totally crushing on right now (could be specific wine, coffee, baked goods)? In other words, what are you dreaming about and can’t get enough of?
SONJA: I’m totally in love with the fresh strawberry no-bake cheesecake tart w/ graham cracker shortbread crust, we just debuted it this week and I can be found back in the dish area licking the bowl every single time!
ALLISON: I am loving the tiger milk cookies and the sprouted grain and seed loaves which come out in the afternoon.
BOB: I am totally into the new coffee from Matt’s Wood Roasted Coffee. Its an origin Bolivian from the ASOCAFE coop. As an espresso its sweet, rich with pretty gentle. Its packed with flavors or chocolate, caramel, and a pecan nuttiness. I’m trying to pace my consumption.

What baked goodie have you been making from day one and not really changed or tweaked in any way? Why’s it so good?
SONJA: The muffins! The recipe is from Allison’s mom Nancy, they are perfect … sweet and tender on the inside a bit crispy/toasty on the outside. They are the perfect vehicle for whatever we want to put in them.

What bread goodie have you been making from day one and not really changed or tweaked in any way? Why’s it so good?
ALLISON: All of the bread formulas are in constant flux trying to get them to be the best they can be with the time frame we have to work with. The bagel recipe doesn’t change much except for daily tweaks due to humidity and temperature.

How about a couple good summer wine recommendations for our readers if you please?
BOB: There are a couple whites that we have been getting into recently as the weather is trying to change. My current favorite is the 09 Skylark Pinot Blanc. Its a single vineyard wine from the Orsi Vineyard in Mendocino County. A touch rich on the palate with awesome acidity on the finish. Its very distinctive with only 510 cases made. My other go-to favorite that is awesome from vintage to vintage is the Zenato Lugana ‘San Benedetto’. Its a wonderful chardonnay alternative. All stainless steel fermentation with beautiful expressive fruit. And as the weather warms…we always keep several lightly chilled rose’s around typically from Provence or Bandol.

Any advice for someone trying to start a small neighborhood business?<
SONJA: Start simple and do what you love and share that love with everyone that comes through the door.
ALLISON:  Start out with a few basic things and try to do them well, with love, from the soul … people will feel that and taste it.

What’s the next big thing on the books for Scratch?
SONJA: After almost 7 years of being closed on Mondays we are moving to being open 7 days a week.  Although one day seems small it is changing a lot about how we are running things production wise.

When will we see the next issue of Baker’s Notes?
SONJA: I’m hoping late October!

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Sonja was kind enough to give us a recipe for one of my favorite Scratch Baking Co. treats of late: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies. I made a batch earlier this week (I used natural PB and it worked just fine; experiment for yourselves and see what you like) and everyone raved. I had three in a row (no big surprise there). Thank you, Sonja! If I were you I’d hop to it and whip up a batch of these as soon as possible. Enjoy!

Scratch Baking Co.
Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
makes about 1-1/2 dozen cookies
2 cups peanut butter (creamy is best)
1/2 to 3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

salted redskin peanuts 1/2 cup
milk chocolate chunks 1/2 cup

Mix all together in kitchen aid with paddle until it comes together in a cohesive mass. Form into ping pong size balls and flatten slightly with the palm of hand or your fingertips.

We bake them in a 300 convection oven for approx 6 minutes then spin and 6-7 more minutes. You want your oven at 350ºF and timing should be about the same.

Note: you can also make them smaller (roll in walnut size balls) without optional ingredients for sandwich cookies and fill them with ganache, jelly, peanut butter filling or nutella (my personal fave).

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See you next week with my very own homemade Scratch Baking Co. Bagels. Wish me luck!

Note: This is part one of a two-part post. See part two right here.