Scratch Baking takes the cake: named top bakery in state

Lesli Flick said one of the things she likes best about her bakery business is watching people getting into their cars after leaving Scratch Baking and start eating their purchases before they’ve even started driving away.

Scratch Baking in downtown Milford was recently named a ‘best local bakery’ in the state by FlipKey, a subsidiary of TripAdvisor.

“There is something to be said for charming, local bakeries where irresistible sweet treats tempt passersby from their display cases and the smell of made-from-scratch baked goods greet visitors at the door,” states the FlipKey website. “From fresh fruit tarts, to classic chocolate chip cookies and masterful, layered cakes, your sweet tooth should be satisfied by any of the goodies on the menu when you find a great bakery.”

Scratch Baking at 58 River Street definitely fits the description. Tucked at the back of the building that houses Corner Convenience, this bakery may seem somewhat off the beaten path. But no problem, word of mouth has made the place a go-to spot.

The menu is stuffed with offerings: artisanal breads like ciabatta and brioche, cinnamon raisin buns, quiche, croissants and pastries, bread pudding muffins, scones, cookies, bars and brownies, cream puffs, eclairs, specialty cakes and more.

The staff at Scratch Baking works together like a family, said Flick. Alex Malaspinas, the manager, handles a lot of the front end and the marketing; and bakers Kate Donato and Crystal Bransfield are professional bakers, as is Flick. There are several others that work here, especially during the busy holiday season, including Milford resident Heather Gramelis, and each brings their own art to the table.

One of Bransfield’s specialties is the croissant; and Donato helped create one of the weekend signature items, the breakfast pizza.

The downtown bakery got its start in 2010, setting up first at the downtown farmers market to start spreading the word about what they had to offer.

Shortly after that introduction, Flick opened the bakery.

Flick, who hails from New York and remembers time spent baking in the kitchen with her mother, said she always loved bakeries and sought them out on her rounds through the city.

Creating this special bakery of her own was a natural thing to do after culinary school.

After graduating from Union College and completing her formal training at the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump’s), in New York in 2002, Flick began her professional baking career under the guidance of 2002 Pastry Chef of the Year and Food Network Regular Andrew Shotts of the Garrison Confectioners, according to the Scratch Baking website.

“Since that time, her desserts have graced the pages of Food and Wine, Oprah Winfrey’s O-Magazine, Wired and Connecticut Cottages and Gardens,” the website continues.

Flick has been a key contributor to three cookbooks, including the SONO Baking Company Cookbook. Her cakes have been featured on the Martha Stewart Show and the STYLE Network’s Art of Wedding Cakes 2.

“We’re artisanal, so everything is made by hand here,” Flick said on a recent day at Scratch Baking. “We cater to our customers.”

One time a customer asked for a bourbon pecan pie, and Donato was able to pull it off, complete with whipped cream.

Donato also experiments with the breakfast pizza, which she said started as a sort of a trial one weekend and really took off. Whole wheat crust, roasted veggies, different cheeses and eggs cracked on top is one variety.

There is also coffee from Ashlawn Farm Coffee, and tea from SerendipiTea.

The open kitchen lets customers actually see the busy bakers at work: Recently the bakers could be seen rolling gingerbread and cutting little gingerbread men, and compiling cookie trays and other delicacies for the holidays.

The open kitchen concept is an added treat. “We try to keep it different for the customers, and for us too,” Flick said.

Malaspinas, who studied contemporary American literature in college, said the Scratch Baking team has created its own unique business on their own creative terms.

“Every day as we make and build, it’s our heartfelt initiative,” he said.

The team was more than pleased to learn about being named a top bakery in the state.

“It was a big, awesome surprise,” Flick said. “I got an email and showed it to Alex, and he said ‘this is huge’.”

The bakery is open Sunday from 7 a.m. to noon; closed Mondays; open Tuesday to Friday 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.