at the seashore with a slice of sea salt shortbread

Try saying that five times fast! Go ahead, try it. I did – it’s more fun than red leather yellow leather / red leather yellow leather.

Got tongue twisters out of your system for the next five months? Then let’s proceed.

Over the weekend, I saw some really terrific sights. Having traveled a few hours south, I saw my first leaves of the season – and then proceeded to feel phenomenally pleased about phenology, photosynthesis, and printemps (I guess I wasn’t quite done with the tongue twisers). On top of my phenological discoveries, I was privileged enough to enjoy some of what may be my favorite baked good: shortbread.

But this wasn’t just any shortbread. I had originally planned to do a detailed bakery review of the home of this delightful creation. However, upon my arrival, I became so excited about eating their shortbread that I decided to postpone my review until sometime in the future. And the future seems far away, because any amount of time without this delicacy feels lengthy, and further seems forever. Just like the Christian-y emo band that I used to think was snazzy, who were better known for being the springboard for Chris Carrabba, aka Dashboard Confessional. Angsty!

So let’s set the scene: It’s a partly sunny Saturday morning, not chilly enough for gloves, but I’m wearing them anyway. A mild breeze is blowing inland from the nearby ocean bay. I’m feeling a bit capricious, probably for a few reasons:

  1. Flowers are in bloom. Daffodils and hyacinths!
  2. Every time I see the ocean I’m filled with an insane amount of happiness. The ocean was a very far-off and magical place when I was young, and although I am living but a short trek from it now, I remain unchanged in my sentiments.
  3. I am about to purchase and eat some delicious shortbread.
  4. I am a bit overheated because I am wearing a coat and gloves, but don’t need to be.

But enough about me. Onward, to the bakery!

Scratch Baking Co. is a neighborhood bakery in South Portland, Maine. They bake a whole host of sweets and breads, and have a small market with appetizing cheeses, among other things. The prime reason for a Saturday visit was to purchase a loaf of Apricot Oat bread. I tasted the bread for the first time today, and it gave me one more good thing to say about an establishment that reels me in further with each visit. (Further seems forever? In this case, I wish!)

Their shortbread is amazing. I’ve made a lot of shortbread of my own, and have included any number of ingredients and flavors. But while delicious, none can compare with the terrific flavors I’ve had from Scratch. They make a lemon shortbread that is fresh, crisp, and thick. I’ve always made thin wedges of shortbread, but I’ll now be on the lookout for small rectangular tins, so that I can bake mini shortbread loaves of my own. I’ve tried their Highland shortbread as well, which is chock full of buttery goodness. But by far, my favorite of their items is the sea salt shortbread.

The sea salt shortbread is buttery, sprinkled with sea salt, and is not too sweet. The latter observation comes to you from a friend of mine who usually prefers savory foods, while I prefer sweet (of course). However, sweet tooth me had failed to notice that the shortbread was “not too sweet.” Trying to realize why sugar doesn’t cross my mind here, I realize that it wouldn’t occur to me to look for sugar in a shortbread. I look for butter! As much as I love sugar, I feel that an overly sweetened piece would change not only the flavor, but also the texture – perhaps detrimentally.

The sprinkling of salt is just the right amount to carry through the entire slice, balancing out the rich buttered flavor and giving my stomach the desire to eat, endlessly. A crumbly texture does not tend toward floury, or grainy, but is perfectly dense and even throughout. If you like shortbread, you will find this slice astonishing, I bet.

As I already mentioned, I’ll spend some time doing detective work the next time I’m at Scratch to put together a detailed bakery review. A part of me feels rude to ask multiple questions (and seek meaningful, in-depth answers) of a busy employee on a packed weekend morning, but I’ll find some guts and just do it.

Meanwhile, today I’m more about the imagery. The whole past week has found me inspired to photograph my surroundings on a level unmatched since I last had access to a darkroom. That would be six years ago. My digital camera and I had a rocky start, but now, two years later, I’m finally starting to feel comfortable using it. And I’m starting to give up my digital grudge as well, which is a plus – as it benefits no one.

If you go (and you really should):

Scratch Baking Co.

416 Preble St
South Portland, ME 04106
Tuesday-Friday 06h00-18h00
Saturday 07h00-18h00
Sunday 07h00-12h00
Closed Mondays

Update: Skedaddle on over to the somewhat recently-created Scratch blog Baker’s Notes!

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8 thoughts on “at the seashore with a slice of sea salt shortbread

  1. There is so much beauty in this post that I almost can’t stand it! The colours, the flowers, the weather, the shortbread… you’ve reminded me that I have a recipe for lavender shortbread that I desperately want to make (just have to buy the culinary lavender first :P )

    1. Hannah: Aww, thanks! I am a huge fan of adding in some lavender when I bake, although I know a lot of people are kind of grossed out by that. They feel that lavender only belongs in soaps or laundry detergent. Well, THANKS, cleaning industry!

      I suppose it doesn’t make it too hard to capture the natural beauty around me when the sun is out and everything (and everyone) looks so happy and spring-y. Half a piece of beautiful shortbread remains….. not for long:)

  2. I saw my first actual leaves on Monday when I was walking home from school and got REALLY excited. I love getting out of this area…Portland seems like a whole different world compared to up here. Your photos are beyond beautiful. I’m glad you’re getting used to digital photography; I always look forward to seeing your new shots!

    1. Brianne: I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets so excited about leaf-out! I saw a few tiny ones by the campus library today, and just about did a cartwheel. I pointed it out vocally. Twice.

      I agree, Portland is an entirely different place. A better-tasting place most of the time as well; Sapporo, I’m looking at you. So glad you look forward to my pictures!

  3. Who are you, liking shortbread?? You continually amaze me, yes you dooo! The photos are incredible, I just love the wall with the lichen. Since we just got some more(yes, more!)snow here, it is wonderful to see a real spring.

    1. Mum: I am your daughter! I just had to get away from the not-so-tasty Trefoils, which were an unfortunate introduction to the species, to find some shortbread that I now know and love. I loved the wall with the lichen too. We were watching a boat being tugged into the harbor, and I had just ripped my pants on a rocky outcropping (one of the pairs that have ripped and been patched two or three times now). But despite these woes I took a detour from heading back inland in order to take a detailed look at the lichen-y wall.

      After reading your comment I mentioned, while walking outside, that it had recently snowed in Minnesota. Not five seconds later (and maybe not TWO seconds later, it was a little bit ridiculous), small snowflakes began to fall here. !!!! Isn’t that wild?! They didn’t persist, though, thankfully.

  4. Wow, I can see why you were so inspired to go nuts with your camera. What a gorgeous place, captured so beautifully! Sea salt shortbread sounds right up my alley. mmm…

    1. Jessica: The ocean always inspires me! It’s amazing how much it changes based on the sky and weather conditions. I’m impressed.

      Turn into that alley, walk up it (or run), and make yourself some salty shortbread!

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