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:
- Flowers are in bloom. Daffodils and hyacinths!
- 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.
- I am about to purchase and eat some delicious shortbread.
- 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):
416 Preble St
South Portland, ME 04106
Update: Skedaddle on over to the somewhat recently-created Scratch blog Baker’s Notes!