Nestled in a pastel-colored cottage in the Willard Square section of South Portland, Maine, Scratch Baking Co. is one of Maine's most-loved bakeries. Famous for its bagels that often sell out within hours on the weekends, the bakery also features a plethora of other delicious goodies, from croissants, to cookies and bars, to ganache-covered cakes, and homemade sandwiches. My personal favorite are the gigantic ginger cookies! In addition to selling delicious sweet eats, the bakery also publishes Baker's Notes, a bi-annual journal featuring recipes, stories, and illustrations about the "Scratch Baking Co. experience."
Herewith is a Q + A with one of the bakery's owners and head bakers, the ever-so-sweet and sassy Sonja Swanberg, who shares her thoughts on what life is like running a bakery.
1.) Where do you like to eat when you're not at the bakery?
2.) What's your favorite thing (you, personally) to bake at Scratch?
Sunshine Cake. It's an old family recipe, which we don't always have, but I really love making it.
3.) What's your favorite thing to cook at home?
Definitely Mexican food.
4.) What do you love about living and working in the Portland area?
The changing of the seasons, the ocean, people who love and value good food.
5.) Do you listen to a soundtrack at Scratch in the early mornings? If so, what's on it?
Before we open it's often old school hip hop. When we open it's a lot of disco and Motown. We love to see folks singing along under their breath and dancing in line.
6.) What's your favorite simple/guilty pleasure?
Standing in the walk-in and putting whipped cream on anything sweet that's laying around in our “snack corral.”
7.) What is life like for a baker in five words or less?
Fulfilling, exhausting, delicious.
8.) What's the secret behind those damn bagels?
A whole lot of love and LuLu - our sourdough starter.
9.) What's the best seller at Scratch, besides the bagels?
Probably our Deep South Coconut Cake. The chocolate chip cookies are pretty popular too.
10.) Any plans for the future (i.e., expansion, etc.)?
No, only trying to get better at what we do. One location is plenty!
11.) What's your favorite bakery other than Scratch?
It's not around anymore, but Gottlieb's Bakery in Savannah, GA, where I grew up.
12.) Where do you get your inspiration?
Everywhere. The great outdoors, pretty pictures, the folks who work here, old cookbooks (and some new ones too), my grandmother's recipe boxes, farmer’s markets.