Key Ingredients

A night of rain means cafe chairs, still wet and glistening, are stacked outside Scratch Baking on the Milford Green. But inside, the bakery’s butcher block tables are filling as a 9 a.m. lull gives way to a morning rush: two young women with an infant, three young professionals from up the street, a foursome of seniors schmoozing about wine, a solo man with an embroidery project. There are almost as many people back in the kitchen, where owner Lesli Flick’s staff is busy working ciabatta bread dough, mixing batches of muffins and cookies, slicing mushrooms for roasting and snipping air vents in the tops of rolls headed for the oven. At the end of the line, the dishwasher mans a sink full of pans.

The kitchen brings together a wealth of experience, Flick says. “We have a lot of people that are talented [at different things]… some savory, some bread, some croissants… We all have a little bit of what I would say our specialties are.” Most of the recipes are Flick’s own or come from her head baker, Kate Donato, who has been with her almost since Scratch’s beginning eight years ago. But some come from the collaboration of the bake staff at weekly production meetings. “As far as recipes go, we all kind of bring it to the table,” Flick says. True to its name, everything is made from scratch.

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Flick’s route to the Milford Green began along the Hudson River, where her hometown of Dobbs Ferry was a short train ride from New York City and its many tantalizing bakeshops. “All those little bakery boutiques always caught my eye and I was like, ‘You know what? I’ve gotta do this,’” Flick recalls. Later she studied at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan and worked in a chocolate shop, an Upper East Side bakery and the pastry section of a Westchester County diner. Those “little pit stops along the way” eventually led to Milford, which Scratch’s website lovingly describes as “a small city with a big heart.”

Flick’s first Connecticut endeavor, starting in May 2010, was baking for local farm markets. When she opened Scratch Baking to the public that November near the Milford train station, she already had fans, “customers from kind of all over. It was really nice.” But the train crowd was always in a hurry, and Flick longed for a spot where she could create that leisurely “neighborhood feel” her customers are enjoying this morning. When this storefront on Milford’s Broad Street opened up last year, Flick jumped on it.

She brings me a selection of baked goods to try, along with a delicious warm Egg & Cheese Sandwich ($4.75) with bacon and sharp cheddar on a honey flax roll, which gives the rich power breakfast an unconventional suggestion of sweetness and depth. On other days, the breakfast sandwich might be served on a croissant or a homemade English muffin. On the weekend, it’s replaced with a breakfast pizza. The bread menu also varies. This day—a Wednesday—Stadium Pretzels ($3.50) are the prize: big twists of glossy brown dough that are moist and airy with just the right amount of salt crunch on top. “They’re fun,” Flick says. “You can make a sandwich, or you can just eat them with mustard.”

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New to the menu for fall is a classic Pumpkin Muffin ($3.50) with a dash of nutmeg and a generous crumble of brown and powdered sugar on top, coffee cake-style. The surprise is a stripe of cheesecake wrapping the muffin like a ribbon. I find traditional flavors with a twist again in the Mixed Berry Zucchini Muffin ($3.50). Generous chunks of raspberry, blueberry and blackberry are exactly what you’d expect in a great berry muffin, but this one raises the bar with a wholesome zucchini batter.

Also in the traditional category is Scratch’s generously sized, soft, chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie ($1.50)—which, really, you can’t improve upon—while familiar Sugar Cookies ($1.50) turn festive when coated with multicolored sugar confetti.

In addition to its array of baked goods, including croissants, pastries, scones, muffins, cookies, bars, brownies, cakes and pies, Scratch sells loaves of artisanal breads, including weekend-only Brioche and Challah ($6.50 each) and Cranberry Pecan Rye ($7.50). Weekends also bring whole wheat bagels with “everything” seasoning ($3). The lunch menu offers up several seasonal sandwiches ($6.25-9.25), salads ($8-9) and a Kids’ Corner of small sandwiches served with a cookie ($5). Flick says she’s open to menu suggestions from customers as well.

Mounted over the bakery’s front window are emoji-like icons of a stick of butter, a bin of flour and an egg, with plus signs in between. Add them up and you’ve got the beginnings of almost everything in Scratch’s kitchen. They’re fitting symbols of what Scratch delivers: time-honored baking with a playful touch.

Scratch Baking
84 Broad St, Milford (map)
Tues-Fri 6:30am-6pm, Sat-Sun 7am-3pm
(203) 301-4396
Website | Instagram

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg’s associate editor. She’s also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter at KathyLeonardCzepiel.com. Her favorite New Haven scene is a packed summer concert on the Green with dinner from the food trucks, and she loves that there’s always something new to discover here.

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