Baltimore's bounty of bakeries

Baltimore's bounty of bakeries
Jason Hisley, executive chef and owner of La Cakerie works on creating pastries at his establishment in Towson. (Daniel Kucin Jr., BALTIMORE SUN)

Readers asked me about departed Northeast Baltimore bakeries, establishments such as Buchler's and Rueckert's. The Baltimore Sun's Recipe Finder column issued a request this week for a jelly cake made by Fiske's on Park Avenue in Bolton Hill.

Oh, we Baltimoreans grow misty at the mention of dearly departed Silber's. We hope that somehow we can recapture the food of 1961 or that certain dark pumpernickel or a Wellesley fudge cake. We dream on.


When a baker or cook stops working, their dishes simply cease to exist. I have been to dinners where there were claims that a Marconi's meal was duplicated. I left hungry. Occasionally, a dish will come close; most food re-creations are off by 10 miles.

Jason Hisley told me this week, "Baking is evolving today with a flair and an edge." His La Cakerieshops on Charles Street in Mount Vernon and in Towson are a part of the new style of Baltimore neighborhood bakeries.

I thought of a day, 35 years ago, when I stood in his grandmother's Collington Avenue kitchen across the street from St. Wenceslaus Church. Mildred Hisley was an accomplished Czechoslovakian baker who used her family's Bohemian recipes.

Hisley told me that his grandmother was his inspiration. Alas, he is not making her rich, fruited breads, which reminded me of dense Dresden stollen. "I'm working on them and hope to introduce them soon," he said.

Baltimore's neighborhood bakeries have evolved. Locations change, and neighborhoods may not be saturated with the storefront variety that Baltimore enjoyed in the 1950s. Bakeries today extend their offerings with coffee and sandwiches made with the breads they bake. Today's equivalent of the white or rye we loved 40 years ago is likely a word we didn't know then, something like "baguette" or "ciabatta."

I pass three or four bakery stalls each Saturday morning at the Waverly Farmers' Market. Each bread offered there has its own taste.

I think of our mainstay, little-changed, classic Baltimore bakeries: Fenwick and Woodlea in Northeast Baltimore or Simon's in Cockeysville. Yet there are some newcomers, such as the Hamilton Bakery on Harford Road and the breads at Towson's Cunningham's.

Sometimes, bakers go wholesale to do business. Baltimore's beloved Berger and Otterbein now sell through a network of grocery stores and have no retail shop. There was a time when a Berger's cookie was not necessarily chocolate-topped. There were variants: vanilla, strawberry and lemon; the Berger bakers also made other cookie varieties, including one with almond flavor.

I recommend a bakery expedition through East Baltimore. You could start at Patisserie Poupon near the Shot Tower, visit Vaccaro's in Little Italy, work your way to Piedigrotta at Bank and Central, side trip to Bonaparte Breads in Fells Point, drop by Hoehn's at Conkling and Bank, or taste the wares at DiPasquale's at Gough and Conkling. If you love macaroons, this pilgrimage is a must. There is also Dangerously Delicious Pies on O'Donnell.

Yia Yia (the name is Greek for "grandmother") in Rosedale is on my list for 2015. I expect great things there, based upon what I've heard about its Baltimore raisin bread. Dundalk's Herman's has been around since 1923.

Baltimore's older suburban neighborhoods also yield some excellent dough. An often-overlooked gem is the Old World Bakery in Randallstown. Pikesville is another bakery destination. Goldman's and Pariser's are old-school. Sion's is the newcomer. The products sold at the Stone Mill Bakery in Stevenson and Greenspring Station are actually baked in Woodberry.

SugarBakers in Catonsville produces renowned cakes that often grace birthday celebrations and wedding receptions.

The mother ship of Atwater's breads is a bakery on Whittington Avenue in Morrell Park. One of its retail stores is in Catonsville, on the Frederick Road shopping district. Any bakery that takes orders for Christmas fruitcake, as this one does, gets my vote.

Now if only Ned Atwater could recapture that mythic Fiske recipe book and bring back its dainty treats, then tackle its water ices and the pistachio ice cream.