Monday November 04, 2013 | 07:02 AM

What is it about the bagels at  Scratch Baking Company that makes relatively sane people turn into  predators who want those bagels no matter what?

A lull in the bagel brigade--early Sunday morning at Scratch Baking on Willard Square

The drill on a Sunday morning is unmistakable. Parking along Willard Square during the bagel hour is difficult.  Then once you’re inside and have been lucky enough to get your stash of bagels (they sell out in minutes), your next hurdle is to wait on line, often 20 people deep--to check out.  Worse yet is arriving to find empty bagel bins, only to wait for the next batch out of the oven.  

At 7:45 Sunday morning, the first batch of bagels are nearly gone

Seconds later, the bagel bin is empty


Customers wait and the bagel vigil begins, due to come out of the oven in 10 minutes

They’re nothing like the famous New York bagel, which is the standard by which most others are judged.  Those have an incredible texture--chewy and soft on the inside and firm on the outside.  Some say it’s the good New York water that makes those bagels so superior. 

I think it has more to do with how they’re made and by whom--bagel bakers who’ve been doing it for years.  I’ve been known to fly back from New York to Portland carrying back a dozen New York bagels in a brown paper bag.  Getting them through the security line at the airport is not always easy, as though anyone could possibly think of sticking something dangerous into those prized bready orbs with the hole in the middle.

I think what makes Scratch Baking’s so good is the starter dough they use, which imparts a slightly sour taste to the bagel.  They’re also big and chewy inside (not crusty on the outside like Brooklyn bagels) and have a flakey outer exterior.

The check-out line moves fast and no one seems to mind even if it doesn't

But Scratch has a lot more to offer besides bagels.  Their cakes, pastries and other sweets are sublimely good, offering old-fashioned baked goods.  While waiting on line this past Sunday I ogled all the sweets on display and couldn’t resist buying a slice of the chiffon cake.  I can’t remember when I last had this incredible cake, which was so popular in the 40s and 50s.  

The lemon chiffon cake, "light as a feather"

The sign on the cake said it was "feather light."  That’s an understatement.  Let me tell you it was a magical slice of cake.  When I got home, before I even prepared my bagel, I took a big slobbering bite out of the chiffon cake.  What a revelation!  I can’t understand why this cake ever went out of fashion.  It’s rich with egg yolks, lightened by   stiffly whipped egg whites folded into a  moderately sweet batter.  This version was flavored with lemon and had a fetching lemon glaze drizzled over the top.  Essentially it’s the essence of cake perfection.

There's plenty to choose from:  breakfast cakes, bars,  shortbreads, crescents, muffins, cookies and croissants

Followed by a bagel with cream cheese  at home and a few slices of  smoked salmon, Sunday morning was complete. 

A mixed bounty from Scratch Baking: everything-seeded bagels, English muffin, lemon chiffon cake, Sullivan Harbor smoked salmon, Farmer's Gate smoked bacon and house- made southern style pimento cheese



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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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