Other than a new hardware store to replace the departed Houghton's, the need for a local bakery is what I've heard most commonly requested by Durham residents. It was my misunderstanding that if you were looking for high quality baked goods you had to travel to another town. It turns out that several great options exist but are not located in the Central Business District. They are small shops located in the neighborhoods.
The area that stretches from the intersection of Sunnyside and Durham Point Road to Longmarch Road forms the Wedgewood Neighborhood. It has a mixture of young families and longtime residents, and is the home of Sweetened Memories. Kathy Shattuck is a mom that had some free time when her kids were at school. She made a cake for her daughter's birthday and decided to take a few cake decorating classes. Over time, people began to ask her to make cakes for them.
As she started to get more orders, it became apparent that she needed some help. Fellow mom Aliana Creswell joined her and from their partnership, Sweetened Memories was born. Last year they produced 56 wedding cakes and countless cupcakes and cookies. As orders come in, everything is baked and decorated in Kathy's kitchen.
Sweetened Memories is a custom order shop. If you have an idea, they can turn it into a cake.
You can find details on cake, cupcake, and cookie options at their website Sweetened Memories. After sampling the cupcakes on the right, I can attest they taste as good as they look.
One of the highlights of a trip to France is a visit to a boulangerie. They produce bread that has the perfect blend of crust, texture, and taste. How do they do it? That's the question that Sally Tobias and I asked when we visited Farag Breads at 23 Littlehale Rd.
Sherif grew up in Durham and like many New Hampshire kids, moved away for college and career. On a vacation to Paris with his wife Nadine, he took a baking class, and loved it. They stayed, and he completed an intensive class/apprenticeship. As they thought about their next steps, Durham seemed like a great place to move back to and start a business. Last fall they opened Farag Breads and began producing small batches of hand-made bread.
Since bread only has a few ingredients, it's important to use the best available. One critical component is the use of a natural starter rather than commercial yeast. A starter is a mixture of flour and water, that with time and regular feedings, turns into natural yeast. Bakers keep batches of them going for years, and they are a key to the bread's flavor. It's what makes sourdough sour. Sherif currently maintains four different starter lines.
After the dough is hand made, it's hand-kneaded and allowed to rest, or ferment. While it takes more time to do it this way, it has a big impact on the bread's taste and texture. The dough is ultimately shaped, and scored to control the loaf's shape during baking.. As you might have guessed looking at my work on the right, a good loaf requires skill and experience.
They currently have a regular selection of six breads that include Fougasse, Rustic Sourdough Boule, Olive Boule, French Boule, Pain de Campagne, and Rosemary Focaccia. They also make some great cookies. Orders are placed at the Farag Breads website and picked up at their home. Don't forget to sign up for their newsletter that has weekly specials.
Next time you're thinking about where to buy a cake for a party or the right bread to go along with your meal, don't forget our local neighborhood shops!