A Baker's Dozen If you're sweet on sweets, you can always count on Baltimore's old-fashioned bakeries for delicious cakes, pastries and breads.

Focus On Bakeries

May 31, 1998|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN STAFF

If the words "sugar-crusted cinnamon raisin bread" make a little shiver go down your spine, you're going to love our tour of Baltimore's bakeries.

We know that these days you can get a staggering array of excellent baked goods at supermarkets, mall food courts and doughnut and bagel shops. But there's nothing like stopping in an old-fashioned bakery for a fresh peach cake or picking up some all-butter croissants at a fine French patisserie.

You could start at Lexington Market. Many of Baltimore's legendary bakeries have branches there. But apart from them, we've selected a baker's dozen of the area's most historic or most delicious or even most off the beaten track for your enjoyment.

We don't pretend our list is all-inclusive. We polled everyone we could think of, and these were the names that came up again and again. Think of our list as a sampling of the wicked delights waiting out there for you, like Woodlea's marshmallow doughnuts or the Greek Village's baklava.

By the way, that sugar-crusted cinnamon raisin bread comes from

The Bakery, 27 E. Padonia Road, 410-560-1326. This little place is as nondescript as its name, but for the past two months one of Baltimore's most respected bakers has been in charge. Rudy Rauch, who used to own Rudy's Patisserie in the city, is now turning out his fine Austrian pastries for Cockeysville and Timonium residents. His specialty is mousse cake in flavors like nougat, chocolate and hazelnut; but you'll also find eclairs, Danish and breads from brioche to spinach-garlic.

Big Sky Bread Co., 509 W. Cold Spring Lane, 410-662-6070. Get here when it opens at 7 a.m. and you can watch the day's baked goods being pulled fresh from the ovens. The big draw is, of course, the bread; best sellers are English muffin and organic three-seed loaves. But many other varieties are available, as well as muffins, cherry and blackberry scones and cookies.

Dorothea's Bread, 2225 Eastern Ave., 410-276-2626. This is the origin of the tasty loaves available at many area grocery stores. The bakery's hours are terrible (Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to noon), and there isn't much in the way of atmosphere. But you can get Danish, cinnamon buns, elephant ears, croissants and 20 different kinds of freshly baked bread. The most popular varieties: crumb raisin, sourdough and cheese.

Fenwick, 7219 Harford Road, 410-444-6410. All bakeries smell good, but this one is so small the fragrance of freshly baked pastries will knock you over when you open the door. Customers have gotten their wedding cakes and then come back for their 25th- and 50th-anniversary cakes. All the old-fashioned Baltimore favorites, like fresh peach cake in season, are sold here; a specialty is the "party petits," a charming selection of miniature cream puffs, eclairs and other pastries for special occasions.

Greek Village, 4711 Eastern Ave., 410-675-8155. Owner John Avgerinos makes the luscious baklava dripping with syrup and walnuts himself, as well as a variety of Greek pastries and cookies -- many more kinds than you ever see on restaurant menus. He also bakes sesame-crusted Greek bread seven days a week. A specialty is a rum sponge cake filled with pastry cream and topped with whipped cream. Greek Village is also an imported-foods store, with groceries from Greece, Italy and Spain.

Near East, 2919 Hamilton Ave., 410-254-8970. The bakery is best known for its pita (pocket bread) in every size and flavor, from whole wheat to sun-dried tomato and herbs. Eleven kinds of "pita pockets" come stuffed with spinach, cheeses and meats. You can find delicious Afghan bread here and exotic pastries made with phyllo, pistachios, walnuts and honey. The Near East also sells Arabic and Iranian groceries and has an ethnic gourmet-to-go section.

New System, 921 W. 36th St., 410-366-6964. After some rocky times, this classic Hampden bakery -- which opened in 1921 -- is back on its feet again. The new owners are using the original recipes to create old-time favorites like Parker House rolls and cinnamon raisin bread. (Each loaf contains 3/4 pound of raisins, says owner Cheryl Wade.) Plus there are a few new items, like improved muffins and bagels from Sam's. My vote for Most Sybaritic Indulgence goes to the chocolate-iced cinnamon buns.

Pariser's, 6711 Reisterstown Road, 410-764-1700. Open since 1889, Pariser's is one of the city's best-known kosher bakeries. Generations of Baltimoreans grew up eating sandwiches made with Pariser's rye, and the challah is almost as famous. But this small storefront shop opposite Reisterstown Road Plaza also has cinnamon sticks, jumbo pretzels, Danish and, of course,

Baltimore chocolate cake, which is yellow cake with chocolate icing.

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