Blue Plate Special: Bittersweet Bakery & Café opens, serving up delectable pastries

  • Laura Newton puts a scoop of blueberry batter into the muffin tin. Newton is the baker and owner of Bittersweet Bakery & Cafe in Deerfield. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • Laura Newton puts the finishing touches on her blueberry muffins before baking them. Newton is the baker and owner of Bittersweet Bakery & Cafe in Deerfield. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • Blueberry muffins baked by Laura Newton, baker and owner of Bittersweet Bakery & Cafe in Deerfield. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • Laura Newton pulls her blueberry muffin out of the oven in the kitchen at Bittersweet Bakery & Cafe in Deerfield. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • Blueberry muffins baked by owner and baker Laura Newton can be found at Bittersweet Bakery & Cafe on Routes 5 and 10. Staff Photo/Melina Bourdeau

For the Recorder
Published: 9/11/2018 12:39:26 PM

Laura Newton is 26 years old. She is organized, articulate, efficient and hardworking. She is also cheerful, perhaps because she loves her work.

And she makes a mean blueberry muffin.

Two weeks ago, Newton opened Bittersweet Bakery & Café on Routes 5 and 10 in Deerfield.

Photographer Melina Bourdeau and I stopped by to talk with Newton and watch the young baker work on Labor Day. The bakery was closed, but Newton was busy getting ready for the week to come.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with so much community support. It’s been wonderful,” Newton said with a smile as she mixed muffin batter. Her bakery is located in the building that used to house Savages’ Market, a family business that served generations of locals and tourists with sandwiches, snacks and beverages.

The building has been overhauled to include a seating area with picture windows overlooking the surrounding countryside, a ramp for accessibility, a large kitchen and public restrooms. Both inside and outside are lighter in color and feeling.

The barn boards that decorated the walls at Savages’ have been repurposed to become tabletops and a counter area. Newton described the sense of continuity the boards and building give her.

“It’s a little bit of town history,” she said of her décor.

She reported that the Savage family has been supportive.

“One of the people I was most excited to show this to was Mr. Ben Savage,” she said, gesturing around the eating area. “He built this place.”

Newton learned to love baking by helping her mother and her grandmother cook. She prepared for her career by getting a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University in Colorado and then enrolling in the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She graduated in 2017.

While going to school, she worked nonstop in the food business — a sideline that made life extra busy but gave her invaluable experience when it came to opening her own bakery, particularly in the area of kitchen design.

“In food, it’s all about the number of steps you take,” she noted.

At school, she had a five-year plan that she thought would culminate in opening her own bakery. Fate intervened, however, when Savages’ Market came on the market, and the five-year plan became a one-year plan.

“The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would kick myself if I didn’t do it. I had to at least try,” she asserted.

The logistics of renovating and planning her café were daunting, but she achieved her dream and hired what she described as “a wonderful team” of people to help out.

Newton emphasizes customer service, high-quality food at affordable prices and ties to the community. She explained that she learned traditions of community service both from her father, a police officer, and her mother, who was active in church and civic work in Greenfield.

Her mother, in fact, provided part of the inspiration for the name “Bittersweet.”

“The word ‘bittersweet’ can mean so many things,” mused Newton. “You have bittersweet chocolate that you use in baking, something can be bittersweet (as an emotion), and then you have the very beautiful American bittersweet plant that comes out in the fall. ...

“I lost my mom and 16-year-old sister in a car accident four years ago. So, this process and journey of making my dream of someday opening up my own bakery become a reality has been very bittersweet. I would have loved to share this journey of mine with them.”

At the moment, Bittersweet serves only pastries (including Newton’s beloved homemade pop tarts and her best-selling blueberry muffins), coffee and tea. She hopes to expand soon to breakfast and lunch sandwiches, artisanal pizza and much more.

“The possibilities are endless,” Newton said of her business and her life.

Bittersweet Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

2½ cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

5 T butter

1½ cups sugar

cup neutral oil such as Canola oil

3 eggs

1½ tsp. vanilla

½ cup buttermilk

2 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Measure the flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. In a separate larger bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar, then add in the oil, eggs and vanilla. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are combined well.

Take a little of the dry mixture and toss it into the blueberries. Alternate adding the rest of the dry mixture and the buttermilk to the butter mixture. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl throughout this process to make sure there are no lumps. Fold in the floured blueberries.

Scoop the batter into lined muffin pans. Fill the muffin liner about two-thirds with batter. Feel free to sprinkle sugar or streusel topping on top of the muffins.

Bake for roughly 12 to 15 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Makes about a dozen muffins.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.


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