Homemade pastries focus of new cookbook

For many Mainers and summer residents, a trip up the coast isn’t complete without a stop at Standard Baking Co. in Portland for pastries.

Thanks to owner Alison Pray and head pastry chef Tara Smith, customers and baking enthusiasts have access to the bakery’s coveted recipes in a new book: “Standard Baking Co. Pastries.”

{gallery}cookies{/gallery} “Customers have always asked for recipes and we tried to oblige, but there’s a lot of work involved,” Pray said. “We weren’t always able to give people recipes because of those complications in converting it for home bakers.”

In “Pastries,” published by Down East Books in Camden, Pray and Smith walk the home baker step by step through croissants, scones, tarts, cakes, cookies and sweet and savory snacks such as homemade granola bars.

“It’s written specifically for home bakers,” Pray said. “We wanted to take what we do in the bakery and make it easily doable for any home baker with no baking experience. We wrote the recipes and reference in mind for someone who’s never done any baking before.”

“There might be one or two ingredients you won’t find in the grocery store but we give resources and substitutions,” Pray said. “We don’t have equipment that’s hard to source.”

Down East Books had approached Pray about doing a book on the bakery and she was game.

“This was an opportunity to share recipes with customers and also just a way of communicating with people,” Pray said. “It just felt really good to be able to put something out there about the bakery.”

Pray and her husband opened the bakery in 1995 as a two-person operation, growing over the years. She hasn’t had a lot of time to spend on marketing.

Not to worry; the breads and pastries have spoken for themselves.

Many customers who were single when Standard Baking Co. opened 18 years ago are now married with children old enough to visit the bakery on their own, Pray said.

The bakery is getting ready to bake countless linzer cookies, which Pray said is one of the bakery’s most popular holiday items.

“We’ll make them in heart shape,” she said.

The linzer cookie recipe is included in the book, using a butter cookie recipe that Pray says is “foolproof. It’s also got great flavor.”

Linzer cookies are sandwich cookies held together with a glue of jam, traditionally strawberry or raspberry for Valentine’s Day.

“The quality of the preserves you use that’s key,” Pray said. Use homemade jam if you have it. If not, Pray likes the Bonne Maman brand, which can be found in most grocery stores.

The cookbook includes a list of sources for ingredients and tools.

Using what’s fresh is critical at the bakery, which sticks to organic ingredients, local eggs and seasonal produce.

Standard Baking Co. favors butter with a high butterfat content, which the bakery obtains from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. Pray says that the European butter, Plugra, is an excellent brand that is widely available.

The bakery uses Callebaut bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate slabs and Cacao Barry cocoa.

Linzer Cookies

Makes 24 sandwich cookies

This cookie is based on the classic tart from Linz, Austria. Standard Baking Co.’s cookie version features the ground nuts, cinnamon and raspberry jam of the original tart. Instead of a lattice crust, a window is stamped out of a top cookie to show the colorful preserves underneath. The bakery turns out hundreds of heart-shaped linzer cookies for Valentine’s Day each year, but a round, fluted cutter works well for any celebration.


1¼ cups pecans, toasted

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

¾ tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup seedless raspberry jam

confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Mixing the cookie dough:

Place the pecans in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse the machine on and off just until they become a fine meal. (Be careful not to over process or they will turn into a paste.)

In a large bowl, combine the ground pecans, flour, cinnamon, and salt, and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy.

Add the sugar and continue beating on medium speed until incorporated.

On low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating between additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle as needed and beat until incorporated.

Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Continue mixing until all the ingredients are incorporated, being careful not to overmix.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and divide it into four equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a disc shape and wrap each one in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm and very cold. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to a month. (Frozen dough should be defrosted before proceeding.)

Rolling, cutting and baking:

When you’re ready to roll out the dough, position two racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

You will use two discs for bottom cookies and two discs for the top “windowed” cookies. Working with one disc at a time, remove it from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place it on a lightly floured work surface or silicone mat.

With a rolling pin, roll the disc into a sheet about 1-inch-thick. Using a 2½-inch fluted round cookie cutter, cut out as many pieces as possible and place them on the prepared sheet pan, evenly spaced, and at least ½ inch apart. When making the tops, cut a small circle out of the center of each cookie using a 1 1/2 -inch fluted round cookie cutter and place them on the second prepared sheet pan.

Reserve the scraps off to the side of your work surface. When you’ve finished cutting out all the cookies gently, mold the scraps together into a disc shape. Wrap the scrap disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until chilled. Follow the directions from the beginning of Step 3.

Bake the bottom cookies for 6 minutes then rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back. Bake an additional 6 minutes or until the centers feel firm and the edges are lightly browned. Bake the top cookies for 5 minutes, rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back. Bake an additional 4 minutes.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled.

To assemble the cookies:

Spread 1 teaspoon of jam on the underside of each bottom cookie.

Place the top halves of the cookies on a piece of parchment paper and dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar.

Place the dusted cookie tops onto the jam-covered bottoms.

For more Living stories, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

Fenceviewer Staff

Latest posts by Fenceviewer Staff (see all)