WHILE IN QUARANTINE, home bakers have discovered the joys of making sourdough and scratch-made cookies and cakes to pass the time and behold the miracle of mixing flour, water, and sugar to make something delicious. But if you’ve grown tired of the confines of your kitchen, you can also leave it to the professionals. During the pandemic, Charm City’s baking scene has exploded, whether that means a storefront business or a subscription-only service. Of course, we bow to the old guard, such as Highlandtown’s Hoehn’s, Fenwick in Parkville, and Vaccaro’s in Little Italy, but there’s also a whole new crop of spots ready to make their mark. From Café Dear Leon in Canton to Motzi Bread in Harwood—both of which have literal bread lines—it’s hard to swing a spatula without hitting a new spot.
Why the rise in baking? “People have told us that coming here is a thing that they can do that feels normal, and they can walk away with something that makes them incredibly happy,” says Keiller Kyle, owner of Ovenbird Bakery, which opened last June in the middle of the pandemic. “We have people buying coffee and scones, and that’s something that makes them feel like normal at a time that is very not normal.”
Here, we celebrate some of the new stars of the scene.
FOR THE BIRDS
Ovenbird Bakery owner and one-time bird biologist Keiller Kyle was working to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay for the global nonprofit Nature Conservancy when he decided to take up bread baking. “I was always baking and cooking, but I really got into bread because of The Great British Bake Off,” says Kyle. “My wife and I would come home from work and watch. I found it invigorating and relaxing at the same time. The first thing we made was a Swiss roll—and we moved into making bread from there.”
Kyle was drawn not only to the art of bread-making, but also the science of it. “Bird biology is not necessarily tied to bread-baking,” he says with a laugh, “but the scientific process has been really helpful to understand the precision involved.”
DURING THE PANDEMIC, CHARM CITY’S BAKING SCENE HAS EXPLODED, WITH A NEW CROP OF SPOTS READY TO MAKE THEIR MARK.
Over time, the Patterson Park resident continued to bake for pleasure, sharing his wares with neighbors and friends, while also expanding his repertoire to rye, Viennese whirls, and cardamom lemon buns. “I was doing sourdough bread out of the house, making two loaves at a time in a Dutch oven, and selling it to our neighborhood for a couple of years just to keep up with flour expenses,” says Kyle. “People just kept coming back saying, ‘You should do this for a living.’ I was like, ‘Really?’” Kyle credits his friend Joseph Gardella, owner of Joe Benny’s on High Street in Little Italy, with giving him the courage to take the leap. “Joe was willing to take my bread and try it and be a critical eye and ear,” he says. “In early 2019, he said, ‘I can help you get this going if you really want to go after it.’ He took me under his wing and helped me find this space—I give him full credit.”
Ever since its opening last summer, Ovenbird has been flying high with its homey sweets, from dulce de leche banana cream pie and coconut cream pie to blueberry-lemon scones, focaccia, and, yes, his signature sourdough bread. And while the one-time ecologist has embraced his new profession, he wanted to honor his love for winged creatures.
“The Ovenbird is an actual bird,” says Kyle of the bakery’s namesake. “It’s an East Coast native in the warbler family that lives in the upper story of the forest, and it’s found here in Baltimore. My intention was to add to the pantheon of birds for the city. We have the Orioles. We have the Ravens. We have Ovenbird Bakery.”
Codetta Bake Shop
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