Ruben Hernandez, baker and owner (with his wife, Kristin) of the Hamilton Bakery, was calm, cool and collected and greeted me warmly, when I popped in without an appointment on May 7th opening day.
Maybe it’s because Hernandez has been in the hospitality and food business for many years, including a stint at Bakery Express, a high-end wholesale baker and distributor. He seemed to have no opening day jitters, for him the work is in the baking. Meeting and greeting just makes him smile.
Recently, a little more than a month later, I checked in to see how he was doing. His smile is just as broad. The bakery is doing well. And he is, I am pleased to report, just as gracious. Everyone who comes in gets his attention.
5414 Harford Road
Open: Mon.-Thurs. 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hernandez knows baking through and through. He explains the importance of the flour, and says he would have loved to use Maryland wheat and mill it here. But the complexity of such an operation means that it will have to wait.
As much as possible, local and organic ingredients are used. The milk, butter, eggs and cheese are from county dairy farms. The fruit, berries and honey are regional as well. There are, as always, some exceptions and Hernandez will tell you what they are.
I think whatever flour he is using is working and that at Hamilton the breads deserve the spotlight. They are almost surprisingly delicious. It is not only the flavors, such as the fig, anise, walnut bread, onion foccacia, and black olive ciabatta, that are very satisfying, but as they say, the mouth-feel of the crust and the crumb. The French country loaves are terrific on their own and with an herb-olive oil dip or some some cheese and olives, a nice accompaniment to a glass of chilled white wine.
I very much enjoy his European style Danish; they are not overly sweet and have just a sliver of crust. The muffins, like everything else, are made daily and have the aroma of whatever the ingredients of the day are: blueberry, banana nut and a savory, cheddar garlic. The scones run the gamut as well; blueberry, orange sweet and savory cranberry and cheddar herb.
As for dessert or afternoon pick-me-up sweets, the fruit tart offered ripe berries the day I was there, as well as the strawberry shortcake were redolent of fresh berries and cream. The toasted coconut, chocolate and carrot cakes come in 9-inch and 4-inch sizes. The larger run from about $20 to $30, and the minis are $7 to $10.
I would prefer the brownies and cookies to be moister and a little smaller, but the people I shared them with liked them just fine the way they are.
Hamilton Bakery serves Zeke’s coffee and quality teas. During the summer, iced coffee is available and if you remember to bring your own mug you will get a discount. Hernandez plans to add light lunch meals, such as egg salad on croissant and flat bread pizzas. Since Hernandez is asking for suggestions, I would invite him to try a Smith Island Cake that won’t break the bank.
I ask Hernandez how he feels a month after the doors opened.
“We’re happy to be part of Hamilton – our neighbors have been wonderful,” he said. “We have had a great response and met lots of new people. We hope to be a part of this neighborhood for a long, long time.”