Artisanal Bakeries Are on the Rise

If there is a ‘mother’ of the local artisanal bakery trend, it might be Susan O’Keefe of Croton’s Baked by Susan

Ever wondered about the collective noun for a group of bakers? It turns out there are many. You can choose from an aroma of bakers, a kneading, a tabernacle, a batch or a flourish.  

I don’t know about tabernacles, but artisanal bakeries are certainly flourishing at the moment, particularly in the territory between Croton-on-Hudson and Peekskill, where a range of local entrepreneurs are offering fabulous baked goods, and more. 

Baked by Susan, the celebrated business in Croton run by Susan O’Keefe, is perhaps the mother of this trend. A multiple Best of Westchester winner, her bakery offers a vast range of deliciousness, both savory and sweet, from humble breakfast items to complicated, towering cakes. 

Why this location? “We have lived in Croton for 26 years and we raised our three boys here,” O’Keefe explains, “so it’s our home. When we opened in 2010, there was not a bakery in Croton so our timing was perfect. Our location at 379 South Riverside Avenue is ideal; we have a lot of indoor seating and our outdoor patio is awesome in the nicer weather. Croton is a very loyal town — many of our customers have been coming to us for 14 years!” 

Nowadays there are two additional bakeries just down the road, Hudson Oven and Little Star Pastry, but O’Keefe is unfazed. “We are busier than ever, there’s more than enough to go around.” Plus she has a strong menu built on existing favorites supplemented by continuous innovation: “Our favorite bestselling items are our pies, of course, our cinnamon buns (the Bake-it-Yourself ones are a huge hit), and our empanadas have become locally famous. We also offer Anytime Tea (reservations required), served any time of day with all house-made scones, cookies, tea sandwiches and biscuits served in antique tea cups and plates. We also just got our beer, wine and cider license and plan on having some light music on Sunday afternoons as well as a simple boozy brunch.”   

‘Since Covid, people have been thinking about bread more’ — Erin Detrick and Liz Rauch of Peekskill’s Signal Fire Bread

Erin Detrick and Liz Rauch of Signal Fire Bread in Peekskill chose their location because of space. “It was the best we could find for our large, wood-fired oven and equipment, with easy access,” they said, adding, “And we’ve met a lot of cool people here.” 

They also have a theory about the proliferation of bakeries: “Baking has exploded in the last decade. Since Covid, people have been thinking about bread more. Lots of small bakeries closed when baking became industrialized, but now there’s been a sea change, and much greater interest in ingredients, sourcing and freshness.” Signal’s baking is small batch, locally-sourced and community-conscious. The menu offers a fabulous range of breads, as well as smaller treats – scones, muffins, biscuits, brownies. And, “Peekskill really likes our seeded sourdough.” 

Lucky Peekskill has also recently become the home for another specialist bakery of note, The Blondery. 

Red Door Baking Company in Montrose began as a mother and son business. “But now,” says owner Debbie Mancuso, “Matthew has his other businesses, including a gourmet ice cream outfit called Pinky’s. But if I have a special order and need to make, say, 400 pies, he’ll help rolling out piecrust.” 

‘I like to have fun. That’s the best part of the baking’ – Debbie Mancuso of Red Door Baking Company in Montrose

Having previously baked in Buchanan, in premises that became too small and weren’t sufficiently visible to the public, Mancuso moved to Montrose just last year. Now she has both a bakery and a café, offering a full range of baked goods, a strong breakfast selection and specialty drinks.  

Versatile and creative, Mancuso loves invention and seasonal specials (but needs 24 hours’ notice for large cakes). She bakes cactus-shaped cookies for Cinco de Mayo, and a pumpkin whoopee pie in the fall. “I like to have fun. That’s the best part of the baking,” she says, laughing. “If it’s fun, I’ll do it.” 

Briarcliff Manor resident Elsbeth Lindner is a regular contributor to River Journal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recommended For You

About the Author: Elsbeth Lindner