Retrobaked is a Bradenton bakery located in Village of the Arts that specializes in gluten-free and vegan sweets. On April 23, owner Rachel Sokolewicz announced that Retrobaked will close temporarily due to her persisting health issues.
The plan was to close after a final open house during May Art Walk in Village of the Arts. The crowd that showed up was so massive that Retrobaked sold out of sweets in an hour and a half.
Sokolewicz decided to add one more pop-up event for everyone who missed out. Pre-orders for the final event were due by May 12, but there will be some extra treats on hand for walk-ins.
Farewell Pop-Up Details: 5-7 p.m. Saturday. 933 12th St. W., Bradenton. retrobaked.com.
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Classic treats for modern diets at Retrobaked
nos·tal·gia, noun (näˈstaljə,nəˈstaljə/): a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.
When Rachel Sokolewicz opened Retrobaked in 2013, her goal was to bring back nostalgic sweets from her childhood. It was a bit of an obsession.
"I’ve been an avid vintage collector for years," Sokolewicz said. "Everything from aprons and Pyrex dishes to vintage cookbooks. They take me to a simpler, slower time before smartphones and frozen meals."
Some of Sokolewicz's most-cherished childhood memories are centered around dessert, whether decorating sugar cookies alongside her grandmother or toiling through annual Christmas baking marathons with her mom.
Sokolewicz even remembers her first baking kit. It contained a little plastic rolling pin with measuring cups and a cookbook from a Tupperware party.
Retrobaked's re-creation of childhood sweets comes with one caveat. Recipes for cookies, cupcakes, brownies and other treats have updated flavors and cleaner, allergy-friendly ingredients. Everything on the menu is gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free.
Sokolewicz's vision was based in part on her own struggle with health issues; she was diagnosed with dairy and gluten intolerances in her 20s.
"I know the struggle of having to go without dessert," Sokolewicz said. "Even when I would occasionally come across an allergy-friendly treat, it was typically a bland, dry afterthought, and majorly lacking in the creativity department."
Providing treats for those who usually have to go without is one of the most rewarding parts of the job for Sokolewicz.
Some of her favorite memories are seeing kids with food allergies taste their first cupcake, providing the first birthday cake in years for someone with celiac disease and reinventing childhood classics like hostess cupcakes and oatmeal creme pies for people who have never been able to have the originals.
The treats are plenty popular with allergy free folks, too. Retrobaked's events and open houses frequently sell out.
Ruth Warren, head of marketing for Village of the Arts, says she wished she could have tried even more of them.
"They are decadent, they are sinfully good," Warren said.
Carrie Price Whaley co-owns Yoga Arts down the street from Retrobaked. According to Whaley, Sokolewicz is an inspiration to others in the Village.
"She stepped it up a notch in the way she was presenting her business. I think she's had a tremendous impact and attracted a lot of people to the Village," Whaley said. "I have people tell me all the time that they love her stuff. She really is a super hard worker and a perfectionist."
Keeping up with demand can take a bit of a toll on Sokolewicz. Other than occasional help from friends and family, Retrobaked is primarily a one-woman operation based out of a small kitchen.
"It has definitely become increasingly difficult to keep up with the growing demand without the luxury of commercial ovens and a full staff," Sokolewicz said.
Now, the bakery is closing temporarily as Sokolewicz takes some time to deal with persisting health issues. She was also recently diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease.
On the evening of Retrobaked's last Art Walk, a crowd began to gather outside of the business an hour and a half before opening. As the sun lowered, the line grew, winding down the front sidewalk, through the picket fence and out along 10th Avenue West. Retrobaked sold out of goods in less than two hours.
The plan is to reopen Retrobaked once Sokolewicz's health is back on track.
"If and when we are able to reopen in the future, the dream would be to come back as a full service bakery with regular hours, so customers can simply pop in on whim for a cupcake and a cup of coffee," Sokolewicz said. "I would love be able to provide daily treats for the gluten-free vegan community."
In the meantime, here is a recipe for Retrobaked's Sweet ’n Salty Peanut Butter Fudge Cookies:
Sweet ’n Salty Peanut Butter Fudge Cookies
(gluten-free & vegan)
Yield: 2-dozen cookies
Recipe by: Rachel Sokolewicz, owner of Retrobaked
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons water
1 cup gluten-free whole grain oat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup organic sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips, melted
Fleur de sel sea salt, for sprinkling
• Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.
• In a small bowl, whisk together ground flaxseed and water. Set aside until thickened (about 10 minutes).
• Sift together oat flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
• In a separate bowl, beat peanut butter and sugar until combined. Beat in flaxseed mixture.
• Gradually beat dry ingredients into wet (dough will be crumbly). Add almond milk and vanilla and beat just until combined.
• Scoop out 1 1/2 TB of dough, roll into a ball and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, placing cookies three inches apart. Use a fork to gently flatten cookies with a crisscross pattern.
• Bake at 350-degrees for 9-10 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool completely on pan. (Cookies will be fragile until cooled.)
• Once cooled, drizzle with melted chocolate & sprinkle with fleur de sel.
Download the recipe here.