DUNEDIN — A tasty era of the Scone Age has arrived in downtown Dunedin, in the form of a bakery café on Skinner Boulevard adjacent to the Pinellas Trail.
Scone Age Bakery and Café’s owner and executive chef, Shelley Jaffe, bakes a big variety of made-from-scratch scones, Jerusalem bagels like those found in Israel, and about 170 traditional savory treats, many gluten-free and baked with all-natural ingredients.
Along with scones, one of her signature baked items is the Jerusalem bagel. The main difference between a Jerusalem bagel and a regular one is its distinctive oblong pretzel shape and the fact that it is baked, not boiled. It is more fluffy and less doughy in texture.
Traditionally, Jerusalem bagels are sprinkled with sesame seeds. However, Jaffe adds salt, cinnamon, poppy and Asiago cheese. She serves it with her own made-from-scratch cream cheese or her in-house prepared hummus, which is thicker and akin to the variety prepared in the Middle East, unlike more watery commercial spreads sold in stores.
“We had no idea how popular these Jerusalem bagels were going to be,” she announced on the café’s Facebook page, noting she sold out just from online orders during the first week they were offered.
As the café’s name implies, Jaffe bakes a variety of scones including blueberry, cranberry orange, traditional Scottish, chocolate chip, blueberry lemon cardamom, gluten-free and vegan, along with mixed-berry American scones made with blueberry, cherry, raspberry and cranberry.
“The concept for the Scone Age Bakery and Café is to bring fresh organic and natural scratch-made traditional baked goods and food back to the table,” Jaffe explained. “I like to use as much whole food in all of my cooking as possible, so that none of the valuable nutrients are lost, or the flavor that goes with them. The result is simple, delicious food that lets the natural flavors shine through.”
She developed a line of whole-food, gluten-free and paleo-baked goods, including bread, cookies and muffins. “Unlike many others creating these baked goods, mine do not contain defatted coconut or almond flour,” she said.
Open from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, the café’s menu offers items such as crustless quiche and breakfast created with organic, pasture-raised chicken eggs, locally made cheddar cheese and her own made-from-scratch Kaiser rolls.
Scone Age Bakery and Cafe also features crustless peanut butter pie with a chocolate ganache base, along with cherry, raspberry, apricot and chocolate brioche, gluten free cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns, apple crumb bars and ginger-lemon sandwich cookies.
She recently introduced a brie sandwich, with slow-rise fermented bread dough wrapped around imported French brie, organic apple and a touch of Dijon mustard, then sprinkled with organic herbs and baked to a golden perfection.
Jessica Wolford, a customer who stops by weekly with her husband and daughter, said they love the Jerusalem bagels and the fact that Jaffe uses all organic, farm-raised, clean and vegan ingredients in her baking.
Jaffe said her earliest recollection of being intrigued by baking was at 18 months old in her hometown of Albany, New York.
“I was outside playing and came inside and started watching my great-great-aunt make a lattice-top cherry pie,” she said.
“In my teens, that same great-great-aunt Marion, along with my grandmother, helped me hone my cooking and baking skills, while my great-uncle Frank taught me all about organic farming,” she said. “Throughout my teens I spent my summers working in Farmer Pritchett’s fields, and my evenings and weekends cooking and baking for the family, often using fresh, local ingredients.”
At 22, Jaffe decided not to join the family business in vacuum cleaner sales and moved to New Jersey to start her culinary career with Food Services of America. She learned more about baking from four accomplished chefs.
Her quest took her to Los Angeles and then to Seattle.
“By the time I was 30 I was catering using fresh, local ingredients grown in Washington state,” she said.
Moving to Tampa Bay about 11 years ago, she created, opened and ran a profitable organic farm-to-table restaurant in downtown Clearwater.
She said that unlike some people believe, it is possible to make it in downtown Clearwater — if you offer what people want.
“Unfortunately, the majority owner developed Alzheimer’s and we were forced to close. But like everything in my life, it was a learning experience for me and gave me the confidence needed to own and operate my own place,” Jaffe said.
She considered opening her business in downtown Clearwater, but said she encountered too much red tape and zoning issues.
Jaffe and her husband Lawrence, who runs the front end of the business, found their current location at 332 Skinner Blvd. in November 2018. She describes it as “an adorable 1915 old Florida cracker cottage, and we knew it was the perfect place.”
The community has made her feel welcome, she said. “At our grand opening all the city officials, the Merchants Association, and chamber members came to welcome us to town. Everyone in the town has been so supportive and welcoming, coming in and supporting us.”
She said Skinner Boulevard “is becoming Dunedin’s other Main Street.”
She welcomes the city’s plans to slow down traffic and redesign the street to be more pedestrian-safe and friendly.
Being next to the Pinellas Trail is a great location, Jaffe explained, because people stop by to rest, recharge and have a healthy drink or snack.
“Everything I have experienced in my 50 years of life has helped form how I prepare my food,” Jaffe said. “I do everything from scratch from my pastries, to my soups, my sauces and my main courses. I don’t use any processed ingredients, and I use fresh and local whenever humanly possible.”
Jaffe said along with being recognized by Tampa Bay Magazine as best bakery of 2019, the owners are also proud to be certified by Ocean Allies for being an ocean-friendly business. They do not use plastic foam, bags or utensils. Their takeout carriers are recycled paper, the utensils are bamboo.
Jaffe said future plans include opening this fall on Friday and Saturday evenings, but that will require hiring additional staff. On her Facebook page, she noted, “To make more items requires more people working more hours, which we are working on finding. Eventually our kitchen will run 24 hours a day when we have the bakers to make it happen. In the meantime, we'll keep baking as much as we can.”