July 2, 2015
I've been baking bread since early in our marriage (which occurred on Dec. 20, 1969). Initially, I baked for financial reasons: We were fairly impecunious people then: As a full-time middle school teacher in Aurora, Ohio, I was making $7506--that's gross annual salary. Take-home (twice monthly), as you can imagine, was somewhat less than the $312.75 you get when you divide my salary by twenty-four. Joyce was a grad assistant and made $2500 a year at Kent State.
Anyway, I figured baking bread was cheaper than buying those grocery-store spongy loaves that I didn't really like anyway. And baking our own bread was cheaper--and inconceivably better-tasting--and I've been doing it ever since--as my Facebook friends know only too well from the annoying loaf-photographs I post each Sunday.
Soon, I branched out--baking other things. Rolls, pizza dough, cornbread, and so on. And--as I've posted here before--in August 1986, on a trip to Alaska and the Yukon with my fourteen-year-old son (doing some family history and Jack London research), I bought some sourdough starter that I've been using ever since. It will turn twenty-nine this August and seems to like its routines here in Hudson.
So ... about the emotional part. Over the years I've fed my sourdough starter with flour that means something to me. I added some from the old mill in Garrettsville, Ohio (where my mom taught high school English for ten years); I added some from Lanterman's Mill in Youngstown (my great-grandfather, Warren A. Lanterman, who had a farm on Four Mile Run Road in Austintown (near Youngstown), was a relative of the mill owner); I even bought some flour (via the Internet) from a mill in West Virginia, not far from the mill my Dyer ancestors owned there in the 19th century. So, every bite of my sourdough bread contains a nip of family history.
Oh, and it's not just the dough. I use honey from the Guyette family over in Mantua, just five miles from Hiram, where I lived from ages 11-21. Mrs. Guyette was one of my high school teachers. I played basketball and baseball against Guyette boys.
I don't use the sourdough for all the baking I do. At Christmas, I follow my grandmother's recipe for white fruitcake (it's a baking-powder dough). When I make cornbread, I like to use the recipe my mother used, right from the old Better Homes & Garden cookbook--the one with the pink plaid cover.
A few years ago I used to start my day (Monday through Saturday) at the local Caribou Coffee here in Hudson. I would get a multi-grain bagel, then toast it, add some honey. But they began phasing out some of their pastry choices--and then they phased themselves out and closed their doors forever. I started going to another place--Hattie's here in Hudson--but it also soon closed (see a pattern here?).
And by then I decided I wanted to bake my own breakfast pastry. And so I started messing around with scones. I tried various kinds (blueberry, cherry-walnut), but the one I like the best is maple-pecan (at the top of the page, see photo from today's baking). I bought a scone baking pan from King Arthur Flour (see above picture) and soon had memorized the recipe (modifying it, too) and was baking them every week.
So what's so emotional about this? We bought maple syrup out on Pioneer Trail (see below) throughout my boyhood. When I was a smaller boy--out in Enid, Oklahoma--we had a pecan tree in our back yard at 1709 East Broadway. My mom would bake pies with them--as would my grandmother, who lived only a block away at 1609. The nuts they didn't shell and use I would pick up from the ground and whip at my brothers. They hurt (as I discovered when some return fire came my way.) Pecan pie is still my favorite--though I can't eat it often. And don't. Really ...
Here's the scone recipe I use, if you're interested.
- spray a little oil on the baking dish
- pre-heat oven to 400F
- in a mixing bowl ...
- 1 egg (cholesterol conscious, I use 1/4 cup Egg Beaters instead)
- 1/3 cup Ohio maple syrup (from Pioneer Trail in Hiram, if possible)
- 1 tsp pure maple extract
- 1 small package (6 oz) of Chobani plain yogurt
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- whisk ingredients until uniform and smooth
- add almost a cup of pecans, stir and mix lightly
- in Cuisinart
- 1/2 cup oat flour (this and other flours are Bob's Red Mill)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup white flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 lb butter (I use soy butter), frozen, cut into 8 equal pieces
- zap it until it's uniform
- stir dry ingredients into the wet, adding a tiny bit of white flour until you have a nice ball of dough that sticks well to itself
- put some flour on your hands, form the dough into a nice tight grapefruit-sized ball
- place ball on lightly floured board; flatten it with the heel of your hand into a circle about the circumference of your pan
- cut into eight equal wedges
- place wedges in pan
- place pan in oven for about 25 min--or until nice and brown
- remove pan, let cool a few minutes, remove scones and put them on cooling rack (don't do this too soon: when they're hot, they're fragile--just like the rest of us)
- EAT--just one