Monday, September 23, 2013

My newest favorite thing

That, to the left?  Why, it’s my newest favorite thing – a real, live, authentic professional baking book that used to belong to my grandpa.  (Thanks, Mom!)  My grandpa has always held a sweet spot in my memory banks, and, it turns out, we share our love of baking.  As a young adult during the depression, he, like so many others, did his share of odd jobs.  But, he often fell back on baking as a way to make a living – starting off as a baker in a lumberjack camp in Northern Wisconsin, and working on and off in various bakeries for several years afterwards.
You may not be able to read it, but the book is called “Cakes and Pastries,” and is the sort of cookbook used to feed the masses.  For example, there’s a recipe for Pecan Butterscotch Rolls – makes 27 dozen (there is an annotation that “these rolls are a very good seller”), a recipe for 10 dozen “cheap” cupcakes, and a recipe for 10 dozen sheet cakes that you are supposed to “bake fast.”

Printed in 1925, the book was written in the days of less-than-fancy ovens.  Bakers are instructed to bake confections in “moderate,” “cool,” or “hot” ovens, and it is assumed that the recipe readers know their ways around recipes.  Instructions include such specifics as: “give rolls some proof,” “let dough rest for some time,” add enough water to make a good mixture,” “extra icing can be set aside in a stone jar and covered with a damp cloth,” berry cream pie “keeps well and eats well,” and cheesecake should be “cut into 10 or 15 cent slices.”

The book covers all the basics – French pastries, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, tortes, candies, and, of course, breads and rolls.  There are recipes for things I’ve never heard of, like “Hermits” (dark and light, no less) and “Sally Lun Muffins,” and recipes for things like “Pepper Nuts” (no nuts in the recipe), “Cocoanut (sic) Rocks” (no rocks in the recipe), and “Spanish Strips” (that apparently had to have pink frosting) – all labeled “Hard Goods for Showcase.”

I have loved perusing this artifact of my grandpa’s life.  But, the showstoppers are at the back of the book where he penned his own recipes and notes.  So, readers, here, in my late-grandpa’s own lovely hand, is his tried and true recipe for 100 loaves of bread.  It's the ingredients, anyway.  A real baker knows what to do with them.

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