Friday, January 8, 2016

Baking in the Wee Hours of the Morning

Regina Scott here. Christmas and New Years are behind us, but I’m still eating the last of the cookies and candy my family made over the season. How about you?

I enjoy cooking for family and friends, even though I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a genius in the kitchen. Maddie O’Rourke, the heroine of my January release, Instant Frontier Family, can bake rings around me. But she has to get up ridiculously early to do so.

You see, Maddie owns the best bakery in pioneer Seattle. Burly loggers and miners have been known to stampede into her shop demanding the fresh bread, cookies, and rolls she makes each day. I think they all have a crush on her.
But Maddie’s made of tougher stuff. Pioneer baking involved long hours in a hot kitchen carrying heavy loads. Here’s the schedule I worked out for her. It starts at 5:00pm the night before, after she’s finished selling for the day:
  • 5pm—Feed the barm (the yeast starter on which her bakery depends) with flour and water leftover from boiling potatoes; sift enough flour for the next day into the mixing trough. Cover the trough to keep the cat out!
  • 5:30—Go upstairs and make dinner for the family. Clean up and spend a little time with the family before going to bed.
  • 7pm—Go to bed.
  • 11:15pm—Get out of bed; get dressed, and stumble downstairs. Melt butter with molasses.
  • 11:30pm—Mix the flour in the trough with the butter/molasses mixture and the barm. Have it done by midnight so it can rise.
  • Midnight—Lay the fire in the oven; go back upstairs for a nap.
  • 3:00am—Get up, go downstairs, knead down and smooth out the dough.
  • 3:30am—Divide the dough into loaves of exactly 8 pounds each; cover with cloth.
  • While the dough is rising for 2 hours, make cookie dough of various sorts
  • 5:30am—When the oven bricks are hot all the way through, rake out the coals and sweep out the ashes. Roll out some of the bread dough to make cinnamon rolls. Then put the loaves and rolls into the oven using the peel, a paddle with a long handle.
  • 6:00am—Bake and don’t fuel the fire. Close the door and shut off the flue with the damper.
  • 6:30am—Brush the tops of the loaves with egg for a crisper crust at the half-way point. Make icing for the rolls.
  • 7:00am—While the bread cools, bake the cookies. Ice the rolls.
  • 8:00am—Sell it all to customers and start all over again for the afternoon rush.
Phew! Is it any wonder Maddie pays for a woman to come from New York help in the bakery, escorting Maddie’s little brother and sister to come live with her in the process? Yet the person who arrives with them isn’t someone with experience baking. He isn’t even a woman . . .

Regina Scott has twice melted a spatula into what she was cooking. The author of more than 30 historical romances, she’s currently working on a series set in Seattle’s early years:  Frontier Bachelors, bold, rugged, and bound to be grooms. Sign up here for a free e-mail alert with exclusive bonus material when her next book comes out, or visit her online at her website or Facebook.


Sally Shupe said...

Wow. One thing I can say, I wouldn't have been a baker lol. I'm not much of one now. Learning though, a little bit at a time. I'm wore out just reading the schedule and I didn't do any of the work. You're book sounds great! I want to read it to see how he copes lol. I read your bio and laughed out loud. Twice melted a spatula into what she was cooking-I can so relate, that's why I can laugh. It still doesn't get us banned from the kitchen. I wonder why that is? I got banned from the garden when I was growing up. I kept pulling up carrots instead of the weeds. I got to carry water after that. Carrying water was much funner than pulling weeds!

Regina Scott said...

Another spatula melter--yes! I do wonder why it doesn't get me banned from the kitchen. Guess my family is willing to put up with the disasters for the occasion burst of genius. :-)

Gardening is another tough spot for me, Sally. I never got banned, worse luck. But I just couldn't understand why we pulled up weeds, which often had prettier flowers than the things we had planted. I even told my mother once that maybe we should reconsider what was a weed. She was not amused.

Thanks for commenting!

Sally Shupe said...

haha! I can so relate. I was asking my husband what this pretty purple flower was that I kept seeing. It was a thistle!!! Needless to say he wouldn't let me plant any in our yard. Yeah, they like it when I can actually cook something so they let me suffer in the meantime lol.

Jennifer said...

The schedule alone would help me not wanting to be a baker but if that helped me to keep a roof over my head I might attempt that kind of schedule back then. Jenny