Growing up we made everything we ate. Even at one point grinding our own flour. We made our tofu, mixed our seasonings, stored our food for winter by canning, drying, and freezing. As a little girl I ‘helped’ with all of this. Of course, I began to want to do it on my own! My first cookie dough creation was ‘tasty’ to be sure. I was maybe 4 at the time.
By nine I wanted to make some money and came up with the idea to bake bread and sell it to the families. I realize the contradiction of wanting to earn money when we rarely left the farm and certainly didn’t purchase items very often. The farm had a store that carried many items that making yourself would be difficult. It was a brilliant idea really. The families received a ‘stipend’ for working there and in turn gave it right back to the farm by purchasing from their store.
It was the juice boxes that got me. We didn’t drink anything but water outside of mealtime. A juice box was unheard of prior to this store. A tiny box filled with juice that came with a straw that bent… I was hooked.
So here I was with a great idea to bake and sell bread to the local families. My mother even supported it once we had dad’s approval. She got out a piece of paper and we labored over the cost of a bag of flour versus the amount used in a batch of bread that yielded 7 loaves. We did the same for each ingredient. The cost of electricity was harder to decipher. Pretty sure she came up with a low sum like 0.50 a batch. Now we had the cost per loaf and just needed to add on profit. I sold the loaves for $1 each. Making one batch each Friday. After paying mom back I probably made maybe 25 cents per loaf but was happy as a clam.
I knew the recipe by heart. Add yeast to the brown sugar and warm water. While waiting for the yeast to rise, mix the dry ingredients. White and whole wheat flour and a pinch of salt. Once the yeast had risen to a proper head add oil and mix it all together slowly adding more flour until the dough was the needed consistency to knead by hand. Shape into a ball and cover with a towel to let rise. Half an hour later beat and knead it back down. Definitely one of my favorite parts. Then shape into loaves placing them into the pans to rise again while the oven preheated.
I did all of this alone as a nine-year-old for almost a year. Since no one was looking I used more white than whole wheat flour. I added extra brown sugar and oil to the batches. I had the best bread in the entire community and they loved it. The women would ask my secret and I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders. I knew what it was – adding extra oil and sugar. Less whole wheat and more white flour. You know the good stuff! I also knew not to admit that to anyone. Our diet was slowly getting better, we ate supper now, we had margarine instead of corn meal spread acting as margarine. We ate leavened bread and even had Mr. Noodles sometimes. But to admit to changing the recipe – well that would have ended my baking career.