My half-baked idea for February was to bake.  The adventure was much more successful than I would have imagined, and the result was a delicious German Chocolate Cake straight from my grandma’s recipe book.

I tried to run back the same formula and see where it would take me.  The formula being grandparent + baking = overwhelming success.  Not only did this formula achieve great heights, there was encouragement from friends and family to keep baking.  Our friend at Half-fast Cycling Club decided to whip up a German Chocolate Cake of his own while on his way to mix up some bread dough.

Mmmmm bread!

The perfect crag snack!

I once had some random 10-year-old kid at the climbing gym tell me his favorite food was carbs.  That kid cracked me up, and I felt a deep and profound respect for his food preferences.  Carbs can be so inviting, especially when they take the form of fresh baked bread.  The smell, the crunchy crust, and the soft airy inside of fresh bread is to die for.  I meant that figuratively, but I’m sure high cholesterol, increased diabetes, and heart disease brought upon by too many carbs could make that statement much more literal than I intended.

Heart disease be damned, we’re here to talk about bread.

My Grandpa, we called him Grandad.  He was married to Mum, my grandma who you may know from the legend of her German Chocolate Cake (discussed HERE).  She was a baker, he was a carpenter, they would’ve been the perfect Avril Lavigne song.  When two trade-smiths spend most of their lives together, you’d expect that there would be an exchange of ideas and skills.  Honestly though, I’m not sure if my grandma became much of a builder.  My grandpa however did become a very good baker, although his menu was very limited.  There are only three things I remember him baking on a regular basis.  This is a bit of an exaggeration because two of those things are essentially the same and the other isn’t baked.  So, I guess he became very good at baking one thing.  Maybe we shouldn’t come to expect an exchange of skills when two trade-smiths get together after all?

He made delicious pineapple pancakes.  I’ve tried to replicate his recipe too many times to remember, and I just can’t seem to get it right.  They were delicious!  He also baked bread.  He baked plain bread, and if he was feeling adventurous, he would make raisin bread.  The big difference between his plain bread and raisin bread was that one had raisins and the other didn’t.  They were both delicious.  I’m not just saying that his bread was delicious, it was the type of delicious that made you welcome high cholesterol if it meant you could have more.  Seriously mouth wateringly delicious.

I loved it plain, nothing on it, not ever butter, but sometimes my grandparents would make me a PB&J using that homemade bread.  It was a mix of emotions, a little sadness because the PB&J took away from the divine nature of the bread experience, and a little happiness because the bread would enhance the PB&J experience to something bordering on spiritual enlightenment.  It was delicious at room temperature, but nothing could beat it straight out of the oven.  Adding to the overall experience of the bread was my grandpas carpenter level attention to detail.  When a normal person slices homemade bread, there is no uniformity in the slice.  One end might be 8cm while the other end is 1cm.  With great bread, of course, the consistency of the slice doesn’t really matter, but there is something about a master craftsman slicing a piece of bread to perfection.  With Grandad, you were sure to get a 1.5cm thick slice every time.  I never pulled out a ruler, but I’m sure each slice was within an imperceptible margin of error.

As a teenager I had the foresight to know that one day I would follow in my grandpa’s footsteps and make bread, and so I asked for the recipe.  He kept it on an old 3×5 card covered in oil stains and dried dough. I copied it word for word, including the title on the card.  “Aunt June’s Bread”.  Aunt June was my grandpa’s sister-in-law.

I sporadically thought about “Aunt June’s Bread” throughout my life.  I have kept that recipe safe with me ever since I transcribed it onto my own hot pink 3×5 index card.  I have no idea how it survived high school, college, and grad school; it survived several moves including a move clear across the country.  Not once did I actually try to make it, but I kept it, just waiting for the right opportunity.

And so, here we are March of 2023.  I have the recipe, I have the ingredients, I have the measuring tools, and I have the patience. I add the ingredients in order I follow the recipe to the letter, and after a while the smell emanating from the oven floods the house with a divine aroma.  It’s working, why did I wait so long?

When the timer goes off, I can hardly wait to rip into this fresh homemade loaf of wonder.  Who needs a knife, I plan on ripping into this sucker like weary Hobbit and loaf of Lembas Bread?  Like a medieval knight pulling into a tavern after weeks on the road.  I barely let it cool off before grabbing a chunk and slamming it right into my face.  I haven’t eaten this bread in years, and I can wait no longer.

And wtf happened?  I followed the recipe.  It looks good.  The texture is right.  It resembles “Aunt June’s Bread”.  But something is off?

Have you ever become very accustomed to a brand-food, and then switch to the off brand?  The off brand is good, it’s just not exactly good.  That’s what this bread was like.  It was good, it just wasn’t exactly good.  It had the right flavor; it just wasn’t the exact right flavor.  When I made it into a PB&J, I didn’t think it was an assault on what this bread is supposed to be.

Perhaps it was user error, maybe I didn’t add enough salt?  Maybe too much lemon juice?  Who knows? But that just means I need to try again, and this time I would measure twice.  The result was exactly the same.  It was good, it just wasn’t exactly good. 

I’m not sure what went wrong, my best guess is that I am using shite yeast.  Or maybe the difference in climate is messing up the results.  I’m just not sure.

What I am sure of is that like baking the German Chocolate Cake last month, this experiment brought me closer to my grandpa, it brought back stories, experiences, and great memories that we shared.  I’m also sure that I’ll keep experimenting with “Aunt June’s Bread” until I get it right.  I had lofty goals of buying a bread knife and cutting board in order to slice this carb-based jewel with keen precision. 

It’s not quite there yet, but it’s kind of there, and it’s kind of fun to make bread, so I’ll keep tinkering!


22 Replies to “Half-Baked”

  1. Could it be that over the years the memory of the bread moved in the nirvana direction?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought about that, but I don’t think its nostalgia. While I had the recipe with me for a long time, my grandpa was still around and kicking out the goods throughout a lot of those years. It is possible though that my memories are tweaking reality. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll ask other family members if I am overstating the positive aspects of the bread, and I’ll make ten more loafs (that seems like a fair amount?) if I don’t get to the heavenly loaf by #10, I will accept that my memory has plagued me, and move on to cran-orange or lemon poppy seed or something like that. Thank you for the suggestion!


  2. I’m thinking climate. I moved from MI (Metro Detroit) to Sedona AZ & could never repeat my famous banana bread. Everyone even bakers said it was due to the “altitude” I would try each piece of advice, less flour, decrease oven Temp or decrease time in oven. None of these worked. It was ok but just not “Louise bread”.
    Great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My grandma died before I learned the secret of her cinnamon rolls. I have her bread bowl, but that’s not enough. Except for pasty, her recipes died with her. (My mom said she tried, but never got the hang of Grandma’s pinches and handfuls and feeling the dough.) I hear you. Even if I were, somehow, able to magically re-create her rolls, I know they wouldn’t be the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful testament to your grandfather! You might not ever be satisfied with your version of the bread, although I bet it was heavenly. Sometimes those old recipes are so good because our grandparent put their love into them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I absolutely agree 100%. I was going to write that as a missing ingredient, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s true! Thank you for saying so!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Spoken like a true scientific mind! Make note of the tinkers and adjust accordingly. I tried a fancy bread recipe and it was so-so. Switched to the simplest bread recipe ever and it’s a delight to bake and eat. Go figure. Good luck with your experiments!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “When the timer goes off, I can hardly wait to rip into this fresh homemade loaf of wonder. Who needs a knife,” – its a spontaneous reaction when we prepare a baked dish, too eager to know the end result, especially when we have an idea of the image we wish to see.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a treat to have those recipes! My younger years were spent on a farm in Vermont. I still remember that smell when I walked into the kitchen after my mom baked bread and the pleasure of eating it warm!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I feel the same way about foods from my childhood, although Mom has now been gone almost 50 years. Now I am the baker and most recipes turn out very well with a few exceptions. Keep trying. Happy Monday.

    Liked by 1 person

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