Thursday, January 03, 2008


One the best things about traveling home to far Northern Michigan for the holidays is you are bound to have one or two days where the lake effect snow machine from the Great Lakes kicks into high gear and dumps snow at a rate of one or two inches an hour. When this happens, you have no choice to but to hunker down, stoke the fire in the fireplace, and read, watch a movie, or bake.

One of the worst things about traveling home to far Northern Michigan for the holidays is when the lake effect snow machine decides to get churning the night before you are scheduled to fly home from the holidays. When this happens, the only airline that flies into this part of the world has to cancel all their flights because in their infinite wisdom, they switch from commuter jets to prop planes during the winter (Hello Nincompoop World Airlines...props don't like lots of blowing and drifting snow and we get blowing and drifting snow here during the winter !!!) Anyways, I'm still here in Michigan even though I was suppose to be home yesterday and the earliest I could get a seat on a plane home was tomorrow afternoon. Luckily, the weather forcast for tomorrow is partly sunny with highs in the low 20s!! So, with a little luck I should be home by 7pm tomorrow night.

On the plus side, these extra two days of vacation has meant I've been able to really relax, read, take long afternoon naps in my favourite chair that faces the big picture window looking over the lake and is in front of the fireplace and putter around the kitchen without the pressure of any holiday gatherings looming over my head.

When my grandmother passed away twenty-five years ago, my mom got most of her cookbooks. It wasn't until a few years ago that I discovered that my grandmother had collected every single Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbook from 1949 until the year she passed away. When I'm home, I like to close my eyes, take one off the shelf where my mom keeps them, and randomly open to a page in the one I selected and bake whatever recipe is on the page.

Yesterday, after I had baked some cornbread to go with the pea soup my mom was making for dinner and a surprise for my mom that I can't reveal yet (but let's just say this is the earliest I've ever gotten this once a month challenge done!!), I was still in the mood to mix it up with flour, sugar, and whatever else a recipe had to throw at me. So, I wandered over to the shelf where my Grandmother's cookbooks are and played "Pillbury Bake-Off Roulette".

The Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookbook I pulled off the shelf was the one from the 10th Grand National Bake-Off held in 1959. The winner that year was Mrs. Dorothy DeVault from Delaware, Ohio with her Spicy Apple Twists. The recipe I opened the cookbook to was the Second Grand Prize winner, Golden Cake Bread submitted by Mrs. L. M. Jehlik of Westchester, IL. Her Golden Cake Bread recipe was a family recipe her mother brought over from Russia and the little teaser under the recipe name says this, " This recipe is for a butter rich bread that is almost cake like".

I just love the little bits of biographical info included with all the winning recipes. For example, Mrs. Jehlik was a legal secretary who worked for a judge four days a week and devoted the rest of the week to gardening, church activites, baking and housekeeping. Well, I don't know how satisfying all that housekeeping was for Mrs. Jehlik but I'll tell you what, her Golden Cake Bread recipe is a real keeper!

The bread baked like a dream and was delicious this morning toasted. In fact, I think the bread is better the day after than it was last night when it came out of the oven. I like this recipe so much, I'm going to go steal one of my mother's personal recipe cards, write it down, tell the story on the back of the card of how I made this bread on a blustry winter day and tuck it away in my recipe file.

Who knows, maybe in forty years or so, one of my kids (if I ever had kids) will be bored on a snowy day and play "recipe roulette" with my recipe box, pull out the card, and fall in love with this bread just like I have.

Golden Cake Bread

2nd Grand Prize winner of the 1959 Pillsbury Bake-Off as submitted by Mrs. L. M. Jehlik

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes, makes 2 loaves

1 packet active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (75 - 85 degrees)

1 cup scalded milk

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 slightly beaten eggs, reserving 1 Tbsp

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

4 to 4 1/2 cups AP flour (Pillsbury of course!)

Proof the yeast with the warm water. While the yeast is proofing, combine the milk, butter, and sugar. Stir in the eggs, vanilla, and salt. Add in the proofed yeast and combine completely. Gradually add in the flour until you have a soft and pliable dough (about 3 to 3 1/2 cups of flour). Turn out onto a slightly floured counter and gradually add the remaining flour until you have a stiff and firm dough.

Place dough in greased bowl and cover. Let rise until double in a warm place (about 1 hour). Dough will be light and airy. Punch dough down and let rise again until double (about 45 minutes).

Divide dough into two balls and shape for loaf pan. Place in two prepared 9" x 5" x 3" loaf pans and let rise until top of loaf is about 1" above rim of loaf pan.

Brush loaves with reserved egg and bake in 350 degree oven until golden brown.

Note: You can cut into this bread while it is still warm. Just let it cool for about 15 minutes before you slice it.