Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Mom: The (Real) Master Baker

I can honestly say that I don't know anyone in this world who knows and understands the art of home baking like my own mother. It's always been that way. If I could describe the one predominant smell of my childhood home, it would be that sweet, warm, homey aroma  of bread baking in the oven. She was constantly baking. Most days when we'd come home from school, we'd call out "Mom!?" and she'd answer us from the kitchen, apron donned, as always.

And all of those bread sticks, loaves, cookies and treats most certainly were meant for our family, (and that was her primary motivation) but as was often the case, something was almost always imparted or shared with our neighbors. It was just the way things were. She used her self-taught talents to bless and cheer so many. I've heard people say that when they receive a loaf of her bread at Christmas time, so beautifully wrapped in a cellophane bag with that cheery red ribbon, they can't bear to break into such a work of art.

When I was about ten years old, she held a little summer school for my sister Sara and I. She'd call us in from play those hot, lazy afternoons where we'd trudge in to read, practice math facts, watch film strips about composers, or go on field trips. She even took the time to hand stencil 4-square and hopscotch outlines on our drive way. One day, she met with us and asked us what we could do to earn money for some fun equipment; things like a tether ball, playground balls, and art supplies.

Mulling the idea around in her mind, she proposed something that surely would get us the desired funds. She'd get up at 3:00 am once or twice a week and bake (over the hot stove with no air conditioning in the house, mind you) until the afternoon.

She covered apple boxes with red gingham contact paper for Sara and I to carry the baked goods all around the neighborhood to sell. Obviously, the neighbors were overjoyed. We gained popularity and soon we were taking orders. We even walked a mile down the hill so the 7-11 man could buy his bagels. (To take home; not to sell!)  Talk about a mother's sacrifice. These lessons she taught us, more important than any math drill, were ingrained forever.

My mother was approached by her church congregation women's organization (the Relief Society) if she would be willing to teach a bread making demonstration/class this afternoon. She's done this kind of thing countless times. It was a blessing that my mom has been feeling so good lately. She has her good days and not so good days, living for years with fibromyalgia, lupus, and depression. Like everything she does, health challenges and all, she gives 100%. That, and much, much more.

I came along for the ride. I didn't even know she was doing this until yesterday. I came to offer a helping hand, "moral support" she called it as we packed up after all was said and done, and also to chronicle and be the official photographer. (There are a lot of photos here, but I think it's important to capture it all for posterity's sake. For my children's children to know who and what this woman is.)

So glad there was a good turnout and support. Not only did she previously bake all these breads shown below, she demonstrated to us all how to make Orange Butterflake rolls and how to braid and bake the Challah. Everyone was in awe, as you can imagine

Recipe handout packets she prepared to distribute. These, and the many, many hours of preparation sacrificed, the ingredients, the tasting samples, loaves and leftovers for lucky "sisters" to take home to their families- all of it freely offered, from the heart, and  a gift of LOVE.

My mom always, always makes things pretty. Her class wouldn't be complete without things like this handmade, snowy white crochet tablecloth and silver platters complete with doilies to display all those beautiful breads, and it wouldn't be "LaVaun-ish" without a centerpiece. Harvest theme, of course.

Challah, or Braided Swiss Bread

Pumpkin Bread

Nutty Multigrain Loaf

Raspberry Jam Filled Candycane Sweet Bread


Portuguese Sweet Bread

Yuletide Danish Wreath

Mozzarella-Basil Stuffed Focaccia


  1. your mom looks like a real sweet soul. all those breads are amazing. I want to eat the challah bread like right now!

    have i ever told you that my mom is bi-polar?

  2. I can smell those fotos! There's always been a beauty within with her beautiful gifts - she's truly beautiful - look at those hands and I remember all the service given. Truly blessed to know her - she is being my strongest roll model.

  3. You're a lucky woman! And it's so nice that you know it!

  4. these look lovely, would she like to share the recipes? Thank you, Vicki from CT

  5. Oh my gosh, how wonderful your mother sounds!! I happened to stumble across your blog while I was looking for the candy cane recipe. My mother passed away when I was a teenager, but used to make this for us on Christmas morning. Is the book your mother made of holiday breads available for purchase? I would love to have the recipe!! Thank you and God Bless :)

  6. Thank you for sharing this link and your story through the WFK workshop. I echo the thoughts of the previous poster - if these recipes are available for purchase? The breads look delicious and I am especially nostalgic of the Danish Yuletide Wreath! Thanks! sophie

  7. I just clicked through from WFK also- what a blessing your mother is. How lucky you are. My mom passed away when I was in my 20s. Her specialty was making pies and spent an afternoon with me passing on her technique before she died.

    I was thinking the same thing as the above commenters, that I would love to get my hands on those recipes. Any thought of selling them?