Friday, October 2, 2015

Yeast, Bread, & Bakeries, Old West Style

Baxter, Perry, Burns Bakery in Dresden, Ontario in 1890s

I can only imagine the difficulty in trying to bake bread on the frontier.
Whether in a Dutch oven in campfire coals, or in the belly of a cast-iron cookstove, bread-making must've been a risky business. Who could afford to waste loaves charred on the outside and doughy on the inside?

No wonder bakeries sprang up almost as quickly as liveries and blacksmiths, mercantiles and grocers, jailhouses and hotels. 

Enterprising settlers saw a need, met it, and earned their living baking bread, rolls, pies, cakes, pastries, doughnuts, and more.

Joseph Henry Walk worked as a baker in Brighton, Utah. Pictured here with his sons and Globe Bakery delivery wagon in late 1890s.



This photo of Fort Larned National Historic Site is courtesy of TripAdvisor 
Fort Larned operated from 1859 to 1878
This image shows the Brick Oven in the Bakery

Before yeast was commercially available, bakers skimmed the foam from beer, a sourdough starter, or made "quick" breads with saleratus (a precursor of baking soda).

Commercial yeast was first marketed at the Centennial Exposition in 1876, where Charles L. Fleischmann exhibited the product and a process to use it. In the decade preceding the Centennial Exposition, a method was developed to remove liquid so yeast (grown in cream) could be sold in block form, and a different manufacturing process created granulated yeast.
Antique Bakery Display Case
For a look into history and baking, I recommend the 1913 edition of Things Mother Used to Make: A Collection of Old Time Recipes, Some Nearly One Hundred Years Old and Never Published Before. The Kindle version is FREE ($0.00) and sheds much light on old-time baking of bread, pies, cakes and so much more. This title has been published with a dozen or more different covers, but if any similar (shortened?) title is by Lydia Maria Gurney, you have the right book.


My love for baking makes an appearance in my soon-to-be-released title The Drifter's Proposal, set in my fictitious town of Mountain Home, Colorado in mid-December, 1900.

The baker’s man is home for Christmas…

Spinster Adaline Whipple runs the family’s business, Whipple Bakery, since her father’s demise almost four months ago. She’s stunned by a surprise mortgage her father made with a bank in Denver City six months before he died. Now that the loan is sixty days overdue, the big-town banker wants his money. If the Whipples can’t pay, he’ll evict them. Little does he care Christmas is one week away and the widow and daughters have nowhere to go. Adaline’s sure the handsome drifter Malloy’s proposal of… marriage?... won’t do her any good. But his mere offer to help feeds the attraction she’s felt for him, and before she knows it, she trusts the one man who can break her heart.


The Drifter's Proposal is available NOW in the Western Christmas Romance Anthology, Silver Belles and Stetsons. Preorder now for the introductory price of 99-cents. Release date November 2, 2015.

10 Authors. 10 Novellas.
Silver Belles and Stetsons
Cowboys of the Past and the Women Who Loved them.





Copyright © 2015 Kristin Holt, LC

14 comments:

  1. Great opening scene. I truly enjoyed it. Also enjoyed the tidbits and ideas about baking. I know in a lot of my research the bakery always shows up, many times with women as proprietors, but just never thought it through. Thank you. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author

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  2. Thank you, Doris/Angela! I appreciate your feedback. =) Bakeries have been an absolute rush to research. ~ Kristin

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  3. Hello Kristin and Sweet Americana Blog - You did such a good job on educating us on how folks in the Old West made bread, what they used for yeast (starters). And I love the images! Thanks so much for sharing, ~ Cait Braxton

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Cait! Thank you for your kind feedback.

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  4. Kristin, I love to bake. As a matter of fact, I probably do that better than the main meal, unfortunately for the Hubs. Lol Loved reading how it was done back in the day. Thanks for this great post and I look forward to reading your book! Carra Copelin

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    1. Thank you, Carra! I'm a baker, too. We might enjoy sharing baking techniques and favorite recipes, like our great-grandmothers might have done over the back fence. Thanks for the kind words.

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  5. I love making bread - from Grandma's old recipe. There's something so therapeutic about kneading the dough. And there is nothing like the heavenly scent of bread baking in the oven. Thanks for the wonderful post!

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    1. Thank you, Shanna-- I so agree. There's nothing like the homey aroma of baking bread. What a treasure... to have your grandma's recipe. A special link between generations. =) As so many of our grandmothers "cooked by instinct" or "cooked by available foods", so many didn't use recipes. What a blessing that you have this one! Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words.

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  6. Great post, thanks for including me in your Facebook post, so I could find this. I can't imagine doing all my own baking. I've baked bread in the past and it can be fun and tastes wonderful, but not certain I'd want to do it every day!

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    1. Thanks, Hebby! I'm so glad you found Sweet Americana Sweethearts via my Facebook post. Homemade bread is one of those chores our great-great grandmothers did out of necessity and we have so many options these days. One of my favorite "jokes"... a meme that went around on Facebook, illustrated by a pioneer woman in full-meltdown mode read, "Want sandwich. Must bake bread first." So true, and amusing, too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Much appreciated!

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  7. Great post- educational and entertaining!!

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    1. Thanks, Kathleen. Many thanks for stopping by. =) ~Kristin Holt

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  8. Great post Kristin. Sorry I'm so late commenting, but let's just say I survived my local quilt show. Although never Mormon, my paternal g-g-grandmother along with her two sons came to Salt Lake City in 1879 to join her sister who had married a baker with a shop two blocks from Temple Square. My great-grandfather became a baker, eventually ending up in Bingham Canyon. So reading about the bakery business in the early days was very interesting.
    Robyn Echols w/a Zina Abbott

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  9. Oh, Robyn/Zina-- I'd be fascinated to hear your family history stories about the bakery and their experiences. I can just imagine the chimney fires, delivery wagon escapades, losses (no preservatives), unpaid accounts, and undoubtedly more. Thanks for sharing your connection to old-time bakeries. I'm fascinated!

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