My joy in baking

Since Peggy was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, I’ve become quite excited about the possibilities of barely processed grains, and am going through every book I can find on the subject. I’m also buying things like sorghum, buckwheat, pot barley, and teff, grains I have never used.

I began baking yeast breads in the mid-seventies. My mother made yeast biscuits, but she never made yeast loaves, so I was the first person I knew to do it. A few loaves didn’t rise as much as I would have liked, but I didn't see fit to throw them out. Of course, the only whole grain I could buy in rural Mississippi was wheat flour.

Over the years, my baking interests turned away from yeast breads and toward whole grain crackers, biscuits and cornbreads. Biscuits and cornbreads were Southern staples that I had always made anyway, but crackers were entirely new and exciting, and appealed to me aesthetically and by virtue of their toughness (you could throw them against the wall without hurting them) and longevity. Peggy and I were traveling a lot at the time, and I would bake enough crackers for a two-month camping trip, and they would keep without refrigeration. My first recipe was for whole-wheat communion wafers and was given to me by an Episcopal priest. I baked them for the church until someone with throat cancer objected.

After fifteen years or so, the thought occurred to me that maybe I didn’t have to stick to the recipe so religiously, and I began experimenting with various oils, flours, sweeteners, etc. I discovered that it is really hard to muck-up a batch of crackers unless you burn them, Unfortunately, that is easy.

I’ve seldom baked a cake, rarely a cookie, and I only bake pies at Peggy’s insistence, but crackers, biscuits, and cornbreads have retained my passion. I eat the last two with molasses or sometimes maple syrup.