Family recipes to comfort when times are tough
Comfort foods are wrapped up in memories and experiences. I have a cookbook that my Mum gave to me years ago. It is more of a recipe scrap book template where you fill in your favorites. There are recipes for hors d’oeuvres and sweets from the Christmas cocktail party that my parents hosted for many years. Others are tried and true recipes she had collected from friends long before there was anything called a test kitchen. There is one for duck à l’orange. The instructions say to sprinkle the breasts with salt. She wrote in parenthesis (not your own). This still cracks me up every time I read it. There are a couple of family favorites too.
When I started to leaf through a few of the sections of the book on the weekend…day 14 of self-isolation … trying to find some inspiration for our supper that night I stopped on the butter smeared page with my grandmother’s cake bread recipe. What is a cake bread, you ask? Well it is essentially a giant scone. After rolling out the dough instead of cutting into wedges you just score the top of the dough and pop it in the oven. Knowing my Grandmother, it was likely a way to save a little time to do the things she enjoyed much more than baking, but it was always a favorite. There are no secret or special ingredients to my Grandma’s recipe but when I think of cake bread my memories develop like a Polaroid picture that is fresh from the camera.
I am sitting at the table, a worn chrome set in my paternal grandparent’s kitchen. My grandfather leans into a corner of the chesterfield against the far wall of the kitchen. He lights the tobacco he just tamped down into his pipe. Small curls smoke swirl into the air and vanishes but the smell drifts and mingles with the aroma of dinner being lifted from the oven. It’s simple. A macaroni, cheese and tomato casserole and sheet pan blackened from years of use revealing a piping hot cake bread. The table is set, plastic placemats, china plates and mismatched silver ware. I take a big scoop from the casserole dish and slice a piece of the warm cake bread breaking it open to slather with butter and molasses. My dad, mum, brother, sister and I squeeze around the table with my grandparents. My grandmother stands at the end of the table quite satisfied with the view. She places her hands on her hips and says with a big open smile, “Well isn’t this lovely. We are all together.”
I made cake bread for my family that evening and good old-fashioned macaroni and cheese. My husband and four children, almost all adults sat around the table in our kitchen and I quietly stood back while they filled their plates cut big pieces of the bread and despite the circumstances that brought us all together again that evening felt quite satisfied with the view.
Cake Bread Recipe
In a large mixing bowl combine:
2 heaping cups of flour
½ cup of shortening (I use butter)
½ cup of sugar
4 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp salt
In a 1 cup measuring cup stir one egg and fill to the top with milk. Make a well in your dry ingredients and pour in milk and egg mixture. Stir with a large spoon or spatula until all ingredients come together and a dough ball starts to form. Place dough ball on the baking sheet lightly greased or lined with baking parchment. Gently roll the dough into free form shape keeping it at least an inch and half thick. Brush with melted butter if desired and place in over pre-heated to 350 degrees. Bake until golden about 15 minutes.
Let cool slightly before serving. If there is any leftover place in an airtight container in the fridge.