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ArlingtonOpinion'Old School' column: A baking saga

‘Old School’ column: A baking saga

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Every year as Christmas approaches, my daughter and I bake pumpkin bread. Lots and lots of pumpkin bread.

The whole thing began sometime in the early 1980s because I was sick of baking my usual 100-120 DOZEN Christmas cookies. They were labor-intensive, didn’t store well and had to be made last-minute.

Sooo, I needed an easier recipe which would lend itself to mass-production and store well, even if it took longer to bake.

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Enter the Junior League of Philadephia’s Bicentennial Cookbook.

I have no idea where I got it, since I’d never been to Philadelphia at the time and knew no one there. But never mind. It had this intriguing recipe for baking a moist pumpkin loaf in one-pound coffee cans.

I made one batch, using three cans, and a dynasty was born.

I see the progression of my obsession in the book pages. First there’s the notation for making a double batch – six loaves. Next is the shopping list to make seven and a half dozen loaves.

Then I joined the big leagues, buying enough ingredients to make a gross (12 dozen). The last entry, in my daughter’s handwriting, tells how much sugar (90 pounds) and flour (75 pounds) to make 15 dozen loaves.

Although we save our cans from year to year, our biggest challenge has been finding metal ones for replacements, even as they shrink in size.

We’re often asked what we do with all the loaves. My grandkids give them to their teachers, bus drivers and school janitors. While working, my husband gave them to each of his 50+ coworkers. Meanwhile my daughter and I give to our neighbors, friends and anyone else who will take one.

This year’s harvest, 15-and-a-half dozen, took two days and plenty of patience. When I came home after the first day, I scraped dried batter off my arms, took off my pants and found the stuff everywhere, even on my seat.

“Surely, I didn’t SIT in the batter,” I thought. But then I remembered the old hand-wiping routine. “If you think this is bad,” I said to my pants, “you should see your cousin, the apron.”

At last, the loaves are done for another year, all beribboned and sparkly in their tinfoil wraps, nestled in the freezer to be given out closer to Christmas.

Home-baked gifts are an Old School holiday tradition we will continue until our feet or our aprons give out.

Reach Carol McEwen at carolwrites4fun@gmail.com.

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