After taking several post-photo shoot bites of this quickbread, I wrapped the rapidly diminishing loaf in plastic, taking care not to leave a single bit uncovered. Don’t want it drying out on me now. No, this stuff is too good to allow the dehydrating nature of air to mess with its simple perfection.
Satisfied that I’d given my little quickbread a sufficiently protective suit of plastic armor, I placed in on top of the toaster oven and proceeded to go about cleaning up the mess I’d made of my kitchen. It’s inevitable, the mess making that will occur when I get to baking these days. Mostly this is a product of having to tend to a baby, a toddler and the myriad other things that always seem to divert my attention from the baked good at hand. I actually had to start over with the batter for this quickbread at one point because I’d lost count of how much flour I had already used. Did that last scoop make 3/4 cup or a full cup? Darn. Begin again. Luckily this was the beginning of the recipe, so no harm, no foul.
As I was going about my business in the kitchen: cleaning, making Elle’s peanut butter and honey sandwich, stirring together Easton’s baby food puree du jour, that little plastic-wrapped loaf of strawberry bread kept snatching my attention away from the multitude of tasks that I was trying to accomplish. Something about the way it looked, perched innocently enough on top of the toaster, transported me right back to the bake sales that I used to love attending and working as a child. It was the plastic that did it. Have you ever noticed how wrapping something in Saran wrap instantly makes it look homey and wonderful? No cake plate or special fancily lidded container need apply for that job. I usually store my baked goods on a cake plate or in a fancily lidded container, so this plastic wrapping stood out on this day. Yes, that quickbread on my counter looked like it was dressed and ready for some neighborhood bake sale. Save for the few bites that I’d taken out of it. Let’s pretend those weren’t there.
I worked at a bake sale once when I was in maybe fourth or fifth grade. The small Kentucky town in which I lived at the time was home to a “The Walmart,” and that’s where this bake sale was held.
COME SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CHILDREN’S THEATER!
Bake Sale Starts @ 10:00 at The Walmart
TREATS! SWEETS! GOOD EATS!
“Well doesn’t this just take the cake!” My Dad cracked a corny joke the morning of the bake sale, probably embarrassing me that time around. Makes me smile now, this time around. When you’re a kid, you feel especially grown up when you’re allowed to “work” an event so important as a fundraiser. I took my seat at the long fold-out table and nonchalantly side-glanced all of the treats that were lined up like little carb and sugar-laden soldiers. Brownies. Lemon Bars. Muffins. Cupcakes. All the usual suspects were present and accounted for. All of those suspects were also restrained with the requisite plastic — wrapped within an inch of their ever loving lives, those little cakes, bars and cookies were. But it was the unusual contribution of an older man who no one seemed to know that makes this bake sale stand out – that takes me right back to The Walmart on that sunny morning in Richmond, KY. I clearly recall this older man, clad in overalls and a red bandana (I think it was red), walking up to our table and offering some Hostess Cupcakes for us to sell.
“Wait a minute,” I thought to myself. “Nobody baked those! Hostess baked those, and that doesn’t count!”
The man held the pack of cupcakes in his outstretched, rather heavily tattooed hand and, preparing to use my best “I’m a very responsible pre-teen and can handle this situation all by myself” voice, I started to politely explain to him that we couldn’t accept something that wasn’t homemade. After all, it WAS a bake sale. But before I could reject his kind offering, one of the parents who was manning the bake sale battle station that morning stepped in and graciously accepted the packaged treats, thanking him for his thoughtful contribution to our money-raising cause. The man also donated some money, how much I don’t know, and was on his way.
“But these aren’t homemade!” I exclaimed in mild protest.“They don’t count!” I didn’t understand that he probably contributed the pre-packaged product since we didn’t know him and could trust them much more than something baked by a total stranger.
“Thats true, Lauren,” replied the parent. “But that’t not really what matters here is it? Sometimes it the thought that counts.”
I soaked up the life lesson, feeling silly for trying to handle the “situation” on my own. It made sense to me though, the whole “thought counting” thing. I found myself saying those exact words to Elle just the other day when she spilled a bowl of “water soup” that she’d cooked me in her little play kitchen. She seemed really disappointed with herself for having spilled her creation before I could sample it, so I just told her that it was the thought that counts.
She looked perplexed. “No Mommy, it’s the Count that counts. On Sesame Street. He counts all the numbers, remember?”
Right. We’ll circle back to this topic when she’s ten.
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
3 tablespoons whole milk
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons strawberry jam
DIRECTIONS: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the flour and the next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in the center of this mixture. Whisk the sugar and the next 7 ingredients together (through the eggs). Add to the flour mixture, stirring just until moistened.
Spoon this batter into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan coated with non-stick spray. Bake for 40 -45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack and then remove from the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.