Photo By Jacqueline Weaver

Expert Baker Demystifies Process

Photo By Jacqueline Weaver

One of Roberta Scott’s favorite mementos from her childhood is a dented, tin measuring cup that belonged to her mother.

SULLIVAN — When word gets out at the Union Congregational Church in Hancock that Roberta Scott has brought rolls, the chewy buns quickly disappear.

Scott, 80, is a master bread and roll maker, if there was such a culinary category, and enjoys passing along the skill she learned from her mother.

As one of seven children growing up in Bangor, Scott and her siblings watched her mother cook and bake constantly. Rolls were a staple.

“We all saw her making them so often we knew we would do it,” said Scott, a registered nurse who lived for years in California but now spends all of her time at her waterfront home in Sullivan.

In addition to knowledge garnered during her childhood on the farm on outer Ohio Street, Scott had six years of home economics.

She freely passes along what she knows in classes that people pay for as a fund-raiser for the church.

Scott also taught a bread and roll making class Oct. 20 to students in a Regional School Unit 24 adult education class.

The first thing she tells her class is not to be intimidated about making bread and rolls from scratch.

She thinks the scary factor for many is yeast.

“They don’t understand yeast,” Scott said.

She has her students mix sugar, oil, yeast and water, wait for the yeast to begin its bubbling action, and then add the flour.

The critical factor, she said, is the water temperature.

“Most recipes say lukewarm water,” she said. “You want hot water.”

Scott buys her bread and roll ingredients — they’re the same —in bulk as a cost-saving measure.

Although she teaches her students to knead the dough by hand, she uses a commercial grade, six-quart mixer.

One tip she gives students is to spread a little shortening on the cutting board while making the rolls so that the dough doesn’t stick to her fingers while she’s forming the small balls of bread.

Scott and her late husband went on to have four daughters of their own, three of whom bake. The rolls have caught on with the grandchildren as well.

“My first grandchild, a boy, Joshua Lee, loved the rolls,” she said. “One day he had 16. He asked me, ‘Do you have any Pepto-Bismol?’”

Joshua is now 32 and married with children of his own and lives in San Francisco. Scott made rolls for his wedding.

Another of Scott’s favorite recipes is gingerbread made from a 1952 cookbook entitled “From Kitchens Down in Maine.”

The recipes, she said, are tried and true. Scott points to one that back in 1952 was titled “Great-Grandmother’s Ginger Bread Recipe of Over 100 Years.”

Roberta Scott’s Bread Recipe

Makes 3 loaves or 35 rolls

2 heaping Tbsps. dry yeast

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup canola oil

1 tsp. salt

3 cups hot water, not boiling but hot

8 cups bread flour

Combine first five ingredients and let proof. That is, set it aside until you see bubbles forming to prove that the yeast is alive.

Stir in 4 to 5 cups of flour and mix with a spoon. When you can no longer mix in the flour, turn the dough out into a flat, heavily floured surface and keep kneading the flour until the dough doesn’t readily stick to your fingers.

The amount of flour may be different with different brands. When it’s ready to rest it will be a little tacky but you may have to be shown to ‘get’ it. Let it double on the flour and then punch it down and put in a loaf pan or shape in rolls. When it has doubled put it in the oven. Rolls should be baked for 20 minutes and loaves for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F. When placing the pans in the oven, be gentle so as not to collapse the dough. When baked, turn the loaves out on a rack. Leave the rolls in the pan on a rack.

On Bread Baking

* The most important aspect of bread-making is yeast that is not outdated. It keeps best in the freezer. The next most important thing is to have your water hot enough and not lukewarm as many recipes say. Bread will rise without any sugar but it takes hours! The liquid can be milk, vegetable juices, but must be the same amount and temperature.

* Milk gives the crust a browner surface. Any oil will work but Roberta has only used canola since it became available. If you want to add raisins, other dried fruit, cinnamon, or other seasonings, go for it, but don’t add more than a cup of dried fruit. If you want a richer batter add 2 eggs and ½ cup sugar instead of ¼. If for instance you wanted hot cross buns, a richer batter is better. Any flour will do but the amount you can incorporate into your batter will differ.

* For whole wheat bread I use 1/3 cup molasses instead of sugar and 1/3 cup of oil. I mix the whole wheat flour, 4 cups, with 3 cups bread flour and gradually add more flour until I can handle it. It’s not truly whole wheat but 100 percent whole wheat can be too dense.

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Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]