My grandma baked bread; and was known for how beautifully she baked. She also made butter tarts, marmalade laced with vodka, and pies. And let’s not forget those exquisite little French tarts, with sweet cream custard; crowned with raspberries from the garden.
If asked about her baking, my granddad, filled with loving pride, likes to boast of how famous her butter tarts were; that people as far as Michigan would come to Meldrum Bay to buy them. In truth, they were perfection: sweet, buttery, molten gold with flaky pastry. She would rise at five in the morning every day during the summer, and start the bread, pies, and muffins. Then my granddad would go down to the marina in the Buick, and sell the goods from the back of the station wagon while she baked and baked.
I can still remember the smell of fresh bread. And one overcast day when she sent us down to the cool, rocky shore with puffy, light loaves to eat. That memory stands out over others; the summer when we drove to the Island in August, my 19th birthday to be exact, before I continued further north to embark on a 500km journey in northern Ontario by canoe. But back to the bread.
She made everything from scratch, and didn’t follow recipes. She’d been doing it long enough to know the measurements by heart. She was an artist. If in only one area of her life she conceded to art, it was baking. At the marina, she was known as “The Pie Lady.” And this acclaim continues: recently I met the father of a friend in Toronto, who spoke of the lady at the marina who baked pies. People remembered her pies.
That summer was the last summer that she baked. For years after that, her baking equipment went untouched. Alzheimer’s stood between her and her ability to measure and remember. Solange, a vivacious, petite auburn, with a fiery temperament; my granddad loves her wholeheartedly and unconditionally. He cared for her at home well into the late stages of her illness. They just celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary.
A few years ago, I found and scanned some of her recipes. But I didn’t find the one I was looking for, the butter tart recipe. Oh, how I wish she had written it down! True, I found her old cookbook, with the seed for her butter tart recipe, but we know that she altered it. I do know that one of the alterations was a dash of maple syrup—maple syrup that my granddad made with his own hands, starting from the trees on his own land.
I’ve decided to share her Raspberry Muffins recipe. I have baked them myself, and can contest that they are delectably moist; the raspberries, pleasantly tart. I don’t believe in safeguarding recipes. Of course, there are exceptions, but if a recipe makes the world a better place, then why not share it? It’s not like anyone could truly duplicate her muffins or tarts anyway. Because there is so much more to baking and cooking than the ingredients: the energy of a person is transmitted into the final result. And perhaps this is what made her pies and tarts so loved by so many.
Pictured here is a woman I met in Llombai, Spain, who graciously invited me to photograph her at work in her traditional bakery. Here they use a traditional wood-burning oven to bake their bread. And as you can see, her bread also carries the signature of love and good intentions, two of the most important ingredients in bread and life.
5 cups flour
2 cups oats
3 cups brown sugar
7 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup of canned milk
1 tablespoon of vinegar
½ cup of oil and a bit of butter
2 cups of applesauce
2 cups of raspberries
a dash of vanilla
Add wet to dry. Gently stir until all the flour lumps are blended. Scoop into paper lined or greased muffin tins.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 – 25 minutes.
Makes 2 dozen muffins.