NEWS

Meet a really kneady teen

Pam Adams

With bread recipes.

Allison Glick may be the only college sophomore in the country returning to school with sourdough starter in her backpack.

Well, not her backpack, but an insulated lunch bag to keep it cool during the trip.

She probably wouldn't say she's the only one in the country, so let's strike that in favor of something more specific. Maybe she's the only college sophomore heading from Pekin to Virginia's Eastern Mennonite University with her own batch of sourdough starter packed in an insulated lunch bag.

The point is, how many 19-year-olds bake bread from scratch? We're not talking bread-machine scratch either.

As you read, Glick should be back in the dorm, unpacking. The sourdough starter will be safely refrigerated at her older sister's apartment off campus. And Glick, a chemistry major, will be figuring how to fit in time to get to go to her sister's apartment and bake a few loaves between classes.

Call it “Confessions of a Teenage Bread Baker” or “How I Turned Love Into a Summer Job ... Three Summers in a Row.”

The story begins many years ago around Christmas. Glick was in junior high school. Her father bought her mother a bread machine. Her mother rarely, if ever, used the machine. Glick took a hankering to it, discovered she really liked making bread with that bread machine. One day, the thing broke.

"I liked making homemade bread too much to stop," she says. "So I learned to make it from scratch."

Says her mother, Jean: "She just kind of did it on her own."

She baked bread throughout her years at Pekin Community High School, where she stood out academically and athletically. With a 4.0 grade-point average and a four-time stint as the school cross-country team's MVP, or most valuable player, she was one of 26 seniors named to the Illinois High School Association's All-State Academic Team in 2006.

While she was perfecting her school resume, she also was perfecting her bread-baking abilities. Between her junior and senior year in high school, she began selling her homemade goods at Pekin's Farmers' Market. She'd take over the kitchen on Wednesdays and Thursdays, stocking up baked goods to sell.

"I didn't mind," her mother says, "it kept me out of the kitchen."

At about the same time, she got her first batch of starter from a family friend through church.

"I have no idea what it is, the person I got it from has no idea what it is," Glick says.

But she has been maintaining it by adding water, potato flakes and sugar to it every few weeks -- except for the time her mother, while cleaning the refrigerator, mistook the Cool Whip container with “sourdough” written on the top for something else and threw it down the drain.

Fortunately, she was able to get more starter from Sherry Litwiller, the family friend. Double fortunately, she saw the folks starting up a new bakery, Peoria Bread Co., the second year she sold bread at the Farmers' Market.

So when she came home to Pekin after her freshman year in college, she called them up, told them her experience and asked for a job.

"I was hoping to find a job doing something I really enjoy," Glick says.

The folks at Peoria Bread Co. were more surprised that she was willing to take a bus from Pekin to Peoria every day than by her baking experience.

So that's how a teenager went from budding bread-baker to bread-baking entrepreneur to summer employee at a bakery owned by a state senator and his wife better known as Dave Koehler and Nora Sullivan of Peoria.

Glick confesses she was never much of a cookie-and-brownie baking type before she worked at Peoria Bread Co. Working at the bakery helped her learn to enjoy baking cookies and brownies.

"But I still prefer the bread."

She thinks that's because she knows bread is healthier. But it also may have something to do with the chemistry of feeding and pampering the living organisms of the starter, then of mixing and kneading ingredients into dough and watching it rise.

There is, she says, a lot of chemistry in baking bread. And the biggest secret of successful baking?

"Don't kill the yeast," she says.

Anything else?

"Don't just take a recipe as it is, play with it. If you like grain, add oatmeal or whole wheat. If you think it's too sweet, decrease the sugar. If you want better flavor, let it rise a little longer."

In other words, the chemistry major says, experiment.

Pam Adams can be reached at padams@pjstar.com.

RECIPES

Some of Allison Glick's favorite bread recipes:

French bread

11/3 cups water

1 package active dry yeast

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups flour

Microwave water in large glass bowl for 55 seconds. Dissolve yeast in water with whisk and let sit for a minute or two. Add oil and stir. Then stir in sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. Knead until smooth and elastic on lightly floured countertop. Grease bowl, place dough inside and cover with damp cloth. Let rise until approximately double in size, about an hour. Punch dough down, as if kneading. Divide into two equal pieces. Using rolling pin on floured countertop, roll first piece into rectangle about 9x12-inches. Roll it up lengthwise into long thin roll. Place on greased cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Let rise 40-45 minutes covered with clean dish towel. Bake in oven pre-heated to 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. (Adapted from More with Less Cookbook, Herald Press)

Uncle Norris' Rolls

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1 package active dry yeast

3 tablespoons oil

1 egg

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup wheat germ or whole wheat flour

2 ¾ to 3 cups flour

Microwave water in large glass bowl for 55 seconds. Dissolve yeast in water with whisk and let sit for a minute or two. Add oil, egg, and lemon juice and stir. Then stir in sugar and salt. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients. Knead until smooth and elastic on lightly floured countertop. Grease bowl, place dough inside, and cover with damp cloth. To speed up first rising, microwave three minutes on power level 1 three times. After the first two times, remove from bowl and knead briefly; don't knead dough after the last time. Let it rise for about 10 minutes until approximately double in size. Punch dough down (like a brief kneading) and shape. Divide into about 15 pieces, each a little bigger than a jumbo marshmallow. Place rolls 1/2 inch apart on greased cookie sheet. Cover with clean dish towel, let rise about 30 minutes. Serves 15. Per serving: 139 calories; 3.7 grams protein; 3.3 grams fat (21.6 percent of total calories); 23.5 grams carbohydrate; 0.9 grams fiber; 14 milligrams cholesterol; and 188 milligrams sodium.

Peoria Journal Star