These past few days as I created layer cakes and cheesecakes for a dessert-hungry clientele, I reflected on the freedom that citizens of my country can so enjoy day after day.
Celebrations all across this land denote enthusiasm for our cherished liberty as folks annually enjoy backyard barbeques, partake in patriot-expressing parades or “ooh” and “ah” as explosive pyrotechnics color the nighttime sky. Have you seen those glorious designs in the heavens recently?
Patriots of the 18th Century were freedom fighters for all of us who followed thereafter. The Declaration of Independence signed in 1776 then put the giant exclamation point on the beginning of a new nation.
More than Sweet Treats
Dear Readers, with flour, sugar, and multiple other ingredients in my midst, I was assembling sweet treats. But at the same time, I was contemplating the freedom I have to pursue my cherished God-given talent of baking.
The pursuit of dessert-baking excellence is the constant goal for this baker. And now, in a beautifully designed commercial site at Miss NiNi’s Desserterie, the opportunity to share that passion with throngs of folks is within my hands and heart.
Miss NiNi creates fine desserts in a 21st Century modern bakery. But, Dear Readers, what was it like in a commercial bakery in the 1700s? Could a Miss NiNi of that era have found such pleasure in her craft?
Running water at the turn of a knob and gaining instant energy-efficient light with the flip of a switch are at my disposal. Air-conditioned luxury and state-of-the art vents bring comfort even though I’m surrounded by ovens producing constant 350 degrees of heat. These luxuries were not available to the colonists. So then, how did those folks who carried the same baking passion as I do cope in their work environment?
A Brief Adventure
Let me take you on a brief time-travelling adventure to the 18th Century during which the baking craft in America was born. My source of information is foodtimeline.org.
“Baking was a part of the European heritage brought by the colonists to North America. But unlike their old homeland, the New World was a sparsely settled pioneer area which offered very few opportunities for commercial baking.”
The population had to grow in order for the baking industry to become established in the USA. Not only did cities and towns need to be built, but the frontier needed to expand before any professional bakers could commercially showcase their craft.
“Within a few decades of the founding of Jamestown, Plymouth, and New York in the 1600s, several commercial bakeries sprang up in the colonies. By 1776, there were twelve in NYC.”
This melting pot of immigrants who came to America brought their baking heritage with them. But, with cramped sailing-ship conditions, they couldn’t bring everything needed to bake their treasured recipes once in the New World.
Each ethnic group had its own special recipes and baking techniques and even had some supplies. The Dutch in New York baked differently than did the Spaniards who settled in St. Augustine or the French who put down roots in South Carolina. And yet, it was the Native Americans who saved the day! They taught the Europeans about ingredients original to this country. Old World recipes took on New World deliciousness.
Back in Time
So then, Dear Readers, what was it like in the typical 18th Century bakeshop?
“…the baker’s day was a very long one, his work exacting.” Miss NiNi can identify with that!
“There was no place quite so welcome on a cold day as the bakehouse; it was always warm and cozy in there.” Miss NiNi likes to think that our desserterie is warm and cozy in spirit, too!
Ovens were truly of a different nature in that timeframe. As compared to using gas and electricity for fueling my ovens, wood fueled their gigantic brick ovens. On a hot, humid day, heat produced by those monstrosities must have been almost unbearable! No air conditioning. No fans. Only two front-facing windows and a door allowed air into and out of the bakehouse.
Most of the information I found detailed the production of yeast bread—a very common form of sustenance. Commercial production of desserts was rare as dessert was not an important part of the meal.
I did note one distinctive difference between the then and now of a baker’s responsibilities. Unlike in the 1700s, the Miss NiNi bakers do not need to have animal husbandry skills. In those days, “as the bread baked, one man fed, watered, and cleaned the horses.”
Could Miss NiNi have been a joyful dessert baker during the founding of our country? No one knows for certain.
What I do know, Dear Readers, is that I’m thankful to have the privilege of citizenry in the United States of America where my freedom has been secured by those who lived and died for such a cause!