Sunday, November 13, 2011

Memory of Baked Goods Past

Just around the corner to the entrance of Roger's Grocery store, past the cashiers and the customer service desk, were the big, shining glass cases that housed tall cakes covered in thick frosting, mounds of cookies and rugulach; deep, dark brownies, pecan rolls, crumbly coffee cakes and loaves of perfectly baked bread: Hough's Bakery.  It was the first place one naturally pushed their cart and the first place my mom would stop during any trip to the market.  It was both heaven and hell for a child with a raging sweet tooth.

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On a good day (and there were many), mom would order up two of Hough's sugar cookies and the woman behind the counter would reach into the case with a small piece of wax paper and place the cookies in the distinctive white bag with blue Hough's logo.  The bag was a mere formality, for we tucked into the cookies immediately.  They were about 5" in diameter and a half inch thick and sprinkled liberally with thick sugar crystals that fell off as you bit into the crunchy, buttery cookie.  I could never make mine last long enough.

My favorite item by far, however, was the cinnamon coffee cake.  I can still taste it: a dense, buttery cake layered with pillowy cinnamon-sugar nearly as thick as the cake itself.  The corner pieces were coveted because they hosted more of the topping. 

Then there was the white cake.  My mom's and brother's favorite.  Nothing fancy, just a beautiful snowy-white cake coated with white frosting.  The flavor was subtle but it invited one to take bite after bite until one's plate was, sadly, empty. 

Luckily for us kids, mom turned out top-notch chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cakes and brownies but her claim to fame (at least in the small world of our house) were her pies.  I loved to watch (and "help") her mix and roll the dough - using Fluffo, a lemon-colored shortening that, though it contained no butter, imparted a buttery flavor to the crust.  Mom would cut up the scraps, top them with cinnamon and sugar and bake them up for us kids.  Every time she made a crust she would declare it a disaster, but the results were always tender and flaky.  The perfect complement to cinnamon-y apples, or juicy raspberries or the traditional Thanksgiving Day pumpkin.  

I didn't have to be at home to partake of delicious baked goods.  My best friend's mom, Mrs. P made raspberry jam from berries picked from their own garden.  The smells in the kitchen during preserving day were sweet, sticky, juicy-red summer.  Mrs. P baked up something called Victorian sandwich and I asked for the recipe a few times, but never was able to get my hands on it.  Between two layers of vanilla cake (baked in a 9"x13" pan) Mrs. P spread a generous slick of her raspberry jam.  She served it to us along with a big glass of Ovaltine.

Mrs. P passed away a couple of years ago; mom doesn't bake much anymore and Hough's Bakery is no longer - but grateful Clevelanders can still get baked goods made from Hough's old recipes at a shop on Lakeshore Boulevard.  And...I no longer indulge in baked goods made with butter, eggs or refined flours, but my memory is good enough that I can recall the tastes and textures of those childhood treats.  I wouldn't trade in those memories for anything. 

(Debbi at Our Home to Yours and Lynette at Sweet Posy Dreams got me thinking about cheesecake and chocolate and brownies and baked goods in general, so thanks to them for the inspiration for this post, though it's got my sweet tooth all abuzz.  I enjoyed my flour-sugar-chocolate-butter journey down memory lane.)


  1. Beautifully described! I can almost taste and smell your wonderful experiences at the bakery and with your Mom's baking. What a great piece!

  2. You seem to be able to transfer "ordinary" recipes to your current ingredient larder - can give you the Victoria Sandwich recipe if you want it. It is engraved on my heart - having been the first cake I ever made and the basis of many others since!

    As Handmade in Israel says - beautifully described. I can taste the cinnamon cookie myself!

  3. What wonderful memories! I love the old-style places like Hough's seems to have been. I have fond memories of a tiny grocery in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania near my grandparents. They had the best cold cuts in their deli case. The store had a distinctive smell, probably of salami, etc. It, too, is long gone, but I remember it fondly. Thanks for helping me remember it today!


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