Helen and the Pumpkin Pies

I do not recall if Helen grew up on a farm, but when it came time for Thanksgiving and the baking of many pumpkin pies, she suggested we make the pies from scratch with fresh pumpkins.  I had never done this before, but was intrigued by the idea, so I arranged to purchase pumpkins used for baking from Ted, the fruit dealer.  We cut the pumpkins into large pieces, scraped out the seeds and webbing, and baked the slices on trays in the oven.  It was a lot of work and the pies we made tended to “weep” a bit with water on the surface of the pie as the fresh pumpkin was so moist, but the result was delicious.  Helen was very happy, and we felt good about what we had done that day.  I had learned something new.

Pie Crust

Single Crust for a standard 9” pie pan


1-2/3 cups pureed pumpkin (1 15oz. can)           1 cup reduced fat dairy or soy milk

1/2 teaspoon salt                                                       2/3 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon                                            1 tablespoon molasses

1/2 teaspoon ginger                                                  1 tablespoon oil

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves                                     2 eggs, beaten



  1. Place the pumpkin in a bowl and mix in the salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. In a separate bowl mix the honey, molasses, oil, beaten eggs, and milk. Add the liquid ingredients to the pumpkin and mix thoroughly.
  2. Pour the pumpkin filling into an unbaked pie shell with a high fluted edge. To create a fluted edge on the pie crust, press the crust against the thumb and index finger positioned on the inside of the edge with the index finger of the other hand.
  3. Place the pie in a pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes at 450oF and then reduce heat and bake at 325oF for 45 minutes until the filling is set. Remove the pie from the oven and place on a rack to cool.  Serves 10.


Note:  Two tablespoons arrowroot powder can be substituted for the eggs as a binder.


Pumpkin Bread

This bronze-colored loaf is moist and spicy and appropriate for the fall.pumpkin-bread



1 cup honey                                                            3 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup sweet molasses                                      2 teaspoons baking soda

1/3 cup oil                                                                1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt                             2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 cup water                                                          3/4 teaspoon ginger

1 large egg beaten                                                 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 15oz. can (1-2/3 cups) pureed pumpkin      3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup raisins

Optional: 1/3 cup chopped walnuts



  1. In a large bowl mix the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the honey, molasses, oil, yogurt, water, beaten egg, and pureed pumpkin.
  3. Pre-heat the oven 350o Line two 8”x 4” loaf pans with wax paper and trim off the excess.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir so that all the dry ingredients are moistened and the batter is homogeneous. Mix in the raisins and walnuts if desired.  Spoon the batter into the pans so they are ¾ full and smooth the tops.
  5. Bake the loaves for 65-70 minutes until firm and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove the pans from the oven and take the breads out of the pans to cool on wire racks.  Each loaf produces 15 slices.


Fruit Oat Squares


Apricot Bars
Fruit Oat Squares

This is a popular recipe and I have seen variants of it in several cookbooks.  It is versatile in that many dried fruits can be used as the filling, and very wholesome.

Crust                                                                        Filling                                    

1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour                        1-1/3 cups dried prunes, apricots,

3/4 cup rolled oats                                                   cherries, or figs

3/4 teaspoon baking soda                               1-1/4 cup boiling water

1/4 teaspoon salt                                               1-2 tablespoons honey, depending on

1-1/4 teaspoons cinnamon                                       sweetness of fruit

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

10 dates, finely chopped

1/2 cup oil

1 tablespoon water



2 tablespoons turbinado sugar


  1. Soak dried fruit with boiling water in a covered bowl for 2 hours or overnight. Puree fruit with soaking water in a food processor, transfer back to a bowl, and add honey.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350o Lightly oil a 9” x 9” baking pan.
  3. To prepare crust, mix together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, sugar, and finely chopped dates in a large bowl. Mix in the oil a little bit at a time and toss mixture with a fork to form pea-sized crumbs.  Add water and toss this into mixture with a fork.
  4. Place one-half of the crust mixture in a baking pan and press it flat into the bottom of the pan and 1/2” up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust for 15 minutes until light brown and remove from oven to cool.
  5. Spoon the fruit filling into the baked crust and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the other half of reserved crust mixture on top of the filling and press it down lightly with your fingers.  Sprinkle topping of turbinado sugar onto the top crust.
  6. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until lightly brown on top and firm. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.   Makes 16 squares.




Hawaiian Bars

Hawaiian Bars
Hawaiian Bars


As Hans and Randy eventually peeled off from the bakery, I needed a paid employee to mind the counter while I was out making deliveries.  I hired a teenage African-American girl who lived near the bakery.  She was a sweet girl, and she gave me a mug as a Christmas present which I still have today.  One day when I was at the bakery she came to me and confessed that she had taken money out of the cash register.  I knew she came from a disadvantaged family and probably needed the money more than I did.  I was touched that she trusted me enough to let me know what she had done.  So I said to her, “Stealing is not the right thing to do.  Next time you need money, come to me and we will talk about it.”   She agreed and there were no further incidents.


Crust                                                                 Filling                                   

1 cup whole wheat flour                               20 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained (1-1/2 cups)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda                             2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/4 teaspoon salt                                             2 tablespoons honey

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon                 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 cup turbinado sugar                               2 tablespoons whole wheat or barley flour

6 finely chopped dates                                 2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup oil

1 tablespoon water



2 tablespoons shredded coconut

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350o Lightly oil a 9” x 9” baking pan.
  2. Mix flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, turbinado sugar, and dates for the crust. Add oil gradually and mix with a fork to form pea-sized balls.  Add water and mix with fork.  Press dough into the baking pan with your fingers going 1/2” up the sides of the pan.  Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven when light brown and firm and place on a rack to cool.

3.  While the crust is in the oven, mix the crushed pineapple, coconut, honey, ginger, flour and eggs in a medium size bowl. Place the filling on top of the baked crust, smooth with a rubber spatula, and sprinkle top of filling with shredded coconut and turbinado sugar.  Place in the oven and bake for 35 minutes until the filling is set.

4.  Remove pan from oven and place on a rack to cool. Makes 16 squares.

Carob Cookies

 (Note from guest blogger Fran Spiegler–after helping to edit this I had such a craving that I had to make this recipe despite the heat. I can’t eat chocolate so I use carob as a substitute.  This does not taste completely like chocolate, but it is good!)

In this cookie the carob is complemented by the flavor of the ground cloves and the sweetness and moisture of the raisins.


1-1/3 cups whole wheat flour                                   2/3 cup honey

2/3 cups carob powder                                               2 tablespoons molasses

1–1/2 teaspoons baking soda                                   1/3 cup oil

1/4 teaspoon salt                                                          1/3 cup softened butter

1/2 teaspoon cloves                                                     1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons water

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup raisins


  1. Mix the flour, carob powder, soda, salt, and cloves in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl mix the honey, molasses, oil, butter, vanilla extract, and water. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. Mix the chopped pecans and raisins into the dough.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 350o Lightly oil 2 cookie sheets.
  5. Using a small ice cream scoop or rounded teaspoon, form rounded cookies about 1” in diameter and place them on the cookie sheets 2” apart.
  6. Bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes until firm and they do not stick to the cookie sheet. Remove the cookies from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.  Makes 20.

Blueberry Pie

My maternal grandfather was a short stout man of Irish ancestry who loved to eat, and my grandmother loved to cook.  One day when my brothers and I were having dinner with my grandparents, my grandmother served us blueberry pie she had just baked.  She brought a plate for my grandfather which must have had nearly a quarter of the pie with a mound of vanilla ice cream piled on top.  After she had put the plate of pie in front of my grandfather and turned to walk back to the kitchen, he smiled and winked at us, and said, “Mary, is this all the pie I am going to get?”  My grandmother turned, and in mock indignation, looked at him and said, “Well!  Jim!” My grandfather and we boys all burst into laughter at this scene and then dug into our pie.

Pie Crust

1 Bottom and Top Crust for a standard 9” pie pan


4 cups fresh blueberries

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons whole wheat or tapioca flour

1/2 cup turbinado sugar


  1. Stem and wash the blueberries and place them in a bowl.
  2. Mix the honey, lemon juice, and salt in a separate bowl and add this mixture to the berries, mixing gently.
  3. Sprinkle the flour and turbinado sugar onto the berries and mix gently.
  4. Put the filling in an unbaked pie shell. Add the top crust and trim the loose edges.  Fold the 1/2” of extra crust from the bottom crust either under itself or over on top of the edge of the top crust.  Create a decorative edge to the crust by pressing in the tines of a fork or by using your fingers to create a fluted edge.  Cut 5 or 6 slits into the top crust.
  5. Place the pie in a pre-heated oven and bake at 425oF for 40 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and place on a rack to cool.   Serves 10.


Tofu Cheesecake

I believe I got the concept for the tofu cheesecake from somewhere, but it is pretty unique and very good tasting.  It is lemon flavored with enough honey added to balance the tanginess of the citrus and you cannot taste the soybeans.  Once the cheesecake is baked and refrigerated for an hour, its texture is slightly less firm than cheesecake made with cream cheese, but it has little saturated fat.

There was a tofu shop around the corner from the bakery named Mu Tofu which was operated by a married couple named Yoshi and Becky. “Mu” is the name of a Zen Buddhist koan or riddle asking the question “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”  Yoshi had a lot of boiled, ground soybeans left over from the process of making tofu, which he called okara.  I thought that this moist, oily, nutritious food substance had potential uses in baking, and I soon was adding it to some baked goods, as well as buying his tofu to make tofu cheesecakes.  We became good friends with Yoshi and Becky and they invited Randy and me to their home for dinner at times.


Filling                                                                                      Crust

1-3/4 lbs. soft tofu (2 14oz. pkgs.)                                        1 cup oatmeal, ground

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice                                                      3/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons grated lemon peel                                         1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup safflower or sunflower oil                                        3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey                                         1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract                                                   1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt                                                                      6 dates, ground

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder                                       6 tablespoons safflower or

or cornstarch                                                                     sunflower oil

1 tablespoon cold water


  1. For the crust, grind the oatmeal in a food processor until it is a coarse meal and place in a bowl. Mix in the whole wheat flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
  1. Grind the dates in the food processor, adding 1-1/2 teaspoons flour or oatmeal to prevent clumping, and add to dry ingredients.
  1. Add the oil to the mixture gradually and toss in with a fork. Add the water and toss with a fork.  Evenly press the crust material into a lightly oiled 9” round cake pan.
  1. For the filling, blend the tofu in a food processor until smooth and creamy and place in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, lemon peel, oil, honey, vanilla, salt, and arrowroot powder and mix with a whisk.
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350o Pour the filling into the crust.  Bake for 65-70 minutes until filling has set and top of filling is light tan or golden in color.  Remove pan from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  Place in the refrigerator to chill 1-2 hours.  Serves 16.


Jasmine’s Story (with Onion Dill Biscuit Recipe)

Jasmine was a young woman of Puerto Rican descent who often came to the bakery with her young infant daughter in tow.  Jasmine was her name on the streets.  The father of the child who she lived with had a violent temper and she often would come seeking refuge in the bakery.  Eventually he found out where she would flee and he would come down in the evening on a rampage, pounding on the plate-glass storefront windows so hard I thought they would break.  She would reluctantly leave us, so he did not begin destroying the bakery and punching us.  Despite these rocky moments, we offered her as much support and friendship as we could, and she became a part of this family of people.


2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour                             1/4 cup olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda                               1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 teaspoon salt                                                     1 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1-1/3 tablespoons dried dill weed                       1/3 cup water

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 eggs, beaten


  1. Mix the flour, soda, salt, and dill weed in a bowl.
  2. In a separate large bowl, mix the olive oil, canola oil, yogurt, water, onion, and beaten eggs.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 400o  Oil 12 muffin cups.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir so that the dry ingredients are moistened and the batter is homogeneous. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.
  5. Bake for 27 minutes until the muffins are firm and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove pan from the oven and take the muffins out of the cups to cool on a wire rack.


For cheese muffins add 1-1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese to the wet ingredients.  Be sure to oil the muffin cups well, as the cheese tends to stick, and allow the muffins to cool in the pan after baking for the cheese to set.

Challah (from A Whole Foods Baking book)

       Randy was an integral part of the bakery its first year. I had met Randy in Champaign-Urbana, where I heard him sing and play his guitar on an open microphone at the Red Herring Coffeehouse.  Randy used to wail out his original compositions, and I do mean wail, but what he lacked in musicality he made up for in heart.  He was a person of great sincerity and had insightful perspectives on life.  When he heard that I had opened up a whole wheat bakery in Chicago, he came up to talk to me and offer his help.  He said, “I want to learn how to bake good bread,” and I said I would teach him what I know.

I had no money to pay Randy a salary so he came to live with me in the bakery.  In order to conserve funds, I was living in the bakery and sleeping on a mat in a small office space left by the former tenant.  Randy chose to bunk in a loft area I had built above the oven, which was nice and warm in the winter.  We got up early in the morning and began our work together.

East Rogers Park, where the bakery was located, had been a Jewish neighborhood at one time and I wanted to bake Challah, a traditional Jewish bread.  Randy was our resident expert on things Jewish, and he taught me how to pronounce the name correctly, although I could never get it quite right.  The “ch” is pronounced as an “h” coming deep from the back of the throat.

I first baked Challah using all whole wheat bread flour, but we found it too dense, dark, and heavy, and this did not suit the character of the bread.  We began using 50% unbleached white flour in the bread and we were happier with the end result.


1 cup lukewarm (105 – 115oF) water

1 teaspoons dry yeast

1/4 cup honey


2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour                                   Egg Wash

2-1/2 cups unbleached white flour               1 egg yolk, beaten

2 teaspoons salt                                             1-1/2 teaspoons water

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons oil

3 whole eggs, beaten

1 egg white


  1. Proofing the Yeast: Pour the lukewarm water into a bowl, sprinkle the dry yeast on the water, add the honey, and stir until dissolved.  Wait 8-10 minutes until the yeast begins to grow and create a tan-colored foam.
  1. Mixing the Dough: Add 1 cup whole wheat flour to the water and stir to form a homogenous batter. Add more flour on top of the batter and place the salt, beaten eggs, melted butter, and oil on the dry flour, mixing this into the batter. Continue adding the rest of the wheat and unbleached white flour, reserving 1/2 cup for kneading, and mix to form a stiff dough.
  1. Kneading the Dough: Dump the dough in the bowl onto a floured work surface.  By pushing on the dough with both hands, form the dough into a ball and incorporate the fragments and loose flour into the ball.  Knead this dough for 10 minutes, adding as little flour as possible to the work surface and the ball if the dough sticks to the surface or your hands.
  1. The First Rise: Clean and dry the bowl.  Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoons oil on the bottom of the bowl and place the dough into the bottom of the bowl and flip it over once so that the entire surface of the dough is lightly covered with oil.  Place the bowl in a warm, non-drafty place and cover with a damp towel.  Let rise for 1-1/3 hours.  This soft dough rises quickly.
  1. The Second Rise: Remove the towel from the bowl and gently press on the dough which has doubled in size to deflate it.  Flip the dough over so the moist bottom is now on top.  Place the damp towel back over the bowl and let rise for 45-60 minutes.
  1. Shaping the Loaf and the Final Rise: Remove the towel over the bowl and gently press on the dough to deflate.  Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on the work surface.  Cut the dough in two equal pieces, shape each half into a rough ball, and let them rest 10 minutes to relax the gluten in the dough.

Challah is typically braided, and it can be braided with 3 to 6 strands.  To braid with three strands, cut one ball of dough into three equal pieces, roll each piece into a rope about 12 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameter, and lay the three ropes parallel to each other with about an inch between each rope.  Starting in the middle of the ropes lay the rope from one side over the center rope.  Now take the rope from the other side and lay this over the new center rope.  Continue laying the side ropes alternately over the center rope until one half the loaf is braided.  Pinch the ends of the braids together and tuck under the end of the loaf.  Now beginning in the middle of the loaf, braid the other half of the loaf using the same method of alternately laying the side rope over the center rope.

img156              img157                                        img158


Place the two loaves on a flat metal baking sheet covered with cornmeal or oil.

Brush the egg wash evenly on each loaf.  The loaves may be sprinkled with sesame or poppy seeds.  Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and place in a warm, non-drafty place and allow to rise 20 minutes until soft and puffy.  Pre-heat the oven to 350oF during this rise.

    7. Baking the Loaves: When the loaves have risen remove the towel and place the pan on the center rack in the middle of the oven.  Bake for 45 minutes until both the top and bottom of the loaves are browned, and are firm to the touch.  Remove the pan from the oven and place the loaves on a wire rack to cool.

Apple Braid

kolaches and apple braid

(Apple Braid–center)

This recipe was developed by John Goodell.  The braiding of the pastry dough across the chopped apples and cinnamon followed by a honey glaze after baking makes a very attractive way of serving this fruit.

Sweet pastry dough:


1/4 cp. lukewarm (105 – 115oF) water

1-1/2 tsp. dry yeast

1 cp. scalded milk, room temperature

1/3 cp. honey

4 cps. whole wheat flour

1-1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cp. melted butter or oil

1 large egg, beaten


  1. Pour the lukewarm water in a bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Allow 10 minutes to pass for yeast to dissolve and begin to foam.
  2. Pour scalded milk, cooled to room temperature, into the bowl. Add honey and stir to dissolve.  Add 2 cps. flour to mixture, place salt on the flour and then add the butter or oil and beaten egg.
  3. Mix all ingredients together to form a homogenous mixture. Continue adding flour and stirring to form a solid dough, reserving ¼ cp. of flour for kneading.
  4. Dump the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Incorporate loose flour and fragments of dough and knead for 10 minutes to form a smooth, elastic dough, using as little extra flour as possible when the dough becomes sticky.
  5. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp. oil in a clean bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and place in a warm, non-drafting place for 1-1/4 hours, or until about double in size.
  6. Remove the towel and deflate the dough gently by pushing on it. Place dough on a work surface and allow to rest 10 minutes.  Dough is now read to use.  If making ½ of a recipe, cut the dough in half and double wrap the unused dough and place it in the freezer for use at another time.

Apple Braid:


1 sweet pastry dough recipe                                               Glaze

6 cps. peeled, cored, and chopped apples                           2 Tbs. honey

1 Tbs. lemon juice                                                                  2 Tbs. hot water

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cp. honey

2 Tbs. turbinado sugar




  1. Place the risen pastry dough on a work surface and cut it into 2 equal pieces. Take one piece and roll it into a rectangle 12” x 9”.
  2. In a bowl mix the chopped apples with the lemon juice to prevent browning. Mix in the cinnamon, honey, and turbinado sugar.
  3. Taking ½ the apple mixture, place it in the center of the rectangle going lengthwise from end to end, taking up about 3” of the center strip of the rectangle. On the rolled out dough on either side of the chopped apples, cut diagonal strips 1-1/4” wide down the length of the rectangle.  Alternately fold one strip from each side over the mound of cut apples, sealing the end of the strip on the dough under the apples to create a braided effect over the apples.  Once this is done, pinch and seal the ends of the apple braid.  Repeat this process with the other half of dough and apple mixture.


  1. Place the apple braids on oiled baking sheets, cover with a damp towel, and place in a warm non-drafty place for 25 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 375o
  2. Once the dough has risen and become puffy, remove the towel from the braids and place the pans in the center of the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 26-28 minutes until light brown.  Remove braids from the oven, mix the honey glaze and water in a small bowl and apply to the braids with a brush, and place braids on wire racks to cool.  Serves sixteen.