Wake, rise, knead, bake. The magic of a Saturday morning ritual

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk

Every Saturday I repeat the same ritual. When it begins, I’m never quite sure I like it. But by the time it ends, I’m always pretty happy about it.

It starts with the distinctive strumming of my iPad alarm clock at exactly 4:05 a.m. I always set my 1970s radio alarm clock also, just in case.

In the next ten minutes, I throw on some clothes, brush my teeth and wrap a scarf around my head, pet the still-sleeping dog and silently leave the house. In my car, I catch an early morning interview on the BBC as I drive through the darkened streets to my destination.

Once there, I turn on the lights, plug in the coffee machines and it’s time to put my scouting days to the test: I build a fire in the woodfired oven that will burn for the next hour and forty five minutes, long enough to heat the oven for the morning bake of sixty to seventy loaves of bread.

In this silent interlude between night and day, I find my sacred place.

I’m still getting awake about now but my body is familiar with the minute-by-minute chores and pulls me along no matter. I prep the coffee. I grease some pans, I gather all the needed accessories.

Here comes the fun part: I pull all the pastries from their overnight slumber in the refrigerator, brush egg wash on these, sprinkle sugar on those, top that pan with sliced almonds. In the meantime, two more ovens start their shift. Hercules, the workhorse, takes a little longer to heat up than his neighbor, Vulcan.

In the quiet predawn, I think as I work. I listen to the birds as they wake up. I see the light slowly spread across the sky. I knead a batch of dough. As pans take their turns in the ovens, the irresistible smell of sweet pastry dough baking reaches me. I’m already imagining how they will taste later when I finally have time to sit down…

Meantime, there is work to do. It won’t happen all by itself. In a couple more hours, folks will be here expecting to start their Saturday morning rituals.

In this silent interlude between night and day, I find my sacred place. My hands work and my mind is focused with no interruptions other than the sounds of slapping dough and the crackling of the fire. All of me is engaged in the task at hand. I am one with my work.This is what life is about.

The sun now throws a beam through the window. The magical moment is about gone. As co-workers bustle in and laughter breaks out, a new day dawns. The pastries and the frittatas are baked and ready. The coffee smells so good. And, yes, there is a line at the door. The next few hours are a blur of baking and serving. I’ve reached my happy place. It’s time to go home.

Here is a frittata recipe for your morning ritual.

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Frittata

  • ½ small onion, chopped and fried in canola oil
  • 5 slices of bacon, chopped and fried
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cooked with skin on until tender
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 oz. gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1½ cups cheese, grated mozzarella, Parmesan and provolone
  • 8 eggs
  • 1¼ cups cream, half and half or milk
  • ½ tsp. oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9” by 11” casserole dish.
  2. Sprinkle with fried onions. Layer with thinly sliced sweet potatoes, then bacon, then green onions, then gruyere and finally cheese mix.
  3. Whisk 8 eggs and the cream together. Stir in the spices.
  4. Pour over the sweet potato bacon mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until set.

Serves 8. Can be made the night before and popped into the oven the next morning.

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