bread loaf

Saint Paul Bread Club

We knead to bake!

Bread Baker Biography – Pat Roberts (7/28/2006)

Who are you?

Pat Roberts, age 59. I hold a home economics degree with a minor in chemistry.

I have used my teaching degree formally only before I had my family. Since then, I have worked first as a chemist in the polyurethane industry (Irathane Systems) and now in the cleaning and hospitality industry (Ecolab) writing technical specifications for our prouducts. In my “other life,” I am a wife, mother of two grown, married children, and a grandma to three little girls. I am an avid hand-stamped card creator and love to share the cards with friends. I also love to garden.

I grew up on the Iron Range where I learned to bake and cook ethnic foods with my mother from our neighbors. I am willing to share my foods/recipes/expertise with anyone who wishes to learn them.

How long have you been baking bread?

I was probably 7 or 8 years old when I got to accompany my mother when we visited friends and learned their techniques, although my mother let me help her in the kitchen at a much younger age.

Who taught you how to bake bread?

My mother, my grandmother, and neighbors. I was also active in 4-H.

When did you start baking bread at home?

I was allowed to help my mother in elementary school, but by high school age I was taking orders and baking breads and rolls for my mother’s friends.

What’s your favorite bread to bake?

Finnish cardamon braid and oatmeal breads are probably my two favorites.

What bread do you make most often?

I hate to admit that my family still likes white bread the best, try as I will to expand their horizons. They will eat the others without complaint, but they still like white bread the best. Sometimes my choice of bread recipe will be dictated by its intended recipient - my neighbor who cleans my driveway and mows our lawn prefers fresh bread for payment instead of cash. And my elderly friends all have their favorites.

Where do you get your bread recipes?

Almost all of my recipes have been handed down from my mother and her friends. Nevertheless, I do own more cookbooks than I really use on a regular basis and find the internet a good source also.

How do you mix your dough?

I used to mix it by hand, but have been mixing it in a Vermont Ice Cream Company electric mixer that looks like an ice cream freezer for the past 22 years. The motor sits over a bucket with its J hook extending down into the dough. Batches yield four loaves. For small batches of rolls I enlist the help of my KitchenAid stand mixer.

How do you proof your dough?

I just let it rise on the counter out of the draft. Occasionally in the winter, I set it on my therapeutic neck and back heat packs for a little extra warmth.

How do you bake your bread?

I have a electric (convection) oven.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction in baking bread?

I love sharing it with friends, neighbors, and coworkers. I love the memories that it recalls and the feel of the dough in my hands. My mother suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and when she could no longer bake, she longed for the feel of dough. I would often save some dough for her to handle instead of shaping all of it. I love the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the house. And I treasure memories of watching the joy my grandchildren get from baking bread – and yes, potica – with me – handling and shaping the dough. I take pride in the fact that both my son and my daughter have learned to make potica so they can carry the tradition on to their girls. (Can you tell I have a passion for this?)

What was the most difficult bread you ever made and was it worth the effort?

Potica is by far the most difficult bread. It requires a lot of kneading so that it will stretch the size of a large table, but it is satisfying to make and is definitely worth it.

What was the most unusual bread you ever made?

Potica might also classify as unusual by some standards in that little dough is evident.

What was the most unusual ingredient you ever used in making bread?

I don’t make many unusual breads so perhaps jalepeno peppers might be my most unusual ingredient.

What was the simplest bread you ever made?

White bread.

What’s your favorite brand and type of flour?

I tend to use unbleached bread flour without brand preference.

What’s your favorite yeast?

I use either Fleishmann’s or Red Star dry yeast.

Do you bake with sourdough?

Rarely; I have a hard time keeping the starter going. Having said that, I feel compelled to master a respectable product.

What kind of oven do you use? Do you use baking stones or water pans for steam?

I have an electric (convection) oven. I only use pans of water on the lower rack if I’m baking french bread.

What’s your favorite tool for making bread?

My electric bread mixer.

What kind of bread pans do have?

Most of mine are 9” x5” 1# pans.

What shape loaves do you make?

Mostly pan shaped unless it’s Finnish cardamon braid (braided) or Swedish rye (round).

What’s the biggest batch of bread that you have made at home?

Six loaves, which pales in comparison to some.

Do you bake bread year round?


If you buy bread, where do you buy it?

I rarely buy bread, but if I do, it’s been at Great Harvest.

I discovered Breadsmith a little while ago, but that’s not near my home at all. And now that I have discovered St. Agnes retail sales, I can buy enough there to supplement mine for the whole month. My husband still loves English muffin toasting bread for his morning toast, so we buy that at the local grocery store.

What’s your favorite bread book?

“BREAD: the breads of the world and how to bake them at home”

What is the bread book you would recommend to beginners?

The book I mentioned above is a good all round book. There is a section in the beginning with nice photos describing the entire process. I know that there are numerous books available, but I highly recommend one with photos for a novice.

How did you find out about the Bread Club?

Through my Red Hat Society. Our group organizer saw it advertised.

What was your first Bread Club meeting?

My Red Hat Society friends organized an outing to it. It happened to be your Spring 2005 baking competition. Two of us brought entries and my focaccia earned first place in Italian/French breads and a Sweepstakes ribbon. (My reason for sharing this is to encourage newcomers who feel that they are not experienced enough to enter the competition.)

What do you like about the Bread Club?

The atmosphere is nonthreatening, and a hands-on experience has been provided after each month’s demo. I have been baking most of my life, but I still work full time and bake now for my pleasure and to share with friends, not so much to experiment. I come aware from each meeting feeling the passion of the others.

What have you learned from the Bread Club?

There are a wide variety of bread enthusiasts in the club and that we need not all be experts to become involved.