In My Father’s Bakery A Bronx Memoir
204 pages; Hardcover
No Photographs or Sketches
Red Rock Press, NY, NY
Reviewed by Ashima Dua for Good Cooking, Inc., Early Summer 2007
For many of us, each passing year reminds us of a simpler time we enjoyed during our childhood and adolescence. A time that was filled with innocence, first experiences and new life events. It is this chord that Marvin Korman strikes in his novel My Father’s Bakery A Bronx Memoir. Korman magically transports the reader from present day back to the way life was in Bronx during the 1930s and 40s. Right at the beginning, we learn Korman’s father, owned Grossfeld & Korman’s Bakery in New York’s northern most borough the Bronx. It is this bakery that forms the backdrop for the rest of the book and provides the glue that holds the subsequent chapters together.
As the reader thumbs through chapter after chapter, he/she begins to experience the different events that occurred in Korman’s youth. Each chapter fixates on one life event and yet somehow always seems to relate back to the bakery where Korman spent the majority of his youth outside of school. We learn of Korman’s Uncle Maxie, who finds a safe haven at the bread counter at Grossfeld & Korman via patrons who overlook the fact that he has the mental capacity of a ten year old. We cross paths with Aunt Sylvia, who while working at Grossfeld & Korman develops a life long affair with landlord Danny Schulman. And perhaps the most delightful information we gather through the course of the book are a few of the signature recipes prepared every day at the bakery.
Korman includes a couple of these recipes right in the novel text, but also provides the reader a separate easy access booklet which contains ten recipes from the bakery which have been adapted for use by the home baker. The booklet contains Uncle Menashe’s Magic Challah, Albert’s Devil’s Food Cake, and even a variation of his father’s Health Bread. The recipes are all easy to follow and are accompanied by suggested musical pieces to fill the void space that always forms while waiting for the oven to finish baking. I tried two of the recipes myself and found myself eagerly waiting to taste the finished product as its aroma permeated my home. I must say the wait was well worth it. Both items were classic old-fashioned scrumptious baked goods with real butter and real sugar. There were no commercially produced lower fat items which we sometimes substitute in our cooking today. And perhaps because of this the end result was an experience of pure bliss in my palate.
So the next time you’re feeling nostalgic about your childhood years, pick up Marvin Korman’s In my Father’s Bakery and transport yourself back to a time when everything seemed possible. You may even discover a new favorite recipe to delight your friends and family. In the meantime, perhaps one of the two listed below will wet your appetite.
Albert’s Devil Food Cake
2 cups sugar (1 cup + 1 cup)
1 cup cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces (one stick) plus 2 tablespoons softened butter
2 eggs beaten
Handful of cornflake or pound-cake crumbs
One 9” x 5” x 4” loaf pan
1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) In a medium-sized bowl combine 1 cup of sugar and the cocoa with the buttermilk and the vanilla.
3) In another bowl combine the pastry flour, the baking soda and the salt.
4) In a large bowl, cream the butter, adding the remaining sugar and the beaten eggs. Beat all the ingredients thoroughly.
5) Combine everything in the large bowl, mixing thoroughly with a rubber spatula until the batter is completely smooth.
6) Grease the loaf pan with the remaining butter and sprinkle the sides with the crumbs. The batter should fill about 2/3 of the pan.
7) Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes.
(While you are waiting, turn on the Patti LuPone recording of the cast album of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” (RCA Victor) 51 minutes of glorious Porter.)
8) After 50 minutes or so, insert a sharp knife into the center of the loaf. If it comes out clean, the cake is finished. If some batter adheres to the knife, the cake requires additional baking.
9) When the cake is done, let is sit outside the oven in its pan for about ten minutes. Slide a dull knife around the sides of the pan before attempting to remove it. Turn out on a rack and cook.
Note: This cake is sweet enough without any frosting. But if you must, any standard prepared chocolate frosting should satisfy your craving.
Amelia Billingsley’s Chocolate Pudding
3 egg whites
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 cups milk
(1 plus 2 cups) cup sugar
Dash of salt
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1) In a small bowl (7 to 8 inches across), beat 2 egg whites until foamy and set aside.
2) In another bowl, combine the cocoa and the cornstarch. Pour 1 cup of milk into the cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.
3) In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk, sugar and salt. Mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
4) With a rubber spatula, combine the cocoa mixture with the milk mixture in the large saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for approximately two minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat.
5) Quickly pour about a cup of hot cocoa mixture into the reserved egg-whites and stir briskly, then pour this cocoa/egg-white mixture back into the saucepan.
6) Add the vanilla extract and cook over a medium to low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to bubble.
7) Quickly pour into six small serving dishes. Cool to room temperature, then place the dishes in the refrigerator for at least one hour, until the pudding sets.