After 10 years of collecting blue ribbons for her volunteer efforts, Sally Neill stepped out in a new direction.
Neill began collecting prize-winning comments for her baked goods.Baking was all part of a master plan to launch a midlife change of pace for the Ogden registered nurse.
"My boys were older and I was ready for a challenge," Neill admitted. "I wanted to do something I'd never done before."
Neill, not content with a simple cooking project, jumped into into the establishment of the Wildflour Bakery, a specialty baked goods, luncheon and catering service located on Harrison Boulevard in Ogden.
She jumped in - and surfaced - armed with 18 months of intensive research and business planning.
"I knew how to go about community projects after 10 years of working with the Junior League," the chef explained, "I knew how to plan and follow through. The League experience gave me the confidence to try other things."
Other things like baking - an abrupt departure from training as a nurse.
Neill tackled her new project with diligence and attention to minute detail.
"I started with cookbooks. I read everything I could get hold of, covering immense amounts of information. Then I attended a small business seminar, developed a business plan and began to bake."
Baked goods left Neill's kitchen for testing in neighbor's homes.
Filled with second thoughts about her commitment to the bakery project, Neill wavered, but her neighbors didn't.
"Everyone encouraged me, but I finally had to decide if I really wanted to open the bakery. I really did; it was my first choice of things to do."
After she selected a location, Neill cut scale models of equipment and juggled the bakery floor plan again and again.
"I had to get the people and the machines in the right place," she said.
After five years, the customers know the right place, and a legitimate pastry chef has emerged.
And Neill thrives on the success she so carefully orchestrated but continues her research.
"I've taken a couple of classes. I read magazines from cover to cover to get ideas."
Ideas that work in Ogden, like specialty sugar cookies, for example.
"We had a Santa shape that we decorated for the holidays, then turned into Charlie Chaplin for the Sundance Film Festival in January. The cutter was so versatile, we even created a Saddam Hussein `eat `imalive' camouflage cookie," Neill explained.
Neill has discovered contentment in the creation of cheesecakes, tortes, breads, fritattas and all kinds of cookies. She still enjoys a jaunt through the Ogden Nature Center, the final volunteer commitment on the baker's agenda, but the hike now feels incomplete without a dessert in hand.
In fact, Neill donated tables full of dessserts to the Center's annual benefit.
There's no better way to describe the baker - a blend of the world of nature with the ingredient flour - The Wildflour.
Savory Cheese Calzones
2 cups chopped leeks
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon black Russian caraway, optional
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 pound ricotta cheese
1/2 cup chopped black olives
1/2 cup chopped dried tomatoes
Fresh ground pepper
Melt butter; saute leeks, garlic, and seasonings; transfer to a bowl. Combine other ingredients with leek mixture, using only enough sour cream to bind filling together. Makes 8.
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
2-plus cups bread flour
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon water
Dissolve yeast in water; let stand 5 minutes. Add flour and mix, kneading in enough additional flour to make a soft, not sticky dough. Cover and let rise until double in bulk.
Add olive oil, 1/2 cup water and salt to dough. Mix and knead, adding flour to make a firm, moist, but not sticky dough.
Divide dough into 8 equal parts. Form each into a round ball; cover with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes. Roll each to a 5- to 6-inch diameter circle. Brush the edge of half the circle with water. Scoop approximately 1/3 cup of filling to into the center of each round. Pull top over, press edges together and seal. Gently flatten each semi-circle; brush with egg wash and snip one hole in the top of each with scissors, allowing steam to escape while baking.
Bake on parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheets at 375 degrees until lightly browned, about 30-40 minutes. Serve warm. Can be frozen and reheated in oven or microwave.
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 cup onions, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 can (18 oz.) canned tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup warm water
2 1/2 tablespoons salt
10-plus cups bread flour
Dissolve yeast in water and let stand 5 minutes until bubbles form.
Combine all of the ingredients with the dissolved yeast in a large bowl. Add enough flour to make a sticky dough. Turn out onto floured surface and knead for 20 minutes, adding additional flour to make a moist but firm elastic dough, not sticky. Let dough rise in greased and covered bowl until doubled in volume. Punch down, cover and let rise again. When doubled, turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Divide into thirds and form loaves. Place each in an oiled 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Cover and let rise until 1 inch above the pan top. Bake at 375 degrees about 30-40 minutes or until it tests done. Turn loaves onto wire racks to cool. Makes 3 loaves.
1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine, melted
9 cups miniature marshmallows
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup creme de menthe or 1-1 1/2 teaspoons mint extract and 1/2 teaspoon green food coloring
2 1/2 tablespoons creme de cacao, optional
2 2/3 cups heavy cream, whipped
Combine graham crackers, cocoa, flour and sugar in a food processor. Add melted margarine and blend. Press evenly on sides and bottom of ungreased 10-inch springform pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees; cool.
For filling, over low heat, melt marshmallows with milk, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, blend in flavorings and cool to room temperature. (If mint extract and food coloring is substituted for creme de menthe, increase milk to 1/2 cup.) Fold in whipped cream. Pour into crust and chill until firm. Garnish with chocolate shavings. May be made ahead and frozen. Makes 12 servings.