by Shawn Erin
Tom Snyder is a family man. When asked a question about time, Snyder replies "Well, I married my wife 45 years ago, so it must have been..."
Baking, consequently, came before his wife, Lynne, by about five years. He was only making the sweet stuff then. "I didn't make fresh baked bread at the time, I mainly made desserts; I'm a dessert person," Snyder said. He started just like his mother, who always made dessert before the meal.
Snyder said that although baking helped a little with the wooing of his would-be wife, he started baking because he likes to eat. And eat well.
Eating well to Snyder means eating fresh, healthy, whole grain, homemade food. "I think we (his family) are ahead of the curve. We are into the whole fermentation thing...kefir, kombucha... and I tend to stay away from processed food," he explained. The benefits of making one's own food is immense, he said. "I firmly believe you can eat anything you want, as long as you make it yourself..." which to him means you can eat pie everyday if it's homemade, without the extreme health problems he sees many people face today due partially to what he thinks is the tendency to eat processed food. Tom Snyder enjoys better flavor and what he believes is a healthier life for him and his family through his baking.
The Snyders enjoy retirement, the slow pace of life, cooking and baking. Although they have been baking bread for years, through careers and while raising their daughter, Tom said it is much easier now that they are retired and have more time. He said with the added steps of fermentation and soaking grains more thoughtful planning must go into the process of his baking.
The same eat well/eat healthy mantra inspired the Snyders to begin grinding their own flour 30 years ago, to never use white flour, to option away from more glutenous grains more than 25 years ago, and to begin soaking the fresh ground flour overnight (for digestion) in the last few years.
When Lynne Snyder learned she was allergic to gluten the couple switched to low-gluten products and discovered Lentz Spelt grains at Bear Foods Store in Chelan, Wash. After a year of traveling more than an hour for the grains, the Snyders learned that Lentz Spelt Farms had a distribution center in their hometown of Quincy, and began buying the grain in bulk 50 pound bags.
One bag lasts them six to eight months, the baker said.
The technique and recipe have stayed consistent, if not precise, through the years. Tom Snyder refers to himself as a "bucket baker" who tosses in a bit of this and a pinch of that.
His basic recipe, from an unremembered source is:
1 Tablespoon dry yeast
3 Cups flour
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Cup water
and a bit of sugar.
Add water to fresh ground flour the night before baking. Kombucha may be used as a substitute. Sugar can be added in the form of granulated sugar, honey or maple syrup.
Sugar helps yeast rise, Snyder said, and one could also substitute vitamin C to get a similar effect. The man's mixing is done in a trusty Bosch Bread Maker and then taken out to be formed into the desired loaf. The mixer helps work the whole grains into a fluffier loaf, which saved the Snyders' daughter much chagrin in elementary school. "My daughter's lunches always had funny looking bread compared to the other kids," before the bread machine, Snyder said.
Recently Lynne Snyder was cruising around Lentz' website and discovered Einkorn, a grain with almost no gluten in it, and changed the Snyders' baking again.
The switch has been gradual, as the new grain does not form the same as spelt. Once ground, the Einkorn grain becomes fine like a pastry flour, and if mixed too long becomes very sticky and hard to work with, Tom Snyder said. So he is back to hand-kneading. The family just finished their first 25 pound bag of the new grain, which lasted them about 8 months.
The Synders enjoy the flavor change, which was described as "nutty" and "distinct."
Like many of his baking adventures, the good husband is taking on new challenges thanks to his wife's insistence: using weights.
"We are trying to make a transition to weight because everything she reads says you should be weighing it," Tom Snyder said, whose aforementioned bucket baker tendencies are counter-intuitive to the process.
However, those tendencies have helped keep his family, coworkers and neighbors happy around the holidays, when the baker is most busy making his notorious braided bread, full of dried apricots and raisins, and cinnamon rolls. Partly due to the distinct flavors of his home-ground alternative-grain flour, Tom Snyder said his baked goods have grown a loyal audience, who this year enjoyed the addition of Einkorn flour, thanks to his wife.