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Families bond over baking at House of Bread (w/video)

By Elena Watts
July 26, 2014 at 2:26 a.m.
Updated July 27, 2014 at 2:27 a.m.

Jennifer Nichols, left, helps her daughter Cora Nichols, 5, pour butter onto their dough during a baking class  at House of Bread on Saturday. Jennifer Nichols' father and Cora's grandfather, Tom Fitzwilliam, who is the franchise owner of the Victoria bakery. Classes on how to bake breads ranging from flat breads to sweets to artisan breads are offered on Saturdays and Tuesdays at the bakery.

Abby Huddleston, 13, scooped, measured and mixed ingredients in a red bowl with her mother, Monica Huddleston, 53. They were two of seven who gathered around a wooden table in the back of House of Bread for a baking lesson Saturday.

The parent-child class focused on baked goods made from grandma's white dough, a recipe created by national franchise owner Sheila McCann's grandmother.

"It's the best white bread you've ever eaten," said Jenna Farthing, head baker for House of Bread. "It feels dense but melts in your mouth."

The menu for the three-hour afternoon lesson included cinnamon rolls, pretzels and bread shaped like turtles, bunnies and initials.

Abby grew up baking cookies and cakes with her grandmother and her great-grandmother, and she looked forward to baking pretzels for the first time in class.

"This is a great opportunity for kids to be involved with their parents in a good learning experience," Monica Huddleston said.

Virginia Joost's 8-year-old grandson, Jackson Edwards, was visiting from The Woodlands. She brought him to the class because they "like to get in the kitchen and cook."

Jackson said he looked forward to eating the goodies.

Joe Slavik, 70, attended the class alone.

"You're never too old to learn," Slavik said. "I tried to bake at home and decided to get a professional opinion."

The daughter and granddaughter of the Victoria franchise owner also attended the class. Jennifer Nichols, 34, brought Cora Nichols, 5, to spend some quality time together. Mixing the ingredients together with her hands was Cora's favorite part of the process.

Tom Fitzwilliam, 58, opened the bakery and cafe in October 2013. He wanted to use his culinary background after his retirement from Red Lobster Seafood Restaurants, which he managed in Houston and Victoria for 22 years.

"There are no chemicals in any of our products," Fitzwilliam said. "You can pronounce every ingredient."

House of Bread uses only natural ingredients, such as cold-ground flour and honey.

Heat used during the traditional seed-grinding process depletes the flour of nutrients, Fitzwilliam said.

Honey sweetens and preserves the products instead of low-fructose corn syrup, which is found in most grocery store products, he said.

Baking begins at 3 a.m. every day to prepare for breakfast and lunch. Pastries include muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls and breakfast baguettes.

"People buy challah bread to make French toast casserole," Farthing said. "It's slightly sweet and the perfect thickness."

Squaw, jalapeno jack, sourdough and honey whole wheat are also popular breads.

The Western sandwich, with roast beef and horseradish sauce, tastes great on the nutty and sweet squaw bread, Fitzwilliam said.

The cafe serves a variety of sandwiches, soups and salads with homemade dressings.

The original House of Bread opened in San Luis Obispo, Calif., in 1996. The Victoria franchise is one of eight and the only one in Texas.

Farthing always wanted to work in a bakery because the routine relaxes her.

"No matter what's happening in life," Farthing said, "when you mix flour, butter, sugar, eggs and baking soda, you always get cookies."



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