{Book Review} The Bakery Girls

Reading The Bakery Girls by Florence Ditlow made me insanely hungry. The book chronicles the lives of three sisters and how they grew up in their fathers bakery in Pennsylvania. The book is loosely based on Florence’s own family. Knowing the essence of the book is true makes it all the more  fascinating!

I enjoyed reading about the sisters and their lives and their relationships. How they both love and loathe the bakery in their own ways. It was interesting to read how the technology changed through the course of the book to what is modern day baking.  I also enjoyed, of course, the baking analogies. “the hand of God reached him. Somehow, someway, the cows’ butter, the bees’ honey transcribed how God wanted Floyd Stitt to make wedding cakes, and cake were born in ovens, and ovens lived in bakeries”.

When entrepreneurial Floyd Stitt opens a bakery in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1908, his timing is perfect. Barely emancipated women eagerly buy his delicious bread, cakes and pies and Stitt’s Bakery flourishes. Growing up surrounded by flour and sugar, Stitt’s three attractive daughters have the bakery in their blood. Artistic Dot, enigmatic Louise and problem-solving Elaine come of age in the Depression and see the men they love to war while they continue baking and selling bread on the home front. With meticulous attention to historical detail, The Bakery Girls chronicles three memorable decades from the perspective of three remarkable sisters who understand the big difference a little sugar can make in good times and bad.

Reading the book the essence of American baking hasn’t changed much at all. The Stitt Bakery “crumb crew” makes “Sunshine” yellow cake and sticky buns (Pennsylvania’s contribution to world cuisine), baguettes, black walnut cake, strawberry cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, miniature desserts, cookies, cream puffs, sticky buns, devil’s food cake, apple pie, cherry pie, red velvet cake and chocolate cocktails to name a few!

The book covers a lot of ground starting off when President Taft was in office, through to the invention of the electric toaster, parchment paper and ends sometime after World War II. The one thing that I found hard to believe was that in their youth none of the girls learned how to bake. There was an interest in the business side but only towards the end of the book did any of the girls want to learn how to bake.

I think this was a great selection for this month’s book club. It’s fairly long but I loved reading about life in the family bakery and a glance back in time to what it used to be like living in America.

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2 Comments

  1. The book, though interesting, is partly fiction. Some facts have been embellished. My mother in law is “Elaine” (not her real name), and INDEED, she knows how to cook and bake! The other two Stitt sisters, have sadly passed on. It is an interesting story of a time that has gone by…..

  2. Hi Kelly,
    Thanks for your creative work, from your imaginative site to these mouth watering recipes. I confess I’m a foodie; and want to do it while preserving my health.
    I wrote about the actual Stitt sisters in “The Bakery Girls.” The history and their path is accurate; the fiction is the dialog plus composite scenes I created so as to keep readers amused.
    Kelly absorbed the sensual aroma of warming chocolate and the holey heat of bread’s “crumb” texture when baked in smaller ovens. She knows how pie crust absorbs cherry juice and how you never lose the delight of a birthday cake.
    My heroines survived the pain of the Great Depression and wars by selling darn good commercial baked goodies. I was a teen sales person there, when small shops were over run by the mega bakeries.
    I encourage your readers to bake! Show children how to perform magic in your kitchens along with hearty memories and knowing nutritive options.
    There is Bundy Bakery Museum in Urbana, Ohio, a place that preserved everything from flour sacks to horse drawn wagons. An eye opening collection you may view as video, by searching Bundy Baking Museum.

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