Loafing around Take It Easy with Quick Bread Recipes from Retired Baker Daniel Riordan

By Stokes, Ellen | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 22, 1997 | Go to article overview

Loafing around Take It Easy with Quick Bread Recipes from Retired Baker Daniel Riordan


Stokes, Ellen, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


FOR ME, fall arrived the moment I spied caramel apples for sale. Tart, crisp fruit dunked and swirled in rich, buttery candy - so good, the greedy bees must especially anticipate the leftovers.

But one St. Louisan puts a different spin on caramel apples. Instead of putting them on the end of a stick, he puts them into bread.

"Quick breads are my specialty," says Daniel Riordan, a retired baker. "Brown sugar pumpkin pecan bread, blue-bana bread, apple orange-nut bread, strawberry-nut bread, taffy apple bread - quick breads like those." When he is isn't baking, Riordan spends hours volunteering, mainly at the Scholarshop, a clothing resale shop at 8221 Clayton Road in Richmond Heights. The shop is the main source of income for a charitable foundation that provides interest-free student loans. Since the foundation's inception, it has lent about $16 million to local students. Riordan's volunteer work is a way of saying thanks. "It's just a little payback for their helping one of my nephews with college funding," he says. "And it gets me out of the house, too." Scholarshop volunteers Karen Tullmann and Julie Marsh say they look forward to Thursdays because that's when they work with Riordan - who often brings homemade bread to share with his coworkers. "I like to tell Daniel that I can never figure out which of his breads is the best, so he's just going to have to keep bringing in more of each until I can decide!" declares Marsh, her eyes twinkling. Riordan's career as a baker began more than 50 years ago, with interruptions for stints in a Trappist monastery and as a truck driver. A graduate of Webster Groves High School, he enlisted in the Navy in 1946 and was sent to baking and cooking school in San Diego. His next stop was the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va. "I baked cakes, Danish pastries, loaves of bread - so many, I can't even remember," he says. After his tour of duty ended, Riordan returned to St. Louis. He entered St. Louis University night school to study finance and commerce, figuring that's where the real dough was. During the day, he continued to bake loaves of bread - for Anheuser-Busch. These loaves didn't find their way to the company cafeteria, though. At that time, the brewery also sold bakers' yeast, and Riordan's job was to see how its product compared with yeast made by competitions'. After a while, Riordan decided to quit school and return to more traditional baking. To begin an apprentice baker's program at the old Schattgen's Bakery, he had to start baking from scratch again. "Forget everything you learned in the Navy," he was told. "We don't do it that way here." By 6 each morning, Riordan was at work slicing loaves of bread, cutting out doughnuts and forming Danish pastries. His 2-year apprenticeship was topped off by more training in Minneapolis and a cake-decorating school in Chicago. Back in St. Louis, he worked for two small bakeries, then took a job running the Rock Island Railroad's bakery. In 1956, Riordan joined the Trappists as a novice monk and moved to the newly established Assumption Abbey in Ava, Mo. These days, the abbey has the distinction of baking and selling a divine fruitcake. But during Riordan's brief stint at the monastery, the monks weren't yet in the fruitcake business, so his baking skills went untapped. Riordan returned to secular life and went to work decorating cakes at Warner-Noll Bakery in Hampton Village and, later, Haas Bakery. But after a few years, he moved on to other things, mainly driving a truck for a plumbing-supply business. Though retired for the past five years, Riordan is seldom idle. When he's not volunteering, he likes to get together with his sister and her large family for a home-cooked meal. Riordan wouldn't think of showing up empty-handed, whether it be with the Thanksgiving turkey or one of his special quick breads. "You can never tell who might come by, but it's never just a few," he says. …

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