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Baker: Share the fun of baking

By Staff | Jul 18, 2014

THE REWARDS OF kitchen success, said Tammy Back, left, are the smiles that come from others, including Emma Rae Luschen, with her father, Pete Luschen. Back provides baked goods for Emma Rae’s Restaurant, Merrill.

MERRILL – Tammy Back remembers being fascinated as a child growing up in Orange City watching her mother’s morning bread-making ritual.

“We never bought bread. It was always homemade,” Back said “Mother was what I’d call a huge bread-maker and pie-baker.”

Following in her mother’s footsteps her passion for baking includes bread, pies and desserts, plus teaching a cake decorating class for high-school aged students.

“They’re just awesome all the time,” said Susan Schneider, of Merrill, said of Back’s baked goods.

“I’d rather bake than anything else and could be in the kitchen 12 hours a day,” Back said.

Sometimes, she said, there 12-hour days as she bakes for her family and for the Merrill-based Emma Mae’s Restaurant, tucked into the north row of businesses along Main Street.

She also delivers fresh-baked items for community members who are ill or suffered a family death.

Back said it’s a matter of continuing what she learned as a child.

“We (herself, a sister and two brothers) were adopted and blessed to be picked by wonderful parents and in the atmosphere of a strong Christian home,” Back said. “If someone, a family member, friend or neighbor passed away we were taught to care and felt it our duty to see they had enough food to get them through the difficult time.”

Back said her daughter, Sarah, needed a stem cell transplant three years ago to combat cancer.

Back said she learned that time in the kitchen wasn’t just enjoyment, but therapy during her seven-month stay at the Gift of Cancer Center, in Rochester, Minn.

“Being with all the other caretakers at the center,” Back said, “and realizing what they were going through was the same with all of us.

“I felt, however, there was something I could do bake. So the next morning, there’d be something freshly baked for everyone.

“Doing this took a lot off my mind and became a special blessing to be able to do. We all realize that lots of things in life can happen, and you just have to trust in God and there’s always someone worse off than ourselves.”

Baking at Emma Mae’s Restaurant, Back said, is not unlike doing so for her own family. She said it gives the business a family atmosphere, encouraged by owner Pete Luschen, employees and customers.

If any of the daily made-fresh menu items remain at the end of the day are given to either regular customers or as food contributions for community benefits, Back said.

Back said she’s an avid collector of cookbooks with church cookbooks among her favorites.

Besides cheesecake, Back said, her favorite things to bake are pies like her mother used to make.

Back said she encourages others to bake and cook, discovering their “niche in the kitchen” and have fun doing it.

“You can’t become a good cook by putting pressure on yourself while doing it,” she said. “Not all my own things always come out right, or I’ll try someone else’s recipe and it never tastes the same.

“You have to be happy when you cook, to make it a satisfying experience and to make it fun,” Back said.

Seeing others enjoying what she does is part of the rewards, she said.

Pink lemonade no-back cheese cake

(To fill six pint-sized

canning jars)


2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons melted butter

Mix and place in bottom of six pint-size canning jars

Cheese cake mixture

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons regular sugar

1 8-ounce brick soft cream cheese

1 4.5-gram package lemonade

Pink food color (optional)

Combine in mixer heavy cream plus both sugars. Whisk on low till thickening, then high-mix until fluffy.

In separate bowl whip cream cheese till smooth (no chunks) then slowly add lemonade mix until combined.

Add cream cheese mixture to whip cream. Whisk on medium until combined and spoon into jars onto crust.

Chill 1 hour.

Rhubarb custard pie

Two unbaked pie crusts. Place one into pie pan.


4 cups chopped rhubarb

1 cup sugar

1 raw egg

1/2 cup flour

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

Mix above in large bowl and pour onto bottom crust. Place second crust on top and seal edges.

Rub top crust a thin layer of real mayonnaise and sprinkle sugar over the top to the pie’s edges.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Cover edges of pie with foil so they don’t burn.

Place pie on cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour.

Coconut cream pie

1 prepared baked crust


1 cup sugar

1/2 cup corn starch

3 egg yolks (save whites for topping)

Pinch of salt

3 cups milk (not skim)

2 tablespoons butter

Whisk above ingredients together and cook on medium heat until thickening begins. Stir constantly.

Remove from heat and mix in 2 tablespoons vanilla.

Add 1 cup of coconut and stir in. Pour into crust.

In mixing bowl whip egg whites on high until just beginning to form peaks.

Stop and add 1 tablespoon vanilla and 1/4 cup sugar.

Whip on high until thick. Spoon onto filling and spread to edges.

Bake at 350 degrees until just beginning to brown.

Cool before serving.

Rhubarb custard cake

1 yellow cake mix prepared according to package instructions.

Pour into greased 9-by-13-inch pan.

Sprinkle 5 cups fine chopped rhubarb over top of batter.

Sprinkle 1 cup sugar on top.

Evenly pour 2 cups whipping cream on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.

(Note: The cream and rhubarb will sink to bottom of cake to form the custard.)

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