Fort Mill Times

Miss Mattox’s braided loaf is a no-brainer

Just because I like to cook, people assume that baking is one of my specialties. They’re wrong.

Baking requires exact measurements of ingredients or the recipe is ruined. Exact measurements sometime require simple math skills when doubling or dividing a recipe. It’s a widely known that I have no math skills. None.

I distinctly remember the exact moment when I lost touch with math. It was in Miss Mattox’s sixth period algebra class at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School. Miss Mattox wrote the letter X on the blackboard. Then she wrote the letter Y. When letters replaced numbers, things went downhill in a hurry.

From that moment I was doomed to years in summer school taking remedial math classes with the football team to pass.

College math was no different. There was still an unknown factor that eluded me. Much to everyone’s surprise (including mine), after four years I got enough math credits to graduate and moved on to my post math life.

I am happy to report that I have never needed to find X or Y in the real world, nor have I heard of anyone who was looking for them.

All was going smoothly until I tried to bake something. Suddenly I needed to know what half of 2/3 was to cut down a recipe. This was not good. Where was Miss Mattox when I needed her?

You’ll be glad to know that I used common sense instead of math to solve this problem. I just eyeballed the measuring cup until it looked like half the amount and it worked just fine. That’s my method and I’m sticking to it.

My mother inadvertently solved my baking problem. On a trip home to visit my parents, mother baked a fresh loaf of bread for dinner. It was hot, golden, and delicious. I was duly impressed and told her so. She laughed and shared her secret. The loaf was made from frozen bread dough. She hadn’t mixed or measured anything. This was an ah ha moment for me. Thus began the bread baking stage of my life.

My favorite recipe transforms a humble loaf of bread into a beautiful braided loaf with some surprise ingredients baked inside. You’re going to just love it.

If you don’t have frozen dough, don’t worry about it. Plan B is only as far away as the boxed mixes in the baking aisle. I know it well.

Editor’s note: After 10 years and more than 100 columns, this is Joy Smith’s final column. She has shared every special recipe in her card file and is now working on publishing a collection of recipes and stories. She thanks all her readers and said she hopes everyone who has tried the recipes enjoyed them as much as she does.

Joy Smith is a retired English teacher and a resident of Fort Mill. You can email her at