Read How to Bake a Perfect Life Online

Authors: Barbara O'Neal

Tags: #Women - Conduct of Life, #Conduct of life, #Contemporary Women, #Parenting, #General, #Family & Relationships, #Mothers and Daughters, #Fiction, #Domestic fiction, #Women

How to Bake a Perfect Life

BOOK: How to Bake a Perfect Life
Praise of the Novels of Barbara O’Neal
The Lost Recipe for Happiness
“The Lost Recipe for Happiness
is a delectable banquet for the reader.… This book is as delicious as the recipes interspersed throughout an unforgettable story.”
New York Times
bestselling author
Lost Recipe for Happiness
is utterly magical and fantastically sensual. It’s as dark and deep and sweet as chocolate. I want to live in this book.… A total triumph.”
New York Times
bestselling author
“Beautiful writing, good storytelling and an endearing heroine set against the backdrop of Aspen, Colorado, are highlights of O’Neal’s novel. A tale that intertwines food, friendship, passion and love in such a delectable mix is one to truly savor until the very last page.”

Romantic Times
“Will appeal to women’s fiction fans and foodies, who will enjoy the intriguing recipes … laced through the book.”

St. Petersburg Times
The Secret of Everything
“O’Neal has created a powerful and intriguing story rich in detailed and vivid descriptions of the Southwest.”

“Readers will identify with this story and the multilayered characters.… And with some of the tantalizing recipes for dishes served at the 100 Breakfasts Café included, O’Neal provides a feast not only for the imagination but the taste buds as well.”

Romantic Times
“Barbara O’Neal has masterfully woven local culture, the beauty of nature, her love of food and restaurants, and a little romance into this magnificent novel.”
—Fresh Fiction


The Lost Recipe for Happiness

The Secret of Everything

How to Bake a Perfect Life

How to Bake a Perfect Life
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

2011 Bantam Books Trade Paperback Original

Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Samuel

All rights reserved.

Cover design: Brigid Pearson

Cover images: © Freegine/Alamy (woman), © Joanna Totolici/Getty Images (dog)

Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

BANTAM BOOKS is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc., and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

O’Neal, Barbara
How to bake a perfect life : a novel / Barbara O’Neal.
p. cm.
eISBN: 978-0-553-90816-9
1. Mothers and daughters—Fiction     2. Parenting—Fiction. 3. Women—Conduct of life—Fiction.     4. Domestic fiction.     I. Title.
PS3573.I485H69 2011
813′.54—dc22                2010033811


For my mother, Rosalie Hair
who is
of the mothers in this book
Well, except for maybe that earring thing


As always, a zillion people helped with this book. Many, many thanks to my sister Cathy Stroo, who helps me with medical knowledge on nearly every book, and this time helped me understand the struggles of burn patients. For help with the process of how wounded soldiers are moved through the hospital system, I’m extremely grateful to MaryAnn Phillips, who heads up the volunteer organization Soldiers’ Angels (
), a valuable and devoted group who serve soldiers and their families at one of the worst times in a soldier’s life. All mistakes or missteps are entirely my own. Thanks also to Terence.
Muchas gracias
, my friend.

My grandmother Madoline O’Neal Putman, and the late great Merlin Murphy O’Hare kept me company all through the writing of this book. Miss you both lots and lots.

And, as ever, thanks to Christopher Robin, who tastes everything even if he is sure he won’t like it.



Praise of the Novels of Barbara O’Neal

Other Books by This Author

Title Page




Step One - Starter

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve

Step Two - Ingredients

Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen

Step Three - Knead and Set in a Warm Place to Rise

Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Twenty-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two

Step Four - Punch It Down

Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine
Chapter Forty
Chapter Forty-One
Chapter Forty-Two
Chapter Forty-Three
Chapter Forty-Four
Chapter Forty-Five
Chapter Forty-Six
Chapter Forty-Seven
Chapter Forty-Eight
Chapter Forty-Nine
Chapter Fifty
Chapter Fifty-One
Chapter Fifty-Two
Chapter Fifty-Three
Chapter Fifty-Four
Chapter Fifty-Five
Chapter Fifty-Six
Chapter Fifty-Seven
Chapter Fifty-Eight
Chapter Fifty-Nine
Chapter Sixty
Chapter Sixty-One
Chapter Sixty-Two
Chapter Sixty-Three

Step Five - Bake

Chapter Sixty-Four

About the Author

Sourdough starter—or mother dough, as it is known—is made from wild yeast that lives invisibly in the air. Each sponge is different, according to the location where it is born, the weather, the time of its inception, and the ingredients used to create it. A mother dough can live for generations if properly tended and will shift and grow and transform with time, ingredients, and the habits of the tender
The Boudin mother dough used to create the famously sour San Francisco bread was already fifty years old when it was saved from the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 by Louise Boudin, who carried the mother dough to Golden Gate Park in a wooden bucket. There it was packed in ice and used to make bread daily until a new bakery could be built at its current location. The mother dough, now more than 150 years old, is stored in a vault, “like a wild beast,” and bread is made from it every day

hen the phone call that we have been dreading comes, my daughter and I are gathered around the center island of my bakery kitchen. Sofia is leafing through a magazine, the slippery pages floating down languidly, one after the next.

I am experimenting with a new sourdough starter in an attempt to reproduce a black bread I tasted at a bakery in Denver a couple of weeks ago. This is not my own, treasured starter, handed down from my grandmother Adelaide’s line and known to be more than a hundred years old. That “mother dough,” as it is called, has won my breads some fame, and I guard it jealously.

This new starter has been brewing for nearly ten days. I began with boiled potatoes mashed in their water then set aside in a warm spot. Once the starter began to brew and grow, I fed it daily with rye flour, a little whole wheat and malt sugar, and let it ferment.

On this languid May afternoon, I hold the jar up to examine it. The sponge is alive and sturdy, bubbling with cultures. A thick layer of dark brown hooch, the liquid alcohol generated by the dough, stands on top. When I pull loose wrap off the top of the bottle and stick my nose in, it is agreeably, deeply sour.
I shake the starter, stick my pinkie finger in, taste it. “Mmm. Perfect.”

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