Fox Valley Cooks: Amy Webb, Batavia
By Judy Buchenot For The Beacon-News February 13, 2013 4:18PM
Amy Webb measures out all her ingredients before starting to mix a batch of pumpkin bread.
1 cup canned 100 percent pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups flour
Mix pumpkin, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, and blend. Add flour and mix just until blended. Spread batter into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan that has been lightly sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake loaf at 350 degrees for one hour or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly and then remove from pan.
Updated: March 16, 2013 6:17AM
Amy Webb’s friends often call her Amy Crocker since they think her superior baking skills put her in the same league as the recipe icon, Betty Crocker.
The 41-year-old Batavia mother enjoys spending time in the kitchen making things for others.
When she moved into her home 10 years ago, she baked 13 loaves of her famous pumpkin bread to take to her new neighbors as a way to introduce herself. She also freely shares her crispy-on-the outside-but-soft-in-the-middle chocolate chip cookies with the clients and staff at Zano’s Salon and Day Spa in Batavia where she is the front desk manager.
Friends often ask Webb for her secrets since they can’t produce the same result when they use the same recipe. Perhaps the secret is Webb’s attitude about time in the kitchen.
“I set aside the time to really focus on making something,” Webb says.
She never tries to hurry the process, even if it means zesting several lemons and then extracting the juice for her lemony Italian Knot Cookies, or baking and pureeing pie pumpkins for her pumpkin bread. Quality ingredients are very important to her as she bakes.
Webb also carefully pre-measures every ingredient into prep bowls before mixing any thing.
“That way if the phone rings or my son needs something or there is some other distraction, I can remember what still needs to go into the mixture,” she says.
She began doing this after a difficult experience.
“One year I was helping my sister-in-law bake while I was making pumpkin pies,” she says. “I somehow forgot to put in the sugar. The pies were awful and everyone remembers it. The family joke is to always say ‘Amy, don’t forget to put the sugar in.’”
Webb admits that she really does have a secret ingredient.
“I guess the No. 1 ingredient in every thing I make is love,” she explains.
She feels blessed with the ability to make something wholesome and delicious that others will love. Baking and cooking for others is part of her family tradition.
“My grandma Arterburn cooked for us for years at her home in Oswego. She would make a meal for 30 and then also bake everyone’s personal favorite. Whenever I would go to see her, she would make me my favorite pumpkin bread,” says Webb, who has to pause to wipe away a tear as she remembers her grandmother. “She always wore a charm bracelet that had charms for each grandchild. When she passed away, we each got our favorite recipe and our charm from her bracelet.”
Webb’s charm is a silhouette of a young girl that was engraved with her name. The surface of the charm is worn from her grandmother rubbing the charm when she thought of her little Amy Ann. Webb added the well-worn charm to her own bracelet and wears it whenever she bakes.
“When the family gets together, all the women are wearing their charm bracelets,” she says.
Webb has a copy of the pumpkin bread recipe handwritten by her grandmother stored safely away to preserve it. She knows the recipe by heart and wants to keep it a family secret. This original recipe involves many hours of preparation, including baking, peeling and pureeing pie pumpkins. The recipe makes three loaves, which is often more than one family can eat, so Webb has shared a simpler version for one loaf.