Tag Archives: Auburn University

Shashy’s Bakery, Montgomery, AL

Fruit pies, cinnamon rolls, cheese biscuits and even Fried Green Tomatoes Eggs Benedict please bakery fans in Alabama’s capital city.

story & photos by Bakery Boy

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A retro-cool sign marks the spot

People line up at the showcases, waiting to point out which sweets they want boxed to go. They fill a couple of dozen tables steadily from breakfast time through lunch. They sometimes spot owner Jimmy Shashy darting around in back, keeping the baked goods coming at Shashy’s Bakery & Fine Foods.

A few know Jimmy pretty well from his 21 years at the same venerable location in the Mulberry Business District of Montgomery, Alabama. Many others are most likely unaware of just how diversified a character he really is.

Jimmy Shashy comes from a family of medical professionals, a clan of doctors and surgeons based in Montgomery and Birmingham, so he can talk medicine with ease. He studied English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, so he can get the grammar right (when he wants to) in his Alabama country-boy accent.

Jimmy Shashy with a cream pie

He also holds a degree in wildlife science from Auburn University, knowledge he puts to use managing deer and turkey populations on about 1,200 rural acres his father maintains in part for hunting in nearby Lowndes County. Jimmy is a devoted vegetable farmer too, tending produce that as often as not end up on plates at his popular bakery and café.

Shashy's Cream Cheese Melt-aways

Shashy’s Chocolate Walnut Brownies

Despite such renaissance-man leanings, Jimmy is first and foremost a baker. “When I didn’t show an interest in following most of my family into the medical field,” the Montgomery native says, “my mother suggested I go up to Birmingham and learn about baking from my cousin, Van Scott, who later bought Savage’s Bakery in Homewood and still runs it to this day.” (Click here for a separate Bakery Boy Blog post about Savage’s). “We both worked at Waite’s, a bakery that’s long gone now. I spent a few year waiting tables, cooking, and baking. Then I moved back home to run a Montgomery bakery that’s also gone, and in 1990 I opened Shashy’s Bakery & Fine Foods.”  

Pie ladies (from left) Lacy, Bro, and Brandi with Cherry, Chocolate Cream, and Pecan Pies

Baked goods run a wide gamut at Shashy’s. Beautiful, rich pies fill a large section of the showcases, including cherry, pecan, chocolate cream, coconut cream, key lime and other selections ($10.95 to $18.95 whole, $3.95 by the slice). Layer cakes stacked three or four layers high—usually by Jimmy himself, since that’s one of his specialties—include red velvet, carrot, lemon-orange, chocolate (starting at $24.99) and a terrific strawberry cake made with locally grown berries ($32.99).

Shashy's Thumbprint Cookies

Shashy's Cinnamon Raisin Buns

There are also frosting-topped thumbprint cookies on pecan shortbread (70¢), oatmeal-raisin cookies (75¢), cinnamon raisin buns (95¢), cream cheese and cherry Danish ($1.75), petit fours ($1.25), mini bonbons comprised of little chocolate cakes covered with butter cream and chocolate icing ($1.75), and a variety of thick brownies. Breads range from rectangular white, whole wheat, and rye loaves ($3.95) sliced for sandwich-making, to Parker House rolls ($6 a dozen), to awesome cheese biscuits (65¢ for a mini, $1.40 for one the size of a hamburger bun) that are earning Shashy’s a wider circle of fans.

Shashy's Fried Green Tomatoes Eggs Benedict

The “fine foods” part of the name Shashy’s Bakery & Fine Foods packs quite a few surprises. None is more interesting and tasty than the locally famous Fried Green Tomatoes Eggs Benedict ($9.95) served on Saturdays. It involves slices of green tomato dipped in a tempura batter and fried, topped with sliced bacon, poached eggs, and a very lemony hollandaise sauce, and served with orange slices and a toasted English muffin. I recently paired this phenomenon with a buttery bowl of grits on the side and an endless cup of coffee for the best brunch I’ve eaten in years. Intriguing variations worth considering: Corned Beef Hash Benedict and Filet of Beef Tenderloin Benedict.

Shashy's Cream Cheese and Cherry Danish

The café serves omelets, pancakes, French toast, and home-fried potatoes for breakfast, then deli-meat sandwiches, shrimp po’ boys, turkey club croissants, burgers, catfish, grilled Reuben sandwiches, curried chicken salad and more for lunch.

Lebanese dishes such as hummus tahini, baked kibbeh, and rolled grape leaves pop up frequently (the family name Shashy comes from his grandparents, natives of neighboring Syria). On Thursdays he makes chicken shacree, a combination of yogurt, onions, mint and braised garbanzo beans that goes well with his taboulleh and hummus.

Shashy's pie case

“I also make Louisiana Cajun-style gumbo, etouffee, and barbecued shrimp, Lowcountry Charleston sauté, and other dishes just because that’s what I like to eat,” Jimmy says.

He’s obsessed with freshness. “I go three times a week to the local farmers market, the Montgomery Curb Market, to pick up silver corn, onions, cantaloupe and blueberries in summer, or collards, turnip greens and rutabaga in winter—whatever looks good at the time—and work it into the menu.”

That devotion to freshness led Jimmy into vegetable farming as a sideline. “I work here at the bakery all morning, leave at about 3 in the afternoon, go down to the farm and put in another 4 or 5 hours tending my vegetables,” he says. “I’m growing the squash, okra, eggplant and a lot of the other produce we serve in the café.”

The one aspect of his story that seems most out of place is the wildlife science part, which he explains it in midlife crisis terms. “There I was, turning 40 and I’d already been in the food business for half my life,” he says. “Early on I’d thought about a career in wildlife biology or something like that, and I knew I wouldn’t be content until I got the degree I’d always wanted. So I kept running the bakery as always and took courses at Auburn whenever I could squeeze them in until I finally got it. I don’t suppose I’ll ever use that degree for anything other that managing my family’s land, but I get a great sense of satisfaction out of just having followed through.”

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Shashy’s Bakery & Fine Foods

1700 Mulberry Street

Montgomery, AL 36106

334-263-7341

no website, but click here for  Shashy’s Facebook Page

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For more about visiting Montgomery: visitingmontgomery.com

For more about visiting Alabama: www.alabama.travel

Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert

The down-home baker known simply as “Sister,” whose irresistible yeast rolls are legendary in the South, shares recipes and her inspiring story in her cookbook, Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters.

by Bakery Boy

I’ve been eating Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls for many years and for several reasons:

• Because they consistently taste terrific, from buttery to sweet to savory ends of the brown-and-serve spectrum.

• Because they’re as easy as picking up pans from the grocer’s freezer case and popping them in the oven for 20 minutes.

• Because Sister Schubert, a fine southern lady from the heart of Alabama, supports worthy charities through a foundation she created when her bread business grew from a home kitchen project into a nationwide juggernaut.

• And because I met her recently at a book signing and learned first-hand that she’s genuine “good people,” as we say down south without fretting the grammar.

THERE’S A BOOK? That there even was a book signing to attend, and thus a book, set off bells in my bakery-obsessed mind. I thought, if Sister Schubert has a cookbook out, I can make my own Parker House rolls, cinnamon rolls, buttermilk biscuits, orange rolls, and sausage wrap rolls, just like hers.

I got a copy of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters—Recipes for Success, Cooking & Living, and sure enough recipes for some if not all my favorite Sister rolls are included, plus many more unrelated to her frozen-rolls empire. I baked several items before going to meet her, glad to add new recipes and techniques to my personal arsenal.

Even with her book in hand, I will continue picking up store-bought Sister Schubert pans. Partly because making any kind of bread at home is very time consuming. Partly because it’s just too easy, at the supermarket, to grab those green-striped packages with Sister’s smiling face on them and know that at least that part of tonight’s dinner is taken care of.

Everlasting Rolls based on her grandmother's launched Sister Schubert's empire.

SHE’S GOOD PEOPLE Patricia Schubert Barnes of Andalusia, Alabama—dubbed “Sister” as a child by a sibling—ranks as a food celebrity in her home state. Locally the story is well known about how she started baking Parker House-style rolls the way her grandmother, known as “Gommey,” taught her, first for family, then for church fundraisers where they were an instant sensation, and soon for the world.

“I went from baking in my kitchen with a little Sunbeam mixer, to expanding onto my sun porch, to taking over 1,000 square feet in a furniture warehouse my father owned, to renting a 25,000-square-foot building, to moving into a 100,000-square-foot building in just a few short years,” Sister says of the business she launched in 1986.

“At first I took a few pans with stick-on labels to a little curb market in Troy and small grocery stores in south Alabama, asking them to sell my rolls. Now they’re sold all across the country and we’re making them by the millions every day at three locations. Two are close to home, in Luverne and Saraland, Alabama. The other is in Horse Cave, Kentucky, where we’re putting in what will be the fourth largest oven in America. That’ll make a lot more Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls!”

Most importantly, she adds: “Even though we’ve grown, we’ve stayed true to our roots. Our rolls have the same home-baked quality and taste as my grandmother’s. We use simple, wholesome ingredients like fresh milk, butter and whole eggs—never any preservatives. And every single roll is still placed in the pan by hand.”

Sister Schubert's Focaccia (see recipe elsewhere on the Bakery Boy Blog)

“BRAND AMBASSADOR” Sister sold her company to a larger entity, Lancaster Colony Corporation of Columbus, Ohio, but she and her husband, George, remain involved in running the Sister Schubert division.

“My title now is Founder and Brand Ambassador,” she told me during her book signing at Birmingham Bake & Cook Company. “I do speaking engagements, appear on TV food shows, autograph books at kitchen supply shops and bookstores, and talk about Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls at every opportunity.

“When I’m home I develop new products. We’re getting into sea salt now, taking the gluten out for people allergic to it, switching to unsalted butter from the lightly salted butter we’ve been using, and things like that. It’s exciting, and it’s all going to be delicious.”

THE BOOK Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters, a good holiday gift idea for bakers and cooks, shares some of Sister Schubert’s best recipes. Her grandmother’s basic Everlasting Rolls (the Parker House rolls that started it all) come first, followed by variations with cheddar cheese, sausage, orange, or cinnamon.

She veers into non-baked items such as with smoked salmon crepes, cheesy shrimp and grits, artichoke crab dip, and chicken and sausage gumbo. But she quickly returns to her popular takes on cornbread, muffins, biscuits, scones, focaccia, challah, hot cross buns, something called tipsy eggnog bread, three kinds of pound cake, and more.

Find two excellent recipes—for corn muffins and focaccia—at two related posts here on the Bakery Boy Blog.

Sister Schubert's Country Corn Muffins (see recipe elsewhere on the Bakery Boy Blog)

Besides recipes and beautiful pictures, the book also shares Sister’s outlook on life, faith, family, and community. Bible quotes appear, from a favorite psalm (“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer”) to a verse from Corinthians (“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”).

Even the book’s title has biblical roots in Ecclesiastes: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.”

THE FOUNDATION A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters goes to the Barnes Family Foundation, a charitable organization founded in 2001 by Sister and George. Its missions include:

• Feeding the hungry by funding food banks and shelters

• Sending college students to learn about other cultures through the Sister Schubert’s Annual Scholarship for Study Abroad operated by Auburn University School of Human Sciences

• Funding an orphanage called Sasha’s Home in the Ukraine (where the Barnes’s adopted their son Alexsey, or “Sasha” for short)

The foundation’s mission, Sister says, is “To show by what we do—that we are thankful for food in a hungry world, that we are thankful for friendship in a lonely world, but mostly, that we are thankful for the opportunity to help save and love all of God’s children in the world.”

Amen to that! And please pass the dinner rolls!

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Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls: 100 Crenshaw Parkway, P.O. Drawer 112, Luverne, AL 36049; www.sisterschuberts.com; 334-335-2232

To order a copy of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert (© 2009 CECA Enterprises LLC; $40), visit castyourbreaduponthewaters.com. Sister Schubert provided a copy for this review.

For more about the Barnes Family Foundation, to which a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters goes, visit www.barnesfamilyfoundation.org.

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Two recipes from Sister Schubert’s book appear on the Bakery Boy Blog.

Country Corn Muffins

Click here for the Country Corn Muffins recipe

Focaccia

Click here for the Focaccia recipe

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