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Coffee and all that goes with it

It's not just a cake when Betty Nelson finishes her work -- it's an edible work of art like this one done recently for the reception following a youngster's baptism. Various sizes and styles of cakes are done regularly by Nelson at the store bakery.1 / 3
An order for St. Ann Catholic Church in Blackduck is one of several for local congregations, and Samantha Stomberg is checking this one out after making sure it contains the requested number of donuts, rolls, twists and other items on the weekly order.2 / 3
No "loafing" on this job, as Fred Pearson makes the morning delivery of Sara Lee breads as a first stop on his run. Other deliveries will go to stores in Kelliher, Northome, Ponemah, Redby and Red Lake. Betty Nelson checks off the many loaves as Pearson sets them out.3 / 3

There's no traffic on Blackduck streets at 5 a.m. The overnight lights at Bogart's and Beck's, Timberline gas stations are on but not much else. A bread truck pulls into Blackduck Family Foods, but he doesn't have to wait. From the inside, Betty Nelson comes to the door and lets the driver in.

Her day started half an hour earlier.

While Fred Pearson is bringing in the loaves of bread from the Sara Lee plant in Bemidji, Nelson has already started the daily schedule that brings fresh donuts and Danish to the grocery shelves. By 5:30 a.m., she'll have cleared off the leftovers from the previous day and made room for the rolls and twists and Bismarcks that will soon be ready for the oven or the fryer.

In the meantime, she'll have also started the several varieties of coffee that will go with the fresh baked goods or offerings from the deli counter.

Nelson started at one of the deli's Keith Anderson ran before his retirement. When the baker quit, Nelson took over. Since then she's "learned on the job, getting sort of self-educated," she smiles.

As she visits, she's constantly moving. A rack of dinner rolls holding a dozen trays with three dozen rolls on each, is rolled into the special space where temperature and humidity are controlled. Another rack is moved into the oven when flanges atop the rack slide into matching carriers. Trays in this rack contain Danish rolls, cinnamon twists, Long Johns and once inside, the oven door is closed and the entire rack rotates for an even baking.

Not unlike the kitchen ovens in a home, it's set for 350º.

Donuts start with a large mixer into which small buckets of ingredients are poured in. Once ready, the batter goes into another machine and from it, perfectly formed donuts are dispensed, one at a time, into the waiting hot oil. Turned by hand with a long-handled wooden spatula, they are lifted out on a screen, then set aside to cool before being frosted, sugared, rolled in cinnamon sugar or sprinkled with coconut.

All this takes place after Nelson has started her day by disposing of stale products on the store shelves, most of which goes for non-human consumption as animal or fowl feed. She watched Pearson as he unloaded the day's new bread delivery. Pearson starts his day around 2:30 a.m. with Blackduck's Family Foods a first stop.

By 7 a.m. when the store opens and the first customers arrive, Nelson will have stocked the display shelves and the deli counters. Samantha Stomberg will have come to work before then and -- since it's a Saturday -- she'll be packaging the rolls and donuts for the several churches who order for Sunday coffee hours.

Then Nelson will turn her attention to the next item on her agenda. Working four days a week, and often 10-12 hours each of those days, she fills orders for special orders and cake decorations.

Meantime, she'll be planning for the next working day and what people will want when they come in. She has a list with muffins, croissants, turnovers, cinnamon rolls, caramel rolls, apple fritters and bear claws all included.

There are French crispies, Danish Snails, Bismarcks and Royal Danish, along with twists and turtles and a donut list that includes raised, covered and plain with a variety of frostings and sprinkles.

And an item not to be overlooked -- Honeymooners.

Nelson can probably explain that one but when taking notes and snapping pictures, a reporter can hope to be excused for not asking.