Sam Doan looks right at home in the farmhouse kitchen on Snydertown Road, though it’s not where she lives — yet. There’s a large antique french fry cutter in the window, a John Deere clock on the wall, a rack of deer rifles and not many more accessories in this bachelor’s kitchen. But that is going to change next month, when Doan and the farmer get married and she moves in and becomes an official member of the family.
She won’t have to move far. She lives about 2 1/2 miles away with her parents, Bill and Bonnie Doan. The small wedding will take place at St. Mark’s church, in between both families, and the honeymoon will be spent at the farm, where the animal husbandry never ceases.
“We will just be happy to be together on the farm,” Doan said.
Doan, 28, is engaged to Mark Ardry, 33, co-owner with his father, Willis, mother, Marjorie, and brothers Wayne and Tom, of Ardry Farm in Howard. From the vantage point of the hill behind the farmhouse, the farm stretches as far as the eye can see, more than 350 acres in a patchwork of bright green winter wheat and newly planted rye, brown cornstalks and a decimated pumpkin patch dotted with some split remainders that feed the happy crows. Thick forest looms along the edge of the sightline at the crest of the hill. The farm has been worked by the Ardry family since 1933 when Mark’s great grandparents, Howard and Mabel, who hailed from Pine Creek, purchased the initial acreage and lumbered the woods to build the farmhouse that Mark resides in as well as the one next door where his brother Wayne lives.
Ardry Farm is one of the anchors at the Boalsburg Tuesday farmers market, year-round; the farm is also a presence at the Saturday North Atherton farmers market, as well as the Bellefonte courthouse market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in season. Mark has been selling produce at the Bellefonte courthouse market since he was 7, when he used to accompany his grandfather Howard, from the spring strawberries through the fall potatoes and cabbages. The Ardry farm stand, stationed in front of the white Chevy box truck, is historically no-frills in a manly way.
But that has changed lately. For the past year or so, Doan has carved out a small portion at the end of the row of tables laden with seasonal vegetables that the farm produces and sells her baked goods under her label, The Bacrey. Her baked goods are made in Mark’s state Department of Agriculture-approved farmhouse kitchen and are made with as many items from the farm as are available.
“I use eggs from the farm, the seasonal fruits and vegetables that Mark grows, and I purchase additional local items from the other market vendors. He grows wheat and we take it to Snavely’s Mill, right down the road in Mill Hall. I use their pastry flour in my baked goods and also buy Meyer Dairy heavy cream to make my own butter and use that in my products,” Doan said.
Doan attended Miami University of Ohio, where she majored in studio arts with a focus on sculpture, graduating in 2009. After that she attended the French Culinary Institute in New York, graduating from the pastry arts program in 2011. If her life sounds like a fairy tale now, it wasn’t always so. She has worked in a number of small food service operations, including a Korean restaurant in Indiana, as well as large-scale production kitchens, including the Penn State Bakery.
With her own baking business associated with the farm, she has clearly found her niche. In addition to baking, Doan has a website and a blog, www.thebacrey.com, with beautiful photos and recipes that describe in poetic terms her life experiences both before and after meeting Mark at the Boalsburg farmers market. She staffed the Gemelli Bakers table with pastry items that she baked there in the mornings and the breads produced by the bakers, and Mark came over each week for something sweet. He found it. A romance blossomed on a first date that included a tour of the barn and 30-year-old combine that is his pride and joy.
After the farm tour, a trip to the Clinton County fair in August 2014 sealed the deal.
Doan’s blog is commendable for the theme of appreciation that runs through it, for finding her way back home to family in central Pennsylvania after some stints around the country and for feeling at peace and fulfilled with what she is doing with her own baking business tied to the farm. This Thanksgiving will be her last on her own, and Doan admits that she has a lot to be thankful for.
“By far, I am most grateful for family. I’m thankful for my family’s unwavering love and belief in me, for Mark and his family’s kindness, generosity and support, and for the community members that know and love the farm.”
The pumpkin spice cake recipe is one that Doan created for Mark’s birthday last year that was a big hit.
“Mark and his dad love spice cake, Tom loves peanut butter desserts and Wayne loves all cake, as long as it has frosting!” Doan said, eager to integrate with the family through the very best means she knows how — by baking her way into their hearts. She is well on her way and will be the one writing the next chapter of Ardry family history.
This unusual cake is a combination of pumpkin and peanut butter, a three-tiered beauty decorated with frosting but served “naked” so it is lighter and not as calorie dense.
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes 1 – 3 layer, 8” cake
2 3/8 cups granulated sugar
3 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cardamaom
heaping 1/4 tsp ground cloves
heaping 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, shaken well at room temperature
3/4 cup pumpkin puree, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/8 cups hot water
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
Preheat a conventional oven to 350 F.
Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment. Spray or butter and flour them well and set aside.
Fill a tea kettle with a couple cups of water and bring it to a boil while you assemble the cake batter.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices together. Whisk in the sugar until well blended.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, pumpkin puree and vanilla extract together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk briefly until roughly combined. When the water in the kettle has boiled, remove it from the heat and measure out 1 1/8 cups of water. Slowly pour the hot water into your cake mix and whisk until just combined, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Pour the cake batter equally into the three prepared cake pans. Bake them on the center rack in the oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, or when a cake tester poked into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool while you make the frosting.
Cream the butter for about a minute, then add the peanut butter and vanilla and cream well. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and salt together, then add to the butter/peanut butter mixture. If the frosting seems too thick, add a tablespoon or two of milk to thin it. Cover the frosting and set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.
When the cakes are cool enough to handle, remove them from the pans, discard the parchment paper and let them finish cooling completely. Fill and frost the cake.
Note: There will be enough frosting to make a “naked” cake. If you prefer to completely frost the sides of the cake, make 1 1/2 times the frosting recipe.