Dozens of students gathered in Lake House Kitchen to bake pumpkin bread on Oct. 14. On Friday, Oct. 28, more students assembled to create and enjoy buttered naan. This week, students will get together to make cinnamon buns. Each fall and spring, Donald Leach, Associate Director of Residential Life at Wellesley College, offers weekly baking classes open to all Wellesley students.
The classes are held each Friday over a five-week period in the middle of both spring and fall semesters. Classes typically have two sessions; one held in the late afternoon from 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. and the other in the early evening from 5:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. These times are relaxed, however, and students usually funnel in and out of Lake House kitchen throughout the sessions. Some students come alone, while others come with groups of friends. Once the baking begins, students from all class years tend to mingle and share in the joy of creating (and promptly eating) delicious food.
Leach, whom most students call Don, has been running the baking classes for six years, since his appointment as Associate Director of Residential Life.
The idea stemmed from an earlier tradition he began during his 16-year tenure as Resident Director of Stone Davis. Leach has always loved to bake and had a muchloved tradition of making fresh pumpkin bread and serving hot cider to his Stone-D residents. When he was appointed Associate Director of Residential Life and moved to Lake House, he knew he wanted to reach out to all of Wellesley’s students in a similar way.
Funding for the ingredients and supplies comes from the Office of Residential Life and the Dean of Students’ Office. Fall has consistently been bread-baking season in terms of recipes chosen, and pumpkin bread is a staple.
“I like pumpkin bread. It’s an old standard recipe but I don’t get tired of it, which is why I teach it every year,” said Leach.
The other bread recipes like scones, naan and cinnamon rolls are decided upon based on student interest. Leach likes to use input from those in attendance at each class about what they would like to bake.
Spring brings more variety, straying from the bread theme. Last spring, Leach chose to run five weeks of chocolate-themed classes.
“Chocolate seemed to be an appropriate theme for February so I just did a chocolate month,” Leach explained.
Chocolate treats of all kinds were made, among them chocolate chip cookies, truffles, Don’s Buttermilk Chocolate Bread and Rebecca Garcia’s Buenos. This spring’s theme is yet to be determined, but Leach, as always, is open to suggestions.
No matter what is being baked in Lake House kitchen, it is the process itself and the community it fosters that make the classes so worthwhile.
“It’s fun to teach people that they can actually make something that they might feel is out of their reach,” Leach said. Other students agree with Leach.
Olivia Lewis ’20, was grateful for the chance to bake naan last Friday.
“I love cooking and baking at home, but haven’t had the time or opportunity to do so [in college],” Lewis said.
Attendance is informal and students may come just once or consistently each week. For Lucia Tu ’19 and her roommate Genae Matthews ’19, the class has served as a roommate bonding activity. The two of them attended the naan-baking class in the fall of 2015 and returned together this year.
“They’re really laid back, you can bake with friends,” Tu said.
To attend the classes, students need only look out for Leach’s weekly emails about the classes and RSVP, but anyone is welcome the day of. Leach stressed that the classes are really about bringing people together.
“There are some people here by themselves and they make friends with whomever else is here. There are some friends who come here together and end up doing this with other groups that they don’t know. So it’s a wonderful way to mix,” he said.