By Samantha Clawson
Food enthusiasts will once again travel in hordes to the Great Northern Fair, and businesses and clubs from the surrounding area have been preparing large quantities of local favorites to fill the demand.
Gary and Leo's IGA is no exception. The bakery has been working for weeks to provide one of the biggest crowd pleasers, their delicious scones.
Scones are a treasured tradition at the Great Northern Fair. Perhaps no one knows this as well as Shelley Fisher, the bakery manager at Gary and Leo's. For the last 15 years she has been working there and providing the dough for the scones.
Fisher and her crew put out thousands and thousands of scones for the fair every year. Not even Fisher knows how many they will need.
"Every year we never know how many we're going to cut. We start with a ballpark figure and then every year it depends on the crowds and the weather," she said. "Sometimes we cut more sometimes we cut less."
Currently they make the scones for the Montana State University-Northern Science and Math Club, under the direction of Frank Miller. The club uses the money it makes from selling scones for scholarships.
The process of making the scones is a long and hard one. The recipe is a highly guarded secret, and only certain employees are granted the privilege of making it.
IGA's bakery also makes the honey butter used to top the scones. "They provide us with Montana honey many times, and we use real butter and we have another secret ingredient but we'd have to kill you if we told you," Fisher said.
Each batch makes about 350 scones. After the dough is mixed it is put through a special machine that rolls it out until it's about a half-inch thick. Then the bakers use a special cutting tool to cut the dough to the right size.
Cutting the dough requires a certain amount of skill. The bakers who are allowed to cut learn how to estimate the weight of the dough to make sure that every scone is the same size. It takes muscle to make sure that the dough is cut all the way through. In a day a cutter could cut anywhere from one to eight batches.
After the scones have been made, they are frozen and delivered to the MSU-N Science and Math Club.
Although the bakers enjoy making the scones, their favorite part is eating them. Journeyman baker Harold Anderson prefers honey butter on the scones he's been making for 14 years. Fisher chooses honey butter and cinnamon sugar.
When they are thawed they are fried and served hot with a variety of toppings. Fisher finds this to be a delight. "If you've never had one hot off the fryer, you don't know what you're missing."