Lois Janzen, age 79, of Goessel, has baked pies, zwieback, turnovers, verenika, and new year’s cookies for business meetings, church functions, farmer’s markets, and family gatherings, for over 62 years.
“I’ve always enjoyed baking,” Janzen said. “Once, someone asked me if I ever say no. But why should I? It occupies my time and there really isn’t anything I would rather be doing than baking.”
Janzen does not advertise her baking services; rather her expertise is spread by word of mouth, by anyone who has ever tasted her delectable treats.
“We became acquainted with her baking skills through church,” Alan “Pete” Flaming, of Goessel said. “We request her pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and every time we do, our boys are very happy. They say, ‘Oh good, we’ve got Lois’s pies.’”
Flaming secures Janzen’s baking talents for his business advocate meetings, which take place this time of year, five to seven times across the state of Kansas.
“We start every meeting with dessert,” he said. “Lois’s pies go over real well. I often get comments later about how good the crust is on her pies.”
According to Janzen, her piecrust recipe is a special secret.
“I got the recipe I use now from a friend at a football game,” she said. “It never fails, and the pie dough never gets tough.”
Janzen said she first started baking when she was in high school.
“I was away from home quite a bit and the family I stayed with liked for me to make the zwieback every Saturday morning,” she said. “Then I got a cooking job at Bethel Hospital in Newton and I guess I learned all my other skills there.”
Janzen said she also worked as a baker for the Barnstormer’s Restaurant when it was in Goessel. Through the years, she baked goods for Bethesda Home fundraisers, as well as other community functions.
“I like to premix my flour and shortening ingredients, so with the help of some friends, I can put together up to 40 pies in an hour,” she said.
For fruit pie filling, Janzen said she likes to use no. 10 cans and can make six pies at a time from those contents.
“I add instant clear gel to the filling, mixed with sugar, and I don’t even have to heat that up before baking,” she said.
Janzen lives in a fairly small apartment, but her kitchen features a large oven.
“I can bake four or five, 8 inch pies at one time,” she said. “Those can be cut into six good-sized pieces.”
When making new year’s cookies, Janzen said she uses a Hobart mixer and can mix enough dough at one time for 100 of the yeast-based, deep-fat-fried raisin cookies.
Janzen said she has never timed herself to see how much of her day she spends baking for others, but she said the amount varies week to week.
“It just depends on what is going on,” she said. “This week I prepared six pies, and made 75 verenika for a meal at church.”
Janzen also works as a substitute bus driver for Goessel USD 411, and enjoys visits from her four grown children and many grandchildren. If she is not involved with those activities or attending church functions, she is likely baking something for someone.
“It’s just what I enjoy doing,” she said.