Moline Memories - MHS 66 Friends

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Melo-Cream - Gourmet Doughnuts

This was an early photo, when my uncle was still a partner with dad. Uncle Don Jackson is in the middle in the back. My father, Homer Jackson, is on the right.Aunt Charlotte Jacquin also worked at the shop, 1313 5th Avenue, Moline.

This photo, dated in the 1960s, shows the icon wall of WQUA personalities right behind my father's head.

My father and his brother bought Melo Cream when the initial store, part of a franchise, failed. They kept the name and built up the business. My father saw 200 bakeries start and fail in the area. He kept going, even after retiring.

The formula was simple. They made the best products possible. If a batch was less than perfect, it went in the garbage (or we had to eat it at home).

My father got pure cocoa for the chocolate frosting. He bought special flavorings.

The ingredients were always the best. The walnuts, coconut, and pecans were the largest and choicest varieties. Going into the basement meant a chance to take a handful of nuts, to provide some energy for the long trip. If danish rolls were cooling on the rack above the stairs, that worked too.

When my father discovered a better doughnut flour, he paid extra for it to be shipped from California.

Coffee was a mix of Maxwell House and Yuban, to provide more flavor. If the coffee was more than 15 minutes old, it was poured down the drain, much to the horror of customers, who did not want to wait for a fresh pot.

We had a drip system for making coffee, when restaurants were percolating cheap coffee and storing it forever.

My father experimented with new recipes. He made a Jack Barlow doughnut that was a cake doughnut, glazed, with a mixture of ground roasted coconut, graham crackers, and peanuts rolled in. The doughnuts were labor-intensive, because the coconut was roasted at the shop (easy to burn) and the peanuts were cooked and ground there. The end result was a delicious doughnut, even when frozen hard. In fact, someone recommended eating them frozen as a treat - and I did.

Most peanut brittle tends to break teeth off. My father worked out a method for making peanut brittle that tasted great and was easy to eat. He used soda to make it rise up. The trick was cooking it to the right temperature without burning it, pouring it out while still hot.

Melo Cream's coffee counter was the hub of downtown. WQUA staff were there all the time. Police came through. Store owners came in for a break. The John Deere and Arsenal workers bought doughnuts on the way to work.

Melo Cream was the original Facebook. All kinds of news was exchanged back and forth.