Bairdell. My grandmother. The bread maker. The one who showed me how to make bread as a little girl. I watched her punch it down and practically beat that dough to death. As a young teenage girl, she made bread for her family daily. She was a good cook. She taught my mom to cook and my mom taught me. Here’s a picture of me with my grandma Bairdell when I was about 2.
Even though we aren’t smiling, I’m pretty sure we’re as happy as pie. She was also good at making pies. But she was pretty popular because of her homemade bread – her house always smelled like fresh bread. (Sigh….memories…)
Grandma died this past September.
When my hubby and I were inspired to make a sourdough starter it only made sense that we name it Bairdell in her honor. My mom remembers her calling her starter “The Mother.”
So here’s what we did to start the sourdough starter. We followed Holy Cow Vegan’s directions from her blog. If you read her step by step instructions, you’ll learn how to begin and why it’s so good for you. I’ve always enjoyed making breads and rolls. Now, with a starter it has opened up a whole new world and I’m having fun experimenting. Plus, it’s healthier for our family!
I’ve made a lot of bread lately. But I think I have the hang of it now in how to make the absolute best sourdough sandwich bread. You have to be patient though. This is a process and you have to let the dough rise three times to get the perfect loaf. Believe me, I’ve tried it with one rise and 2 rises. 3 is the best. I haven’t tried 4 yet – should I? Nah. Let’s not go there.
Since my hubby and I both work full time, I’m not exactly home just waiting around for my bread to rise so that I can punch it down and get it into loaf pans in time for dinner. So, I found that since it’s winter time, I’m able to give my dough a nice long rise time while I’m at work during the day. It will be interesting to see how that changes when summer is here.
I start with 1 cup of Bairdell, my sourdough starter. I combine 3 cups of flour and 2 cups of warm water and stir with a wooden spoon. Put it in a glass container, mix it really well and cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 6-12 hours. In my case, this is my overnight rise. The next morning, it looks like this – about to rise taller and spill out of my glass container.
The dough will be really sticky and stretchy. Stir it a little and then bring out your special ingredient…(BUM BUM BUM…)…your Kitchen Aid Mixer! I mean, without it, you’re looking at a lot of sticky mess on your hands. So, here’s a tip – if you have to use your hands to handle dough, put some oil on your hands like olive or coconut oil. First, it will moisturize your skin (win). Second, it will help you handle the dough better and be a little less sticky on your hands and fingers.
Add 2 1/2 cups more flour, 1/2 cup of warm water, 2 tsp. salt and 1/3 cup of honey. Depending on the humidity level in your home and how wet your starter was to begin with, you might need to add or decrease the amount of flour or water. Just do so a little at a time so that you get the right consistency. And the consistency that I found to be best is to have the dough still very wet and sticky, but pulling away from the edges of the bowl like the picture below. You don’t want too much flour creating a stiff dough. Wet is good.
Then, pour your dough either onto a flat surface that is lightly coated with olive oil, or a large bowl to rise for the second time. I like to use just a flat surface to let my dough rise. In this case below, I got the dough ready in the morning at about 7:00/7:30 am and set it on my dough mat below. You can see it has plenty of room to grow. I covered with a kitchen towel and went to work.
I let the dough rise all day while I was at work. Keep in mind, our home is probably around 65 degrees F or lower during the day as it is cold outside. And today we had a snowstorm! But, given the amount of time and love, it grew to be bigger than my dough mat! It was growing over the edges on both sides. It was time for me to punch it down just like I remember grandma doing it! The top was a little dry, so I made sure to give it a little extra punch to incorporate the dough well.
Next, I divided the dough in half and put them in my 2 mismatched loaf pans coated with olive oil. The pan on the left is my other grandma’s loaf pan that I inherited from her after she died. She was also an amazing cook! And I remember her pickles…ooohhh, yum. But that’s for another day.
The third rise was so fast. These were ready to pop in the oven about an hour and a half after I put them in the loaf pan. I did cheat a little to rush the rise time – I put them on top of my stove and pre-heated the oven for a while. The heat from the oven helped warm them and rise a little faster. I also cracked the oven open and my daughter and I stood there and warmed up. Did I mention it’s cold outside?!
I slashed the tops of the bread and baked them each separately for 20 minutes at 425 degrees.
So, if you’ll notice, I only have a picture of one loaf of bread. Well, that’s because they were ready right before bed time and what better bed time snack for the kids than a warm, fresh out of the oven slice of bread? That’s right, we ate half of a loaf before I was able to snap a picture.
The second loaf I allowed to cool completely before slicing. Just look at the perfect texture of that bread! The air pockets…the crumbles from the crust. And just imagine a pat of butter and drizzle of honey slathered on one of those slices. HEAVEN!
Bairdell, you make some GOOD bread!
1 cup of sourdough starter
5 1/2 cups of flour
2 1/2 cups of warm water
2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup honey
Olive oil for pans (and extra for hands for handling dough)
1. Combine starter, 2 cups of warm water and 3 cups of flour. Mix well and put in a large glass bowl and allow to rise 6-12 hours.
2. With a wooden spoon, stir dough. It should be very sticky and elastic. Pour into mixer with a dough hook attached. Add 2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup warm water along with the salt and honey. In small increments, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, being careful not to form a stiff dough. The dough should be wet and sticky. It will be ready when it is still very sticky, but is no longer sticking to the edge of the bowl.
3. Prepare either a flat surface or large bowl lightly coated with olive oil.
4. Pour dough into the bowl or flat surface and cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, between 4-8 hours.
5. Once dough has doubled in size, punch down for 2-3 minutes. Dough will not be sticky, but should handle easily with your hands. Evenly divide dough into 2 pieces.
6. Prepare 2 loaf pans lightly coated with olive oil. Form each dough piece into the shape of the loaf pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, at least 1 -2 hours.
7. Slash the tops of the loaf pans with a knife.
8. Preheat oven to 425* F. Bake each loaf for 20 minutes.
9. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before removing. Wait to slice until completely cool for a more perfect slicing experience. But, if you can’t wait to eat a slice, go ahead and do it while it’s warm and enjoy a perfectly delicious imperfectly cut slice.