Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Man Cannot Live By Bread Alone. Or, Can He?

Sourdough Bread

From the time Sawyer was a little boy, he loved the bread I brought to the family Thanksgiving dinner. I think maybe bread is his favorite food. He loved the Thanksgiving bread so much that some years I would take an extra loaf just for him. In high school he started baking bread on his own, using a bread machine.

But the bread machine never quite duplicated what my little granddaughters call "Mimi bread." He had asked a couple of times about how I did this without a bread machine. So we compared schedules and found the one day that we could bake before he heads to college in a few weeks for his freshman year. Yesterday was the day. He came for a long morning baking lesson. His mom tagged along to watch, to be our photographer and our dishwasher. She also was our kitchen director, keeping us in the proper place in the recipe as we worked quickly through two long recipes.

To make it possible for Sawyer to do all the steps without waiting for all of the long rising times, I prepped the recipe like I used to do things when I worked. Cooking demonstrations were a regular part of my job. I would always make multiple batches of a recipe, stopping prep at various points, so that I could show the entire recipe process without any long waits for simmering, baking or, as in this recipe, rising time.

I mixed the sourdough the night before and let it rise overnight. When Sawyer walked in on Monday morning, that dough was ready to be punched down and shaped and plopped into pans, covered and set in a warm place to rise. When he was done with the shaping, Sawyer mixed another big bowl of dough and set it aside to rise. I wanted him to do all of the steps so he could do it again at home.

We had a few hours until that bread was ready to bake. I suppose I could have sent him home with rising dough at that point. But I wanted to make his day worth his trip to my house. So we made cinnamon rolls, another kind yeast dough that was mixed and handled differently than the bread he had just done.

The cinnamon roll recipe is quicker than the bread, so we could do this entire recipe, beginning to end, while we waited to put the sourdough in the oven. In about three hours, pans of cinnamon rolls were sitting everywhere in my kitchen. Oh, the house smelled so good!

The picture I wish I share was right after the rolls were finished. The expressions on the faces of the baker and his mom said it all. (I was also busy eating, so there is no photo.) They both had a look of pure pleasure as they bit into those sweet fragrant cinnamon rolls. Tasting the cinnamon rolls was soon followed by eating hot bread, which was also delicious, spread with soft butter.

This is the same sourdough recipe has been posted here before. But I will tell you that baking it in the summer was a little different that in the winter. I made no changes in the actual mixing of the dough, but I needed to use a little more flour on the board we kneaded and shaped it for the pans. And the rising time was faster.

Even though we were in an air conditioned kitchen, the outside temperature and humidity must affect the flour and the dough. Use your good judgement as you go through this process. Use a little more flour on the work surface if the dough is sticky. And the bread is ready to go into the oven when it has risen to the top of the pan—regardless of whether that's 4 hours or 6 hours or 8 hours. Just watch it. It's ready when it's ready.


1 cup starter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups warm water
6 or more cups bread flour (use the extra to flour the surface for kneading)

Mix bread ingredients. (I use a wire whisk to mix in the first 3 cups, and then use a spoon for the last three cups.) Place in large bowl sprayed with PAM.  Lightly spray dough with PAM.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Let stand and rise at least 8 hours.
Punch down dough and knead on floured board about 10 times.  Divide into 3 parts.
Spray three 8-inch loaf pans with PAM.  Shape dough and place in pans.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap. 
Let stand and rise until pans are full, about 5 to 6 hours.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until brown and bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Whole wheat bread:  Use 2 cups whole wheat flour and 4 cups bread flour.

To feed starter:  Remove 1 cup for baking (or discard) and feed with 1/3 cup sugar, 3 tbsp. instant potatoes and 1 cup warm water.  Mix well and let stand 8-12 hours.  Then refrigerate.  Store in plastic container with slits cut in lid. Feed every 3-7 days. (My favorite container for storage is a large Cool Whip container. Cut an "X" in the lid to let the starter breath.)

To make starter:  Double the feeding recipe.  Put in a glass or plastic container, loosely covered.  Let set out for 4 days.  Then add one pack dry yeast.  Let stand another 24 hours.  Use 1 cup for the first batch or store in refrigerator for up to 7 days.

This bread freezes beautifully. It makes a great gift.

I'll be honest. When we were done, I was tired. (He probably was, too.) We had made eight pans of cinnamon rolls and three loaves of sourdough bread, then I finished up that second batch of sourdough and baked another three loaves of bread about supper time. Yes, I was tired, but it was the good kind of tired. It made me feel good that a teenage boy would choose to spend one of his rare free days with me in the kitchen. And it made me feel good to pass on some of my kitchen skills to a young person. That's how we preserve those skills...by passing them along to a younger person.

I know you want to know about the rolls. We used the Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Roll recipe. You can also find that recipe on my blog here. It's exactly her recipe, but written with tips you might find useful. Also a word of caution for you Southern bakers—do NOT use a southern all-purpose flour, like White Lily or Martha White. These are great flours for other baking, though. But this recipe needs a "northern" wheat flour, like King Arthur. We have made this recipe more than once with White Lily, and you just have to keep adding extra flour for the dough to reach a workable state and the rolls, while delicious, are a little heavier. And we found the dough harder to handle.

If you want to make these for the first time, you might find it helpful to both look at her photos AND read my tips.

Is it possible to have a cinnamon roll hangover? I think I might have one. Those last few rolls are not tempting me this morning. I am done with the sweet treat for now. We divided the pans of rolls, so I have a couple of pans in the freezer for later. Lots later. I think today our menu will be all vegetables!


  1. How gorgeous - he'll remember this day for the rest of his life. How fabulous to have your recipe & the skill to make Mimi bread, he'll be a popular student in college for sure!
    Wren x

  2. He's already checked--there is a full kitchen in his dorm. Hope he finds time to bake between classes and studying.

  3. Having problems again commenting. Know i enoy each and every one of your post.

  4. Janie, I wish I knew how to make that better. I'll keep looking for a solution. Because I'm already "inside" the blog system, it's hard for me to see what you are dealing with. Thanks for letting me know.

  5. I love this! Great to pass along skills and special that you have the wanting and the people to pass along to. ❤

  6. Anonymous, I'm delighted he wanted to learn!


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