Teen's sourdough bread ministry rises to the occasion
The thing about making sourdough bread is that, once you’ve got the starter, you can’t be a quitter.
Elizabeth Crawford understands this, which makes the High Point teenager’s mission — baking loaves and loaves of fresh sourdough for the West End Ministries food pantry — a bit more daunting.
“You’ve got to keep the starter fed if you want to be able to keep baking the bread, so I have to feed the starter at least once every three days,” says Crawford, a 17-year-old rising senior at High Point Central High School.
“There’s something going on in our kitchen every single day. I might be feeding the starter, or it might be the first rising of the dough or the second rising. And I’m baking at least six days a week. It’s just an ongoing process.”
Crawford’s goal is to donate 500 loaves of bread to West End Ministries before she graduates next June. She’s already donated some 315 loaves since beginning the project last August, she says.
Crawford’s project, which she considers more of a ministry, grew out of a family tradition.
“My mom (Lynn Crawford) and I just love baking bread together,” she says, explaining that Lynn used to make sourdough bread with her mother, the late Betty Beaver.
“I wanted to find a way that I could do something to help my community, and baking is something I’ve always liked doing, so this seemed like a good idea. Being able to bake on a daily basis has been great, and knowing it’s going to a worthwhile cause makes it even better.”
Crawford chose West End Ministries because her church, Emerywood Baptist, helps prepare the ministry’s Thursday evening community dinner once a month, and her family has helped with that on numerous occasions.
“I just thought this would be a great thing to do through them since we already had that connection,” she explains.
The ministry represents a tremendous time investment, especially for a teenager with an active social life.
“Yeah, there have been times at sleepovers when I said, ‘I have to leave, OK? I’ve got to go take the bread out of the oven,’ ” she says with a laugh. “My friends have begun to realize what a time commitment it is.”
The bread begins with the starter, which is the yeast portion of the recipe — the part that has to be “fed” sugar, water and dried-out mashed potatoes to keep the yeast active. This particular starter, which the Crawfords obtained from a fellow church member, has been fed, multiplied and divided throughout the community for more than 35 years, Crawford says.
After setting aside a cup of starter for next time, she puts another cup in a mixing bowl with sugar, flour, water, salt and oil, then mixes it all together to create the dough. She puts the dough in another bowl and waits for it to rise — about six hours.
The risen dough has to be pounded down to remove the air bubble, then kneaded again, divided and put into two separate loaf pans. Once those two loaves have risen — about five hours this time — they’re ready for baking.
Once baking is done, Crawford lets the bread cool, then wraps it and freezes it until time to deliver it to West End Ministries, which she does every other Thursday. She wraps each loaf individually and affixes a label identifying it as “Elizabeth’s Bread.”
West End Ministries serves some of the bread at its community dinner, but distributes the rest of it to needy families that visit the ministry’s food pantry.
“I think, in this day and age, for someone Elizabeth’s age to take responsibility and give back to the community like this is fabulous,” says Dana Bentley, community relations and development director for West End Ministries. “I wish there were more teenagers like her.”
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