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Mrs. Baird's Bread: 100 Years of Goodness

A loaf of Mrs Bairds Bread
by Lori Grossman

For generations, Texans have enjoyed Mrs. Bairds Bread. The Fort Worth-based bakery most likely provided the bread for your school lunch sandwich, or the hot dog and hamburger buns for family picnics. And it all began with a womans need to support her family.

In 1901, William Baird, his wife Ninnie, and their children moved from Tennessee to Fort Worth, Texas. Mr. Baird successfully operated several food-related businesses, then decided to open a restaurant. In 1905, he was told that he had diabetes. This was frightening news in those days, when there was no known treatment for the disease. When William Baird had to stop working three years later, his wife became the family breadwinner.

Overcoming Adversity

Like other women, Ninnie Baird baked for her family – often chopping the wood for her wood-burning stove. She gave any extra baked goods to neighbors, who praised her wonderful bread. At that time, it was unusual for a woman to run her own business, but Ninnie had a family to support. So, in 1908, she started Mrs. Bairds Bread.

When her husband died in 1911, the children pitched in to help their mother. The boys delivered bread on foot (later, on their bicycles), and the girls helped around the house and tended their younger siblings.

Demand grew and Ninnie bought a commercial oven from a Fort Worth hotel. Now, instead of producing four loaves at a time at home, she could bake 40 at a time. When the boys could no longer handle all the deliveries, the family buggy was turned into a delivery wagon.

Direct sales stopped in 1918, when the bread was sold wholesale. The bakery, now housed in a separate facility, contained an oven that could bake 400 loaves at one time! Over the next 20 years, new bakeries were built in Dallas and Houston, with another plant in Fort Worth.

Ninnie Baird's Legacy

After WWII, the business expanded statewide and continued to grow. At age 80, Ninnie Baird – now Chairman of the Board – passed business operations on to her sons. She died in 1961 at age 92. The Texas State Senate passed a Senate Resolution No. 13 honoring her as "a living example for mothers, wives, . . . and good people the world over."

Bite-Size Cheese Toasts

  • 1 16-ounce loaf white bread
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons butter (1/4 stick)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Trim the crusts from 16 slices of bread. (Reserve crusts and any remaining bread slices for making breadcrumbs.) On work surface, roll each slice of bread paper-thin, using a rolling pin.

Remove rind, if there is any, from the blue cheese. Evenly spread about 2 teaspoons softened cheese over 1 slice of bread, then top with another slice. Press gently to make a sandwich. Repeat with remaining bread and cheese, making 8 sandwiches in all.

Preheat oven to 400°/F. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in chopped basil. Brush some of the basil mixture over each sandwich.

With a knife, cut each sandwich into quarters. Cut each quarter in half, making 2 triangles (each sandwich should make 8 triangles). Arrange triangles in a single layer on a large, greased cookie sheet. Bake cheese toasts about 12 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot, or cool completely on wire rack to serve later. Makes 64 bite-size sandwiches.

Texas Pecan Chicken

  • 2 pounds whole chicken breasts, boned and skinned
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, diced (or 6 chopped green onions)
  • 1 4-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1-1/2 cups pecans, finely chopped
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
On a hard surface, pound chicken breasts with a meat mallet until they are 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a small skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add mushrooms and onion and sauté until tender. Cool. Mix with cream cheese, mustard, and thyme.

Divide mixture into four equal portions and spread on each piece of chicken. Fold over ends and roll up, pressing edges to seal.

Mix pecans, bread crumbs, and parsley in a bowl. Dip chicken into melted butter, then into pecan mixture, turning chicken to coat evenly. Place on greased baking sheet, seam side down. Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until done. Serve with rice, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Ummm, chocolate. Need I say more?
  • 8 slices stale firm white bread
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • 8 squares (8 ounces) semisweet chocolate, melted
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Grease an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Cut bread into 1-inch squares. Arrange one-third of bread squares in a single layer in the baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar and drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted chocolate. Repeat to make a second layer. Top with remaining bread squares.

In a 2-quart saucepan, heat milk to boiling over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine eggs and 1/3 cup sugar, using a wire whisk. While whisking, slowly pour milk into egg mixture. Add remaining melted chocolate and vanilla, stirring to combine.

Pour egg mixture over bread. Refrigerate, gently stirring occasionally, until bread is soaked with chocolate mixture (about 3 hours).

Preheat oven to 325°F. Sprinkle pudding with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Place dish in a 13-inch by 9-inch roasting pan and place pan in oven. Carefully pour boiling water into roasting pan until it comes halfway up the side of the baking dish. Bake until knife inserted in center of the pudding comes out clean (about 50 minutes). Transfer baking dish to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm, or cover and refrigerate and serve cold later. Makes 8 servings.

For more information (and lots of recipes!), check out the website for Mrs. Baird's Bread.

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