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buttermilk bread

January 31, 2011
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Chris has a thing for buttermilk bread. One recent weekend, he came over to my house when my mom had a batch going in the bread machine, and he said, “That smells like yummy bread!”

Sidenote: I had made bread at least five times before in his presence and he’d never said that.

But I wiped my tears and/or stopped berating him [he’s reading this over my shoulder at the moment and claims he always tells me my bread smells good, but you and I know the truth now] in time to try this recipe out when we had some excess buttermilk in the house from those cornbread muffins.

It was a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, obviously, and it was a winner. There wasn’t too much rise time, which meant I could decide to make bread and actually make it in the same night—and which usually results in a not-as-good flavor, in my experience, but the buttermilk added a nice tanginess to the soft, warm bread. Also, it was relatively easy to make by hand (I know, I know, Lola wasn’t involved in this one…but sadly, we weren’t in the right kitchen for that, and you know, she’s a little bulky to take absolutely *everywhere*, much as I wish I could.), which was nice. Also, I finally got Chris to admit that he has a crush on me, too, by luring him with the scent. Annnd it makes perfect toast the next morning! High fives all around!!1

Buttermilk Bread
3 1/2 cups bread flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons table salt
1 cup cold buttermilk
1/3 cup boiling water [I would boil a small, unmeasured amount of water and then pour out 1/3 cup, to avoid boiling-offage]
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey
1 package rapid-rise or instant yeast

1. Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain heat 10 minutes, then turn off oven heat. [I use this genius method every time I have a bread dough that needs rising. It works wonders in this kitchen, which is freezing amidst approximately 10 feet of snow.]
2. Mix flour and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook [or in a regular bowl]. In 1-quart Pyrex liquid measuring cup, mix cold buttermilk and boiling water together (temperature should be about 110 degrees); add butter, honey, and yeast. Turn machine to low and slowly add liquid [or mix with a spoon]. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium [uhhh, or crank up your elbow grease and start kneading by hand] and mix until dough is smooth and satiny, stopping machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes [probably 15 minutes or so by hand]. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead to form smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.
3. Place dough in very lightly oiled bowl, rubbing dough around bowl to lightly coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.
4. Form dough into loaf by gently pressing the dough into a rectangle, one inch thick and no wider than the length of the loaf pan. Next, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Place dough in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and press gently so dough touches all four sides of pan.
5. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in warm spot until dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees, placing empty loaf pan on bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil [or just get 2 cups of the hottest water your tap can handle].
6. Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan. Place pan in oven, immediately pouring heated water into empty loaf pan; close oven door. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted at angle from short end just above pan rim into center of loaf reads 195 degrees [or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you slip it out of the pan and tap it], about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated

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