Buttermilk Bread

We had two versions of buttermilk bread – seeded and unseeded – for our New Year’s dinner of roasted vegetables and cabbage-apple slaw last week. I promised our friend and dinner-guest S.P. the recipe, and now that it has been a week and I need a break from taking down the Christmas tree, here you go!

This recipe is adapted from Laurel Robertson’s “Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book” published in 1984 by the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation. As you might expect it’s a very calming, basic cookbook full of clunky woodcut illustrations and comprehensive descriptions of the rising process. I might not have purchased this book (perhaps thinking I knew enough about the basics) but then I inherited it from my father-in-law who was an engineer and appreciated this level of detail. Now I have to admit that some of my favorites have at least started with the incredibly in-depth instructions from Laurel’s Kitchen.

Buttermilk Bread (APo’s abbreviated version)

1 Tbs SAF instant yeast *, 5 1/2 (or a little more) C all purpose flour, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar

1 C very hot water,  and 1 1/4 C well-shaken cold buttermilk

4 Tbs softened butter, 2 Tbs olive oil

Using the “bread blade”, combine 5 C of flour and the rest of the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add the liquid and pulse until mostly mixed, add the butter in chunks. Add the remaining 1/2 C to C of flour if necessary and process/knead until smooth and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl – about 45 seconds in my machine.

Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead just a few turns, form into a ball. Add the olive oil to a large bowl and drop the dough in, rotating it so the oiled surface is on top. Cover with plastic wrap or a plate and a dish towel. This dough tends to be soft and sticky and will stick to a dry dishcloth draped over it. Let it rise in a warm place for an hour and a half.

If you have time for a second rise, flatten the dough slightly and let it rise again for about 45 minutes. If not, press it flat (sprinkle with sesame seeds or a seed mixture if you like) and divide into two. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then shape it into two rounds and place in pie plates. These rounds make very good dinner bread. Let the dough rise again in the pans, another hour if you have time.

Bake the rounds in preheated 325 F degree oven for nearly an hour. The crust will be brown but not hard, and the bread has a wonderful fine texture. Brush with more butter if desired.

This recipe makes excellent rolls and breadsticks. Bake the breadsticks at the same temperature and amount of time for maximum crunchiness. It keeps well, too, as Laurel Robertson points out, “when hidden”.

If you can manage to have enough for leftovers, this is our favorite bread for croutons, homemade bread crumbs, and “Toad in the Hole”.

*If using regular yeast, use 1/4 C of water at lukewarm to proof first, then proceed with the recipe as written.

3 thoughts on “Buttermilk Bread

  1. Active dry is OK, although you should proof it first with that 1/4 of warm water. Might be worth the Amazonning, though (I need to double the “n” to verbacize that, right?) because SAF just works sooo much better for everything. And a pound sealed in a plastic bag will keep in the fridge forever.

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