I actually made this recipe a couple of weeks ago, but life got so crazy, I never got around to writing it up.
Why buttermilk bread? First, I had lots of buttermilk to use up. I only needed about 1/2 a cup for a recipe I was making but I had to buy a quart. I needed a way to use up some buttermilk and this recipe uses a full one and half cups. The other reason was that as I was searching the internet for ideas, the recipe I found used two packages of yeast. I had learned via making the “Cuban bread” twice that this ratio of yeast makes for very reliable results for the yeast phobic.
An added benefit of this recipe was it had the “let rise and then punch down” aspect of bread making. In all of the recipes I’ve made so far, there has been no opportunity to punch down. Why do I need that? I don’t know, but it made me happy so I pushed forward.
The blogs that talk about this James Beard recipe all claim the amount of salt (1 tablespoon) was too much. That was my only change and I just cut it in half to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons.
A new technique with this recipe was first creating a little slurry of yeast, sugar and water. It lets you know almost instantly if you’ve heated your liquid too hot and killed off your yeast. This yeasty liquid then gets mixed in to a bowl that contains the flour, salt, melted butter and buttermilk.
You could use a stand mixer and I have one, but I decided to do the whole process by hand. Once the mixtures came together, I turned the mess out on a floured board, and got to kneading. It accepted a lot of flour as a very sticky dough so I had to dust my surface with flour twice.
One of the good ideas I had before I got to making bread was to make a last batch of rhubarb jam. This time I decided to do rhubarb with both grated fresh ginger and crystallized ginger pieces. I had done it like my recent recipes (here and here) where you sugar the fruit the day before, strain off the liquid and cook it first to reduce and then add in the fruit for a bit of cooking. When it gets as thick as you think is good, you can it. It’s really a lovely way to make jam if you don’t use pectin — evaporation helps reduce the liquid before you’ve completely obliterated your fruit. I used up the last of my rhubarb and I created a lovely, warm environment where my bread could rise. As the jars were boiling, I had a bowl of dough on the stove rising to double its size.
Then comes the satisfying punch down. I actually had to do it twice since my first punch was too timid. You then go back to the floured board and do a little folding maneuver. You kind of flatten the dough in a sort of circle and then bring the four edges into the center while also flipping it over so the seams are down. It goes into the bread pan smooth side up to rise again and then to be baked.
My loaf was not exactly symmetrical so I covered it with cling wrap but loosely on the small end and tightly on the large end to try to encourage my loaf to even out. It was kind of odd looking at the end, but it was still great. After a second rise in the pan itself, you’re ready to bake for about 40 minutes. The unusual thing, to me, was then you’re to take it out of the bread pan and bake it on its side for another 5-8 minutes to brown the side/bottom crust. I did it, but I’m not sure it was totally necessary.
Warning: This is a HUGE loaf. I knew it would be based on blog assessments of this recipe. Someone felt it would be better to divide the dough in half and just bake as rounds on a flat sheet. After having made it, I can see why they might say that. That said, it was lovely white bread. It was a large slice in the toaster and it tasted terrific with butter and jam. I think it would be a tasty sandwich where you want a soft, squishy piece of bread. Sometimes I do. It would make excellent french toast though I haven’t done that yet. I had quite a bit of bread around right after I made the loaf, so I froze half for later. I’m likely to eat it this weekend.
I’m halfway through my yeast challenge. I have to say, I do feel much less fearful and more hopeful about the possibilities now that the last story in my head isn’t one of failure. I hope in the second half of 2016 to start to make items with dough and not just bread. I’d like to try making things like cinnamon rolls or other formed items.
I’ve been craving something made with cheese or cornmeal and yeast so it may be that another loaf of bread is in my future first.