Baking good bread has never been a talent that I possessed and I just accepted the fact that I didn’t inherit the bread-baking gene from my mother. I never totally gave up on attempting to make a good yeast dough and over the years have found a few recipes that produce a presentable loaf of bread or pan of sweet rolls. Every so often I practically crave a good loaf of homemade bread, especially for sandwiches. We love soup and there is nothing better to serve with it than homemade bread.
This recipe is courtesy of my mom and her prolific recipe file. It’s a very simple bread that gets its flavor and lightness from a good dose of buttermilk. The milk weakens the gluten in the flour and gives the dough a delicate taste and creates a soft crumb that is perfect for a sandwich bread. It’s so good that I often just have a slice or two of buttered bread…no sandwich filling needed.
Most of the country is experiencing crazy weather this year and the Pacific Northwest is no exception. We had the driest summer on record and the wettest December ever recorded. Last week a freak ice/snow storm hit (left photo) that closed most schools for two days. It doesn’t take much to turn Portland completely on its ear and snarl traffic on every road. The last monster snow storm we endured was in 2008 when everything was closed down for almost two weeks. We just aren’t cold weather people out here.
So, getting back to the bread. I’m smart enough not to drive on the ice so I stayed inside on our snow day and baked one of my favorite bread recipes. If you are a little uncomfortable making a yeast dough this is an ideal recipe to practice on. The recipe is straightforward…combine the wet ingredients and add flour to it. I make the dough in my Kitchenaid mixer, starting out with the paddle attachment. When it’s time to add the final 2-3 cups of flour I switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes until a very soft dough just starts to leave the sides of the bowl. It will be sticky…that’s the way it is supposed to be. Gently form the dough into a ball and place in a large buttered bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until you can make indentations in the dough with your finger (about 1-1/2 hours). Punch down the dough and scoop it out onto a well floured surface, flour your hands, knead the dough a couple of times,and form the dough into two equal portions. Place into 2 9×5 inch loaf pans that have been greased and lined with parchment. Brush the tops with melted butter. Cover with the tea towel and let rise until double in size.
ABOUT BUTTERMILK: I love to bake with buttermilk. It does magical things to many recipes and its a great ingredient to have on hand. When I started gathering the ingredients for this recipe I found a pint of buttermilk in the back of the fridge that was WAY past its expiration date. I wasn’t going to give it up without a fight so poured the contents into a measuring cup to inspect it. The milk was very bubbly, but smelled sweet and generally looked OK, so I used it. I did a little Google checking and didn’t find any warnings about bad things happening if I used the milk…and I was curious about all those bubbles.
The results were two light-as-a-feather loaves of the most delicious bread I’ve made in a long time. They were so “gassy” that big blisters formed on the top of the loaves as soon as I shaped the dough and put it into the pans. You can see the wrinkles on the tops. I brushed them with melted butter and popped the blisters as they formed When doubled in size, they were baked at 375F for 20-30 minutes. Delicious.!
- 1 envelope yeast (2-1/2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup warm water (105F)
- 2 cups warm buttermilk (105F)
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 5-6 cups white bread flour
- In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer combine the sugar, yeast, and warm water.
- Set aside for 5 minutes or until bubbly,.
- Whisk the buttermilk, maple syrup, salt, baking soda and melted butter together and add to the yeast mixture. Add three cups of flour and mix until smooth, about 5 minutes on low on a stand mixer.
- Add the remaining flour, one cup at a time, and mix until smooth, about 5 minutes on low speed. This will make a very soft dough. Don't add too much flour.
- When dough pulls from the sides of the bowl remove it from the mixer to a lightly floured surface. Knead until elastic and smooth.
- You can also knead in your mixer, which is what I did..
- Place in greased bowl, turn to grease the top, and cover with a clean tea towel.
- Allow the dough to rise for 1½ hours, or until double.
- Punch down and form into two loaves. Place in greased. parchment lined, loaf pans and brush tops with melted butter..
- Cover, and allow to rise for about an hour until double in size.
- Preheat oven to 375F. Bake for 30 minutes. You can cover the tops with foil if they brown too fast.
- Remove loaves from oven and brush with melted butter again if you like a very soft crust.
- Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes.
- Turn out and cool completely on a rack.