Friday, September 14, 2012

Buttermilk Bread

A "fast bread" will never have the complex flavor and crumb structure of an artisan bread that spends hours rising and developing character. It will, however, give you fresh bread on your table in a fraction of the time. This bread is crazy easy to make. You don't even have to shape it. You literally just spread it into the pan and let it proof (briefly) before baking it and filling your house with the sweet smell of yeast.

Buttermilk is one of those ingredients that you often purchase for a recipe and then have lying around in your refrigerator for a while afterward, looking for some love. I have explicitly created a tag for recipes that use buttermilk on Mission: Food to give you great ideas of how to use some of your leftover buttermilk. I'm thinking this is the key to a happier and less wasteful life in the kitchen :)

This bread is a great way to use some of your leftover buttermilk. Making bread in a short period of time robs it of a chance to slowly develop flavor intensity. Using buttermilk with its characteristic sour flavor imparts something that would otherwise be missing in such a short rise.

A little butter and egg into the mix also adds flavor and richness. The crust on this bread is buttery and crumbly, while the crumb is firm and springy. It holds its shape well and is excellent for sandwiches. It would make great toast, French toast, and bread pudding as well.

I elected to use my bread to make a variation of Caprese sandwiches using local Narragansett Creamery mozzarella, juicy ruby red tomatoes from my dad's garden, and a little olive tapenade for a briny and salty note. The bread held up really well with all of the juiciness of the tomatoes and the wetness of the tapenade.

It had a mildly buttery flavor that added a touch of richness to this otherwise fresh and light-tasting sandwich. I was very happy with the result of both the buttermilk bread and the sandwiches I created with it. Although I enjoy a deeply flavorful and chewy artisan bread, this buttermilk bread is just the ticket when time is short and you're craving the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked bread in your home.

Buttermilk Bread
Makes 1 loaf
(From Fast Breads)

1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold or room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon wheat bran (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 teaspoons (a 1/4-ounce packet) instant yeast
1 large egg
2 teaspoons melted butter for brushing the loaf

Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-in loaf pan.

In a small saucepan, heat the buttermilk and butter over medium heat until it registers about 130ºF (54°C) on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the heat.

In a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, mix together 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, wheat bran (if using), salt, and yeast on low speed just until combined. Add the warm buttermilk mixture and mix until all the ingredients are smooth and combined. Add the egg and continue beating for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour and continue mixing for 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky and will not come away from the sides of the bowl. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and brush the top with the melted butter.

Cover the pan loosely with waxed paper and let the dough rise to within 1 inch of the top of the pan, about 25 to 30 minutes. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375ºF (190°C).

Bake the loaf until the top feels firm and is lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto the rack and let cool completely before slicing into roughly hewn hunks or slender sandwich slices.

I'm submitting this post to Yeastspotting!


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