Monday, April 6, 2009

Buttermilk Honey Loaf

It's two days before Passover, and what do I give you? I give you bread. A soft, supple, dangerously addictive buttermilk-honey bread. Yes, I am that cruel. But this bread is something you should tuck away and dream about during the week of matzoh ball soup and flourless chocolate cake because this bread is the bomb, delicious, awesome, fantastic, and other such appropriate adjectives that you can come up with.

If anyone had ever told me how easy and how satisfying it was to make sandwich bread at home, I would not have waited all this time to do it, and now that I've started, I can see that there's no going back. I want to make wheat bread and multi-grain bread. I want to make cinnamon raisin bread or date and walnut bread. I want to make -- oh, so many different things! And yet, I want to make this loaf again and again because there is a beautiful simplicity about it, a feeling of freshness and home that we all so desperately need right now.

One of my strongest memories of growing up in my little town in Communist Russia was going into the store to buy bread. There were baker's shelves - always about 3/4 empty - and each shelf had a little handle attached so that the customer can push the top of each loaf to test for softness and freshness. The bread was almost never soft and neither was it fresh and I always wondered, with the painful earnestness of an 8-year old, why that should be so. I knew nothing about economics and the way a pay scale produced incentives. I knew even less about the complexities of the class system and the ever-present bribe/barter mentality. I just knew, looking at my mom's face, that it shouldn't be like this. Perhaps this is why it's so rewarding for me to be able to rectify this for her, to make and give her a loaf of bread that is always soft and smells subtly of yeast and honey.



Buttermilk Honey Loaf
Cook's Illustrated, via Pittsburgh Needs Eated (I love this girl's photos)

Buttermilk American Loaf Bread
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

3 1/2 cups bread flour [I used King Arthur all-purpose flour. I know it impacted the texture, but the bread was still really delicious]
2 tsp table salt
1 cup buttermilk, cold
1/3 cup boiling water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp honey
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) 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.

2. Mix flour and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. 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. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is smooth and satiny, stopping machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead to form smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds. [If making by hand, combine ingredients as directed, turn out onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes.]

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 oven-safe pan on bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil.

6. Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan. Place pan in oven, immediately pouring heated water into an oven-safe pan [to create steam]; 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, about 40 to 50 minutes [or until the loaf is nicely browned and sounds hollow when you take it out and tap it on the bottom]. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature.

27 comments:

Arundathi said...

this looks gorgeous! and beautiful sentiments too. there's nothing as comforting as fresh, home-baked soft bread! :-)

Mermaid Sweets said...

Yum, I love bread and especially bread with honey (my fav challah recipe has honey in it). Thanks!

nicole said...

Oh, this is perfect timing... I have buttermilk that needs using and a need for sandwich bread. This looks wonderful!

Bridget said...

Beautiful pictures!!! Nothing beats homemade bread!

Treehouse Chef said...

What a great recipe. How did I not know that making bread was that easy? The photos are superior! Thanks for sharing.

Holly H. said...

I shall make this for my non-Jewish friends - think I can freeze a loaf til passover is over? :-)

RecipeGirl said...

My son just asked me yesterday when I was going to make some homemade bread for his pb&j sandwiches. Printing this one out now!! Thx!

AnticiPlate said...

I still have not gotten the courage to make my own bread. I am such a chicken:)

Elra said...

Hi Irine,
You will probably laugh at me if I tell you that everytime I tried to make loaf like this, it doesn't come out well. I mean, never got that bump on top of the loaf, it always flat. I need more practice I guess. Your loaf sounds so wonderful and very pretty. Looks absolutely professional too.
Cheers,
elra

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Irene ;) You do make me smile with your story of growing up and your child's eye view AND your awakened desire to bake bread. I have become just a wild bread freak these days. I simply can't get enough of it.
You might consider sending this to Susan for her weekly WildYeastSpotting.
http://www.wildyeastblog.com/yeastspotting-submission/
Happy Baking!

Helene said...

What a beautiful bread. There is nothing better than homemade.

Liz said...

Oh, this is gorgeous! I often cheat and use my breadmaker for fresh bread, but there is nothing like truly home baked bread.

Y said...

That bread looks wonderful. Just the kind I like baking at home :)

Anonymous said...

Looks great Irene! There must be something in the air... I'm making chocolate bread tonight!

Amy J

Gigi said...

Beautiful loaf! The pics are stunning!

Irene said...

Gigi, thank you, my dear! That is a big compliment coming from you!!

Amy - Chocolate bread?! PLEASE SHARE! irene_tokar (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Elyse said...

Oh my gah. This bread sounds delicious. Buttermilk and honey?! Yes, please. I must admit that I don't keep Passover, so I might be enjoying this bread earlier than I should. (Don't tell on me okay? My system doesn't do well with only matzoh...)

Emily said...

The bread looks wonderful. So light, fluffy and delicious. :)

Donna-FFW said...

This loooks so delicious.. I would love to try it toasted slathered in butter.. Awesome post!

Leela said...

This bread looks absolutely phenomenal, Irene. I've been trying to stay away from white bread, but this one has lured me right back. :)

Anali said...

I can smell that bread now! It looks just perfect. And I love the daffodils too! ; )

The Food Librarian said...

Irene, such a beautiful loaf of bread...and filled with so many memories of times past. Hope your Passover is filled with love, family and lots of matzo. - mary

Kathy - Cooking On the Side said...

Your bread (and your daffodils!) looks just beautiful - your mother will most certainly appreciate it. :-)

Hayley said...

Bread baking is one of my favorite things to do. It is so satisfying and comforting. Yours looks beautiful.

Caviar and Codfish said...

because this bread is the bomb, delicious, awesome, fantastic, and other such appropriate adjectives that you can come up with.

Heehee, too cute. : )

Ari (Baking and Books) said...

This bread does look incredible and I'm seeing it for the 1st time in the midst of Passover. Oh how I want some flour-y goodness right now.

Overgourd said...

I make two loaves of this every week. It is wonderful. The honey also helps in keeping it moist.