Making a fresh loaf of lovely, real homemade bread gives me more of a sense of accomplishment than just about anything. I am not an expert at it, you see, and I am still a little wary around yeast. So I look for simple recipes and adapt them as best I can for my skill level. Because I love that moment when you see that your dough has risen to a beautiful, soft round and then the smell of baking bread coming from your very own oven. And my love for buttermilk is well known, so creating a simple bread that makes the most of buttermilk tang was a natural step for me and this has become my go-to loaf.
This bread is delicious with any kind of jam or jelly and makes a very nice sandwich. But for out January soup month extravaganza purposes, it’s amazing with a big bowl of soup. Spread with a nice butter, toasted if you like.
1 packet (.25 ounces) rapid rise yeast
¼ cup warm water (about 110°)
¾ cup whole buttermilk
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ – ¾ cups bread flour
Sprinkle the yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the warm water. Give it a little swirl to distribute then leave it to proof until bubbly and creamy, 5 – 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the buttermilk and the butter, cut into chunks, in a small saucepan and heat over medium low, just until the butter melts. Let the mixture cool slightly – you want it just warm enough to touch.
Add the honey, salt and warm buttermilk mixture to the yeast in the bowl, then add 1 ½ cups of flour. Use the dough hook on medium speed to blend the ingredients together until you have a wet, shaggy dough. Scrape the sides of the bowl and the hook if necessary. Add more flour, ¼ cup at a time, beating at medium until you have a mass of smooth dough (you may not use all the flour). Continue beating until the dough is smooth and elastic and comes together in a nice ball. All this should be about 5 minutes on the mixer.
Gather the dough into a ball and place it in a large, buttered bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ hours. Here’s a tip I learned from my bread-baking friend Holly. The microwave is a warm, draft free place great for rising dough. Just leave a post-it not so no one turns it on. Even better, create a moist, warm dough habitat by putting a measuring cup with ½ cup of water in the microwave before the bowl of dough and zap for 2 minutes, until the inside is nice and steamy. Quickly stick the dough bowl in and shut the door.
Punch down the risen dough and form it into a loaf. Transfer it to a buttered 8 by 4 inch loaf pan and leave to rise until it fills the pan, about another hour.
Heat the oven to 375°. Bake the bread until it is nicely browned, about 30 – 35 minutes. Turn the bread out into your oven-mitted hand and tap on the bottom; it should give a nice hollow thud. Remove it from the pan and wrap in it in a clean tea towel to cool completely.
Makes 1 loaf