Saturday, February 02, 2008

Five-Minute Buttermilk Bread

Saturday, February 2, 2008
As Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter (in Minnesota, this is good news), I leafed through my new Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book.

So many possibilities! I finally decided to make the buttermilk bread--just because I had buttermilk in the refrigerator. (Buttermilk in the refrigerator is a perpetual problem--first, you're required to use it up, because you've been brought up not to waste food; second, as you've almost made it through the quart, you realize that you don't have enough to make the fourth buttermilk recipe, so you have to buy more; third, back to step one. I decided to throw away the rest of the buttermilk after I finished with this bread, ignoring the voices of my mother and grandmothers).
I was more impressed with this bread than I was with the semolina bread. I liked the texture and flavor a lot, and I got the salt right this time.
A brief segue to the virtues of weighing instead of measuring: The first thing I did, after deciding what bread to try next, was to convert the cups to grams. As I suspected, the whole oversalting issue would have been avoided if the recipes in this book were in ounces or grams instead of cups or tablespoons. I carefully measured out 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt--22 grams. Then I weighed 22 grams of table salt--1 tablespoon.
In other words, if the master recipe specified 22 grams of salt instead of 1 1/2 tablespoons, it wouldn't matter what kind of salt you used. This time I used 22 grams of kosher salt, and I thought it was just right.
I can't really blame the authors for this. In fact, I noticed that Zoe Francois's web site notes that they considered using weights and decided against it because so few Americans weigh ingredients. I agree. I am a dedicated convert, but I have yet to convince a single person that weighing ingredients is not only more accurate, but much EASIER and NEATER. (No more scraping a quarter-cup of honey from a measuring cup and then washing the cup). When I say this, people just look at me, gimlet-eyed.

Like the first bread I made from this book, mixing the dough up is ridiculously easy. Put water, buttermilk, salt, yeast, sugar, and all-purpose white flour in a mixing bowl; mix with a dough hook (or just stir) until everything comes together; let rise for a couple of hours, then refrigerate for future use. Or make one loaf immediately, as I did.
The buttermilk bread recipe makes three 1 1/2-pound loaves instead of four 1-pound loaves. The 1 1/2-pound loaf is a nicer size, I think, so I'll probably continue to make my loaves bigger than the specified one-pounders.
Even though I cut slices while the bread was still warm, the bread stood up to the knife without being squashed, yet it had a tender crumb. Although I used all white flour, I'm sure you could substitute part whole-wheat with equally good results. While I thought the five-minute semolina bread was good, it wasn't as good as a more complicated recipe. This bread, however, compares favorably with any other white sandwich bread I've made. The authors also include a cinnamon-raisin bread recipe used with this bread dough and suggest that you can use the dough for any of the boule recipes in an earlier chapter.
My daughter Sarah came over for a visit just as this bread was coming out of the oven. Although she's lost twelve pounds on the South Beach diet, and has been steely in her resolve to cut back on carbs, this bread was more than she could say no to. I was sorry to be responsible for her breaking her diet, but like any mother, I was happy she said yes when I said, "Would you like another slice?"

P.S. Local readers may want to check out the Edesia Cookbook Review that will be held at the Galleria's Barnes & Noble in Edina on Monday, Feb. 25 at 7:00. Kim Ode has started a monthly cookbook review, and the February session is on bread. Kim, who built her own bread oven and is active in the St. Paul Bread Club, Solveig Tofte, head baker at the Turtle Bread Company, and I will talk about some of our favorite bread cookbooks. It will be very informal and, I hope, fun. Of course, my topic is The Bread Bible.


Melinda said...

I love your dirty, guilty buttermilk secret!
The bread looks great.
I totally agree with you on the measurements! Why is America so hooked on cups?

Anonymous said...

Bread looks great!

Yeah, people who don't weigh ingredients aren't REAL bakers in my opinion, LOL! America is in a time warp with measurements. Sure would make high school chemistry a lot easier to use only metric.


Anonymous said...

Hi Marie,

Your buttermilk bread looks great! I'm glad your daughter enjoyed it and hope she considered it a worth while treat during her successful diet!

Thank you for sharing! I love to see pictures of the bread people are baking!

If your cookbook group is open to everyone and I'm in town I would love to join you at the Galleria!

Thanks, Zoe Francois

breadbasketcase said...

I can't explain Americans. I can't explain why we still use cups, feet, and yards. I especially can't explain why we elected George W. Bush. And then elected him again.

I wish I could count you as a convert, but it sounds like you were weighing before I was. You may not be old enough to remember the time when the U.S. was going to switch to the metric system. The government gave us a five-year warning, but there was such an outcry that they gave up.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that the cookbook review is free and open to the public--no reservations necessary. It will be held on the fourth Monday of every month, with a different topic each month.
By the way, a friend of mine, who has never baked a loaf of bread in her life, just picked up your cookbook and is looking forward to trying her first.

breadchick said...

Now I'm going to have to go pick up this book.

I do have a comment about those who choose to use the phrase "you Americans" or the word "Americans" with such a pejorative tone. One of the things that makes most food blogs so enjoyable to read is the acceptance of everyone.

When I read those types of comments it underscores to me the close minded nature of the commenter and not so much the closed minded nature of the country. The UK refuses to move to the Euro despite wanting the rights of belonging to the EU in all other ways but currency. France refuses to move to a more global economy despite the high unemployment and blatant bigotry against the former colony immigrants that live in the suburbs of Paris. I could go on because despite the world view of us "Americans", some of us are well versed in world politics and not bulls in china shops when we travel.

Stepping back to my bread board now...

TNelson said...

I am also a convert to weighing ingredients. When I first started baking bread, I bought a scale thinking "what a pain". Now I find myself put out when the ingredients in the recipe aren't by weight. It's easier, cleaner and more accurate by weight, I think and I've only been in this bread game a little over a year!


jini said...

i promise i will weigh as soon as my scale is on loan to a cubscout participating in a pinewood derby! how's that for an excuse?
i will see you at the galleria - a real live sighting!

Melinda said...

Is this is turning into a political blog? Like hot potato topics such as cup measurements and George Bush? Sorry to start a political cooking debate!
(By the way...I am American and embrace all food loving nations even if they use cilantro!)LOL!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I love talking about scales and weighting ingredients to watch peoples eyes glaze over! Unfortunately I many have been in that group a few years ago. Now, I click my heels when the recipe is by weight!!

breadchick said...


I did not mean to come across so harshly. I bake by weight almost exclusively having been taught at an early age that is what most really accomplished bakers do.

For some reason last night (call it jet lag if you will having just returned from Europe), the comment that Americans need to embrace the metric system just hit a nerve.

That and having to explain "I" didn't personally put the idiot in charge in the White House (heck, I voted against it both times!) was probably what pushed me over the edge.

I have cups in both English and Metric and my scale always at ready so I can bake any recipe, any time.

OK, off to make some bread from Ireland now...

breadbasketcase said...

I'm glad I added this cookbook to my collection. It's very satisfying to look in the refrigerator and see several plastic containers of dough just waiting to turn into bread.

Exactly! I bought my scale against my better judgment, thinking it would be difficult and a real nuisance. But now....

Great excuse! I can't wait to meet you in person.

I actually think I started it by mentioning George W. Bush. Not any too kindly, either.

We are all converts, aren't we? I know what you mean about people's eyes glazing over. It's like when my husband starts talking about the tax code.

pinknest said...

melinda told me i had to be sure to check in becasue we are both on this hilarious buttermilk cycle!! i've made so many things bu t not bread yet. delicious!

breadbasketcase said...

Yes, I laughed out loud when I read your cauliflower soup posting. The next time I have a quart of buttermilk, I'll make the soup. In fact, the solution to the too-much-buttermilk conundrum might be one all-buttermilk dinner. The real challenge would be to do it without people noticing that your menu is very, very buttermilk heavy.

Anonymous said...

Your can freeze buttermilk to use later!

Doughadear said...

Hello Marie
Your bread looks wonderful and I am definitely looking into adding Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day to my bread book collection. I love being able to whip up a batch of dough and store it in the refrigerator and bake up a loaf a day or two later - you can never do that with cakes. I too am a convert to weighing - it is so much easier. Being Canadian we've been on the metric system now for years and years yet our cookbooks haven't converted to weight measurements. Most recipes are still written using imperial measurements with many showing metric conversions alongside but no weight measurements. BTW I baked the Golden Honey Oat Bread today using old sourdough and it is quite fabulous.

breadbasketcase said...

Thanks for the freezing tip! It never even occurred to me that buttermilk could be frozen with no ill effects.

It's a surprise to ehar that your cookbooks don't give weight measurements--I guess we're not the only ones who are slow to change. I loved the golden honey oat bread--there are so many good breads to bake, and it's so hard to decide between trying new recipes and going back to the ones you know are going to work. When/if I retire, I think I'll bake a loaf of bread every day and give most of it away. People will run from me, like do from the people who try to give away zucchini in August.

cmoewes said...

Just found your blog and wanted to say hello from another Twin Cities person!

breadbasketcase said...

Hello and welcome--thanks for leaving a note.

Doughadear said...

Marie, they may run away from zucchini but they would never run away from your bread. I'd bet that they would probably line up outside your door in anticipation.

breadbasketcase said...

That's a very nice thing to say!

The Girl said...

i started reading your blog and was so intrigued that i had to go back and read it chronologically. i started the feb 2006 entries and now i'm in march of 2007. i hope you keep posting. i enjoy your writing, and the pictures are inticing as well.

breadbasketcase said...

The Girl,
Well, I haven't run out of breads yet, so I'll probably keep going for a while. I'm also ingrigued by your adventures in becoming a baker!

Anonymous said...

Love your blog, had to laugh when you admitted you wanted to make every bread in The Bread Bible in one year! Glad to see you finally got to meet Rose in person. Thanks for all the great info and pictures