Sunday, July 26, 2009
As thrifty bakers know, buttermilk always has to be used up. Buttermilk was an ingredient in the Red Velvet Cake I made over at Heavenly Cake Place, so that meant I had to find at least one more buttermilk recipe. This recipe, one of three variations on Peter Reinhart's basic white bread, uses a cup and a half of buttermilk, so it serves the purpose very well.
Plus it's just an excellent, easy to put together, soft-crumbed white bread. And if you added red food coloring, I guess it would be a soft-crumbed red bread.
(Out of curiosity, I Googled "red bread," just in case there was such a thing. I didn't find it, but I did find that one of the accusations made at the Salem witch trials was that the so-called witches "ate red bread like man's flesh." There's also an out-of-print book called Red Bread that's an account of a Russian-born journalist's return to his native village after it had been collectivized in soviet Russia. Also, here is a very intriguing loaf of bread, made with dough colored with beets, spinach, and tomatoes.)
But I digress.
This is another easy, mix-it-all-together bread. To show you what a few hours of fermentation does to a dough, here it is after it's just been mixed together:
And here it is two hours later:
(The dough is divided in half because it makes two loaves of bread, 18 dinner rolls, or a dozen hot dog or hamburger buns).
I decided to bake two loaves, but I wanted them to look different, so I put one in a loaf pan and one I made into a free-form boule. For a shiny crust, I brushed on an egg wash, but you could also leave it bare or brush on melted butter. It's a highly versatile bread.
It's amazing how much sheen a little egg wash can give to a bread. For the boule, I decided on a starfish pattern:
I wanted the bread to look shiny all over, so I slashed the bread and then covered it with egg wash. If you want the slashes to be more prominent, you could slash first and wash second. (I wonder if "Slash First, Wash Second" could be the title of a crime novel?)
I didn't want to eat two fresh loaves of bread, so I decided I would just give one loaf of bread away to the person who walked in the door first. Fortunately, it was not a burglar because that would have been a peculiar transaction. Instead, it was my daughter Sarah, who was delighted to take take a loaf home. She chose the standard-edition loaf and not the freeform starfish pattern, but she said it was not an easy choice.
Every now and then, I bake a kind of bread that makes me think I should enter it in the state fair. This is one of those kinds of bread: down-home, wholesome, easy, and pretty. I had it plain, in a sandwich, and as toast, and it excelled at them all. The bread also smells especially tantalizing while baking.
If I had a bottomless container of buttermilk, I might make this regularly. Since I don't, though, I'll probably go on to something else next week. In the meantime, here's the recipe, from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart.
4 1/4 cups (19 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. (.38 ounce) salt
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) sugar
2 tsp. (.22 ounce) instant yeast
1 large egg, lightly beaten, at room temperature
1/4 cup (2 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) buttermilk
1. Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Pour in the egg, butter, and buttermilk, and mix on the low speed of the mixer with the paddle attachment until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball. (This can also be done by hand).
2. Change to the dough hook, and, adding more flour if necessary, mix on medium speed for six to eight minutes, or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Lightly oil a large bowl, roll the dough in oil so that it's all lightly covered, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
3. Let rise about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl, and, on a lightly floured counter, divide into two pieces if you're making bread (18 if you're making rolls, 12 if you're making buns). Cover with a towel and let rest about 20 minutes.
5. Shape into whatever shape you want to use, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise another 60 to 90 minutes, or until doubled. Before the dough is doubled in size, preheat the oven ro 350 (for bread) or 400 (for rolls or buns). Brush with egg wash (one egg, beaten with a bit of water), if desired. You can also top with sesame or poppy seeds if that strikes your fancy. Bake loaves for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. (A freeform loaf works best if it's baked on a bread stone).
6. Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool before eating.