Sandwich bread series: No-knead buttermilk bread

I have a confession to make.  I frequently fall down on the job of keeping the kitchen stocked with freshly baked bread.  I don’t usually put bread on the grocery list because if we buy bread, then why would I bake more?  But because I haven’t gotten into a consistent baking routine, there are often days without any bread at all.

If I were into making New Year’s resolutions, keeping up with the bread baking would be on the list.  And this buttermilk bread recipe might bring me a step closer to achieving my goal.  It’s easy.  I can mix it up in the time it takes for my morning cup of coffee to brew.  Everybody likes it–it’s a soft crusted white bread, ideal for toast and sandwiches–so we eat it up before it goes stale.

I have finally tweaked the recipe so that it works well for me.  I’m learning that there’s a getting-to-know-you period with every bread recipe.  You need to meet several times and figure out a comfortable working relationship.  With the buttermilk bread, I had to reduce the salt a little, use a little less flour, and get to know how much dough fits in my loaf pans.  This is a recipe that’s on its way to the easy predictability of an old friend.

Mixing in the flour

Buttermilk Bread
adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes 2 large loaves

2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. melted butter

Dusting risen dough with flour in preparation for shaping

Mix the water, buttermilk, yeast, salt and sugar in a 5-quart bowl or lidded food storage container.  Add the flour and stir until all the flour is incorporated.  (I use a large silicone spatula, but a wooden spoon works fine, too.)

Cover the bowl or container (not airtight) and let rest at room temperature for about 2 hours.

At this point, you can use the dough immediately or keep it covered (still not airtight) in the refrigerator to use over the next 7 days.  Sprinkle the dough with a little flour and scoop out half.  Dust the piece of dough with a little more flour and quickly and gently shape it into a ball.  Stretch the ball into an oval and place in a greased 9x4x3 non-stick loaf pan.  The pan should be a little more than half full.

Ready for the oven

Let the dough rest for 40 minutes (or 1 hour and 40 minutes for refrigerated dough).  Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Dust the loaf with flour, and slash the top with the tip of a sharp knife.  Brush the top with melted butter.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.  Keeps well in a sealed plastic bag for about 3 days.


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