Buttermilk Bread (#5)

After a few days abroad, in France, I’m back to baking bread, with a vengeance… It’s NOT that I’m sick of their white bread because a) the Alsace does indeed have a lot of different sorts of bread rather unusual in the rest of the country – possibly because their not ALL French there in the first place ;), and b) I certainly haven’t been there long enough to have had my fill of magnificent baguette, which they DO have. And yet, I’m happy to get back to baking myself, particularly since I’ve picked up a lovely magazine along the way that offers several promising recipes for me to try; here’s the first, #5 of my hopefully 52 Loaves, tested and approved: The Buttermilk Bread.

buttermilk00What’s needed (not in all particulars what you see in my photo, because… well, you know how it is):

  • 300 ml of buttermilk
  • sour dough for about 1 kg of flour
  • instant yeast (the recipe says…)
  • about 300 ml of water
  • 7 g of salt
  • 250 g of (type 997) rye flour
  • 750 g of almost whole grain (type 1050) wheat flour (the flour combination is where I failed. I went with a mix of rye wholegrain and plain wheat instead, which also worked nicely)

Prepare the yeast by solving it in some lukewarm water. If you have to use a mix of flours, make sure those are indeed mixed properly, and  build a nice little caldera in the middle. Add 7 g of salt around the yeast volcano, and pour the water. I prefer to use a spoon for the first bit of mixing everything together, therefore the wooden spoon there.

Knead the dough for at least five, better ten, minutes. Oil the bowl and put the dough back. I covered it with a plastic bag, a trick I learned from Jack and Ruby’s blog and have been using a lot since: it’s really remarkable how much this improves the dough’s surface after proving. I wonder why all German baking books and recipes I have ever read tell you to use a cloth!

Anyway. Put in warm place for about 30 to 45 minutes. I was rather disappointed by the “growth” but blamed (rightfully, I feel) the instant yeast I used and just ploughed on. So I formed two smaller instead of the recipe’s one large loaf and let them rest for another hour – and as you can see in the pictures the result was pretty satisfactory this time round. Pre-heat the oven at 230 °C while the loaves prove.

Now cut across the loaves several times. Put them in the oven at the full 230 °C for about two minutes, then reduce temperature and also – and this is important – open the oven door for a few moments to let the humid air out. I went with about 175-180 °C for the remaining baking time, accounting for the lower total mass of my two loaves to the original recipe, and let them bake for about 45 minutes.

This bread has one of the finest crusts I’ve ever been able to achieve in a common kitchen oven. I think it is the whole very high starting temperature, combined with the opening of the door afterwards. The taste is great and if there’s one thing I’m going to change next time, it’s using fresh yeast to avoid the (fortunately slight) bit of not properly raised dough right under the crust. You see the dark band of colour in that last picture?

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