I was almost certain this recipe would be a bust. I’m glad my bad attitude didn’t taint the whole process, because I have to say I was thoroughly surprised and impressed by the end result.
I’d often heard of people having bad experiences with the baking recipes in particular in Nourishing Traditions, and I always responded, “Yes, I think Sally Fallon is much more a nutritionist than a baker.” Even though the buttermilk bread is billed as a “compromise bread” and “good for sandwiches” right in the book, my expectations were low and dense.
The recipe also uses a food processor, but it doesn’t specify whether to use the blade or a dough paddle (which I don’t have but have seen mentioned in other recipes). I forged ahead with the regular blade, sure I was missing the mark. There isn’t actually any kneading in the recipe beyond a few seconds in the food processor, which only served to confirm my surety that the bread would be dense.
I’ll admit it. I was wrong. (Please, mark date and time, for that doesn’t happen often.) Here’s the recipe in print version followed by the pictorial process with my tweaks and snarky commentary already included:
- 4 c. whole wheat flour (I used hard red spring wheat)
- 1-1½ c. buttermilk, warm
- ½ c. melted butter
- ¼ c. room temperature water
- 2¼ tsp. SAF yeast
- 2 Tbs. honey
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 c. unbleached white flour
- Warm buttermilk over low to medium heat until finger temp (body temperature). (I didn't like the author's use of "warm" without any further description, by the way, so I'm not sure if this was ideal, but I know I can't get the buttermilk over 118F or enzymes and probiotics will die.)
- Pour buttermilk out of pan and melt butter.
- Combine flour, 1 cup buttermilk and melted butter in a food processor until a ball forms. If dough is too thick, add buttermilk, but it should be thick enough to form a ball.
- Place in a bowl, cover with a towel and rest on the counter 12-24 hours.
- The next day, combine water, yeast and honey in a small bowl and leave for 5 minutes or until it bubbles.
- Add salt and baking soda and mix well.
- Place half the flour mixture, half the yeast mixture and ½ cup white flour in food processor. Process until a smooth ball forms.
- Repeat with other half.
- Knead the two balls together briefly (I did it enough to really get them incorporated and then a few more kneads).
- Place in a buttered bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise two hours or until doubled.
- Punch down, cut the dough in half and process each half in a food processor for 30 seconds each.
- Form into loaves and place in buttered loaf pans.
- Cover with a towel and let rise 1-2 hours, until doubled.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 350F. Cool on racks.
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Recipe: Nourishing Traditions Soaked Buttermilk Bread
4 c. whole wheat flour (I used hard red spring wheat)
1-1 1/2 c. buttermilk, warm
1/2 c. melted butter
1/4 c. room temperature water
2 1/4 tsp. SAF yeast
2 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. unbleached white flour
Warm buttermilk over low to medium heat until finger temp (body temperature). I didn’t like the author’s use of “warm” without any further description, by the way, so I’m not sure if this was ideal, but I know I can’t get the buttermilk over 118F or enzymes and probiotics will die. Pour buttermilk out of pan and melt butter.
Combine flour, 1 cup buttermilk and melted butter in a food processor until a ball forms. If dough is too thick, add buttermilk, but it should be thick enough to form a ball. Place in a bowl, cover with a towel and rest on the counter 12-24 hours.
I thought this might be a tad dry, but I didn’t want to push it.
The next day, combine water, yeast and honey in a small bowl and leave for 5 minutes or until it bubbles. Add salt and baking soda and mix well. Place half the flour mixture, half the yeast mixture and 1/2 cup white flour in food processor. Process until a smooth ball forms. Repeat with other half.
I was pretty nervous when this was the result of the first half! A bit crumbly, don’t you think? I didn’t like having to guesstimate ‘half’ of the yeast and water mixture and probably undershot it. I added a few teaspoons of water to get this to hold together.
The other half looked like this without any help, holding together much better.
Knead the two balls together briefly (I did it enough to really get them incorporated and then a few more kneads). Place in a buttered bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise two hours or until doubled.
This is at about 2 hours 20 minutes. I admit my surprise that it rose so nicely!
Punch down, cut the dough in half and process each half in a food processor for 30 seconds each.
Katie again. Here is where I really started to doubt. What I know about gluten strands is that they need to be lined up for a good rise, and even the sharpness of the freshly ground bran can CUT them and make the bread dense. And I’m about to put my nicely risen dough into a machine with a slicing blade? It didn’t seem to make sense to me. I second guessed and kneaded one half by hand for a few minutes and the other in the food processor. It did cut the dough up a little for sure.
Form into loaves and place in buttered loaf pans.
Cover with a towel and let rise 1-2 hours, until doubled.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350F. Cool on racks.
If you’d like to see the basic bread baking techniques I usually follow, see HERE.
The side-by-side taste test was almost dead even, but the NT version with the food processor might have actually had a tiny bit more lightness/rise to it, my husband and I agree. Either that or I forgot which side was which! It was excellent as toast with butter and raw honey:
Unfortunately, although the end result was awfully tasty, this recipe gets docked quite a number of points just for being complicated from the get-go. White flour, the extra pot to heat the butter and buttermilk, calling for buttermilk period (I don’t always have it on hand, do you?), and having to wash a food processor and a bowl all make this recipe more complicated, and thus less “for me.” I avoided it for a few weeks because I had to thaw the buttermilk or because I just wanted an easy one.
The taste is really quite interesting. I can tell there’s something different about it, and it’s the buttermilk, but it doesn’t taste nearly as sour as I expected. It’s unique, but a pleasant unique, in my opinion. However, it’s slightly less of a blank slate for a good sandwich than my ideal and might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The bread is also not nearly as soft or foldable as Tammy’s Bread, the current forerunner of the competition.
The dough is very easy to manage once it’s time to form loaves, but I guess all those steps and splitting the dough in half in the food processor caused me to dock the “workability” one point, just for being tricky and dry for a spell.
Kimball Family Bread Ratings:
- Whole grains: 4
- Softness: 4
- Flavor: 4
- Workability (dough): 4
- Good rise: 4
- Easy recipes: 3 (deductions for extra pot, food processor)
- Bonus points: +2 for soaking, –1for the buttermilk
Want to Play Along?
Have you ever tried the NT sandwich bread before? If I have extra buttermilk on hand again, it’s actually nice to have a way to use it other than blender pancakes (I can only make so many). In the future I might try:
- using all whole wheat flour, half or all white whole wheat – it’s a teeny bit dense/healthy tasting even with some white flour, so you might as well go all the way!
- kneading with an alternative method, probably my stand mixer, and maybe even adding some traditional or stretch-and-fold kneading to see if I can’t get a bit of a better rise and crumb out of this one.
I’d love it if you’d let me know how it goes if you give this recipe a try or have made it before. Thanks!
Catch up on all the recipes in the Seeking the Perfect Homemade Whole Wheat Bread series.
Look for a soaked grain recipe roundup on Friday and a new bread recipe next week!