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Seeking the Perfect Homemade Whole Wheat: Nourishing Traditions Soaked Buttermilk Bread (no. 7)

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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.

RELATED: Recipe for Banana Spelt Bread (low gluten!)

I’ll admit it. I was wrong. (Please, mark date and time, for that doesn’t happen often.) Winking smile Here’s the recipe in print version followed by the pictorial process with my tweaks and snarky commentary already included:

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Nourishing Traditions Soaked Buttermilk Bread

  • Author: Sally Fallon (and Katie)

Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 c. whole wheat flour (I used hard red spring wheat)
  • 11 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 (Use the code kitchenstewardship for 15% off of your first purchase)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 c. unbleached white flour


ship kroger


Instructions

  1. 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.)
  2. Pour buttermilk out of pan and melt butter.
  3. 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.
  4. Place in a bowl, cover with a towel and rest on the counter 12-24 hours.
  5. The next day, combine water, yeast and honey in a small bowl and leave for 5 minutes or until it bubbles.
  6. Add salt and baking soda and mix well.
  7. Place half the flour mixture, half the yeast mixture and 1/2 cup white flour in food processor. Process until a smooth ball forms.
  8. Repeat with other half.
  9. Knead the two balls together briefly (I did it enough to really get them incorporated and then a few more kneads).
  10. Place in a buttered bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise two hours or until doubled.
  11. Punch down, cut the dough in half and process each half in a food processor for 30 seconds each.
  12. Form into loaves and place in buttered loaf pans.
  13. Cover with a towel and let rise 1-2 hours, until doubled.
  14. Bake for 30 minutes at 350F. Cool on racks.

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Recipe: Nourishing Traditions Soaked Buttermilk Bread

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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.

nourishing traditions soaked yeasted buttermilk bread (3) (475x356)

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.

nourishing traditions soaked yeasted buttermilk bread (4) (475x356)

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.

nourishing traditions soaked yeasted buttermilk bread (5) (475x356)

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.

nourishing traditions soaked yeasted buttermilk bread (8) (475x356)

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.

nourishing traditions soaked yeasted buttermilk bread (11) (475x356)

nourishing traditions soaked yeasted buttermilk bread (13) (475x356)

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.

nourishing traditions soaked yeasted buttermilk bread (15) (475x356)

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 (use the code Katie15 for 15% off at that site!):

nourishing traditions soaked yeasted buttermilk bread (18) (475x356)

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

Total Score: 24/30 (view the bread rating system and all recipes HERE)

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!

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Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

35 thoughts on “Seeking the Perfect Homemade Whole Wheat: Nourishing Traditions Soaked Buttermilk Bread (no. 7)”

  1. I’ve been making this bread in bulk for the last few months, and selling it at local Farmers Markets. I also use it to make Cinnamon Raisin Bread and Cinnamon Rolls. It’s a very versatile bread. I fresh-mill my wheat, which makes it that much tastier.

    I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe in the process:
    – Leave out the honey. You don’t have to add any sugar to this bread, and if you’re using SAF yeast, it doesn’t need to be activated. Just mix the yeast directly in with the flour and salt in the later half of the recipe.
    – Leave out the baking soda. It doesn’t need it.
    – Ditch the white flour. Sally adds it to help the gluten strength in the bread, but if you replace half the buttermilk with water, you’ll get a really strong, light loaf without any white flour.
    – Unless you’re using real buttermilk (the thin, nutritious liquid leftover from the process of making butter), replace half the cultured buttermilk with water. You’ll still have plenty of live culture to chew on the bran’s phytic acid. And the increased moisture will make your dough much stronger and lighter. It’ll also reduce some of the heavy tang from the cultured buttermilk, which can overpower the flavor of the wheat, and clash with other flavors you might be trying to get from your sandwiches.
    – Using a food processor is not necessary, though I do recommend using a stand mixer of some sort (my Bosch Universal does great… I killed my Kitchenaid because it wasn’t strong enough to handle large quantities of bread dough).

    I did a lot of work to convert the volumes to weights that work for me as a baker. Here’s what it looks like now, for 2 loaves:

    8 oz. (227 g or 1 cup) cultured buttermilk, room temperature
    8 oz. (227 g or 1 cup) water
    6 oz. (170 g or 1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
    24 oz. (680 g) whole wheat flour
    6 oz. (170 g) whole wheat flour
    0.35 oz (10 g or 1 Tablespoon + 1/4 teaspoon) SAF yeast
    0.37 oz (10.5 g or 2 teaspoons) sea salt
    3 oz. (85 g) water

    1. Combine the buttermilk, the first portion of water and the butter in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
    2. Add the first portion of whole wheat flour, and stir until just mixed.
    3. Cover the bowl, and let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
    4. In another bowl, combine the second portion of whole wheat flour with the yeast and salt.
    5. Place the soaked dough, the flour mixture, and the second portion of water into your stand mixer. Run the mixer at its lowest speed for 4 minutes.
    6. Turn your stand mixer up to a low-medium speed (2 out of 4 on a Bosch, 2 or 3 out of 9 on a Kitchenaid, etc.). Let it run for another 4 minutes.
    7. Turn off your mixer. If rising in a different container, move your dough to its rising container. Cover just until doubled. It will weaken if it over-rises.
    8. Gently fold the risen dough a few times, pressing out its air. I find that 3 or 4 folds is usually enough. More than 6 could over-work your dough.
    9. Divide the dough in half. Cover, and let it rest for 20 minutes.
    10. Stretch and flatten each piece of your dough into roughly an 8×11-inch square (about the size of a sheet of letter paper), with one of each of their short sides facing you. Roll each of them into an even log towards you, from the furthest edge to the closest edge, as thick at the sides as they are in the middle.
    11. The outer surface of the loaves should be smooth. If they have cut marks or fold marks, let them rest, covered, for another 10 minutes, and repeat step 10.
    12. Pinch the seams of the loaves together along the long side and the 2 short sides.
    13. Place the loaf, seam-side down, into your buttered, well-seasoned loaf pans.
    14. Allow to rise, covered, until doubled in size. For the ratios in this recipe, it should be cresting the top of the pan by an inch or two, and mushrooming over the sides a little.
    15. Bake until their internal temperature reads 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
    16. Depan immediately, and allow to cool completely before slicing, spreading with raw butter, and devouring the entire loaf.

  2. I make this recipe twice a week (we eat a lot of bread in my house). I put all the ingredients in my bread machine (I always use 1 1/2 cups buttermilk) and set it for dough only. After it mixes and rises in the machine, I take it out, knead it a couple of times, divide it into 2 loaf pans, let it rise and bake. Comes out perfect every time. Oh, I don’t use white flour… I use 4 cups whole wheat and 1 cup white whole wheat.

  3. Should probably add that the original recipe and variations of it are readily available on google. I found it because I was looking for crusty bred recipes. =). I live in Europe and that’s kinda the thing over here.

    1. Update – I tried this recipe:

      http://benstarr.com/recipes/easy-overnight-old-world-dutch-oven-bread/

      It uses a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast with a 24 hour rise at room temperature. I used buttermilk in place of the water. It was awesome! I was so afraid that it wouldn’t rise, but it did! The crust was crisp and crackly..the interior was moist and chewy, but surprisingly light (I used bread flour…would like to experiment with wheat). It was mildly sour, due to the buttermilk I’m sure. My husband actually thought it was a sourdough recipe (never made a starter….sounds really intimidating).

      Anyways, it was really easy and simple. I hope the 24 hours with buttermilk did something as far the phytic acid was concerned. But, yeah. I’m new at all this.

  4. Hello,
    I am a bit new to the real foods lifestyle, (and bread baking) and I have a quick question: why soak the flour and have the yeast rise separately? There are plenty of recipes that have a 24 hour rise time for bread. Why not use buttermilk or add a couple tablespoons of vinegar to the dough, and let it soak and rise at the same time? Or does one process mess with the other?

    1. Lynn,
      Great questions – I’m not sure I’ve seen 24 hour rise recipes that aren’t either sourdough or refrigerated. If you took a regular bread recipe and rose it that long, it would over-rise and you’d have to punch it down too often and then have no rising power left for the bake – I’m pretty sure at least. The “artisan bread in 5” method that refrigerates the dough has *some* phytate reduction, but supposedly not as much as room temp. By the end of a week of artisan bread in 5 though, it’s really breaking down and you can see/feel the difference in the dough, so something is happening even when cold! 🙂 Katie

      1. Well, actually I was asking because I just stumbled across Jim lahey’s no-knead bread. He uses regular yeast, but a very small amount (to slow the fermentation process) and leaves it at room temperature for 24 hours. It’s supposed to produce a loaf with a great flavor and crust. Was wondering if that could be converted easily into a soaked recipe.

        Thanks,
        Lynn

        1. The soaking without the yeast and salt also serve another function: autolyse. It allows the moisture to begin working on the flour without the yeast munching sugars and producing alcohols, etc., which gives you a stronger, smoother, lighter loaf than if the yeast were added earlier.

  5. Pingback: 10 Homemade Ways to Make Buttermilk Plus 16 Reasons to Do It | DontWastetheCrumbs.comDon't Waste the Crumbs!

  6. I’m tired of my old standby, the King Arthur 100% Whole Wheat Bread, so I gave this a try. I like how smooth and soft the dough is! I used 1/2 cup buttermilk and the rest water, because I’ve read using all dairy to ferment doesn’t do as much to get rid of phytic acid.

    I think I messed up the loaves, though, because I just patted them into loaves and set in the pans to rise. They looked a bit crumbly and lumpy — I should have looked at your picture again! During baking they stayed that way, lumpy and not rising any more. I used 9×5 pans, and maybe these are too big? But the taste is better than any bread I’ve made, the crust is delicious (albeit lumpy!), and my 7-yr-old gave it an A! It’s the fluffiest, lightest bread!

  7. Gretchen Ruby

    Hi!
    I’ve been preparing this recipe for my family for years, and I think it’s delicious! However, I’ve just found out my infant is allergic to raw milk in any form. How can I alter this recipe? Should I try warm water and whey instead? Thanks! Trying to make my life less complicated so we can all eat the same thing.

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Gretchen,
      Sorry I missed your comment for so long!

      The buttermilk will certainly be a dough enhancer (softer bread) BUT it never hurts to try just water. Whey doesn’t have the same effect as milk? Whey is a dairy product…

      And actually, if by infant you mean still under one year, she’s better off having no grains at all in my humble opinion. The digestive system just isn’t ready for them yet.

      Good luck! 🙂 Katie

  8. Pingback: Sono-Ma and Whole Foods Hope Your Irish Eyes Are Smiling (Give Away Included!)

  9. Jen @ Oh no! I really do need to eat my vegetables!

    I am wanting to learn more about SAF yeast? What is the difference between it and other yeasts, and does it have the same problems that commercial baker’s yeast has?
    Prior to going grain free, I was trying to figure out sourdough because of problems with standard baking yeast. When we welcome back grains I would love to get the benefits of soaked bread with the rise and convenience of dry yeast.

    1. Jen,
      SAF yeast is just a good brand…I think it’s just normal yeast otherwise though. By problems with yeast, you mean reactions people have? If so, probably about the same. You can do sourdough – if I can do it, anybody can manage. 😉 Katie

  10. Katie,
    I was told about your blog by a friend and have loved trying out some of your recipes. Everything has been so good! I ‘ve been making the nourishing traditions bread for my family for a while now, and have made quite a few changes from the NT recipe and tried to simplify it a little bit. This is how I mix the ingredients.
    Combine whole wheat flour, 1 cup buttermilk, and butter in food processor. You will know you have enough buttermilk if a ball forms and it begins “clunking” around in a circle. If it’s too thick add a little more buttermilk. Place in bowl, cover with a towel and leave in a warm place for 12-24 hours.
    Combine water and yeast. Water can’t be too hot or too cool or the yeast won’t activate. Once you see that the yeast is active, add the honey. Then add salt and baking soda and mix with a whisk.
    Break up ball of dough that has been sitting all night, and put half of it, in pieces in food processor. Then add 1/4 cup unbleached flour and process. Add half of the yeast mixture and process until a ball forms. Repeat with the other half of the dough, yeast mixture and white flour.
    Knead the two balls together briefly and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise 1-2 hours. Remove from bowl, shape into loaves or rolls and let rise 1-2 hours. Bake for 20-30 minutes on 350 degrees. Cool on racks.

    *Sometimes I mix in raisins, cinnamon, vanilla, and flax seeds before rising 🙂

  11. I’m curious if you know if kefir would be alright to substitute for the buttermilk. I just bought some kefir grains and I don’t keep buttermilk on hand. I usually just do the lemon juice/milk approach.

  12. Kimarie @ The Cardamom's Pod

    I’ve made this TONS of times – quadrupling the recipe, of course, using my DLX mixer – and we’ve loved it. I didn’t want to go through tons of buttermilk so sometimes I would use just 1/4 the amount of buttermilk called for. It was a great soaked recipe to introduce to my children. Now we prefer to use sprouted flour in any normal 100% whole wheat recipe.

    I use Wheat Montana Prairie Gold Hard White Spring Wheat for all my yeast breads – it has a light flavor and rises beautifully! I used to use hard red wheat before and that always was more dense and hard. Could NOT believe the difference when I switched!

  13. I have made this bread 2 1/2 times now, and we seem to like it. The first time it was my first time soaking a bread and it molded in my container on me (note, use a washcloth to cover bowl, not the lid that comes with it that makes it air-tight)
    The second time my fiancé LOVES it. It took a while to eat the two loaves, but it was good for atleast a week or two, stored in a clean bag after a day of cooling. I made some yesterday and will figure out if it freezes well in not-yet-baked roll form so that I can just thaw the dough for a hour or two before dinner and have fresh and warm bread for the 2 of us or friends.

    Also, feel lucky because I have to do this COMPLETELY by hand, I do not have a food processor or a Kitchenaid, I sooo wish I did and is the top of the list of wedding registry, considering telling people first baby will be named after one if the get me it. 🙂 Everywhere else I lived I always had access, and I learned how much I loved it!

  14. Heather Ledeboer

    It was fun to see a bread recipe that uses buttermilk because I have recently discovered how to make cultured buttermilk and now that I made it, I always have some on hand ready to go. However, that said, I agree, this sounds like a lot of steps and a lot of clean up so I am not sure if I am going to try it or not. I bet I could simply substitute buttermilk for the water that is called for in other bread recipes, do you think that would work?

    1. Heather, I bet buttermilk would make any bread more soft and supple, as milk is supposed to be a dough conditioner. Maybe start with half? I see King Arthur’s recipes often call for just a smidge of buttermilk powder, so maybe 100% is too much for many recipes. ??? Good luck! 🙂 Katie

      1. Heather Ledeboer

        Thanks for your feedback. I tried buttermilk in your current bread “winner” recipe in place of the milk that was originally called for and it was lovely. In fact my husband said it was the best bread I have made to date! I did wonder however about this comment you made above. You said, ” I know I can’t get the buttermilk over 118F or enzymes and probiotics will die. ” Won’t that happen anyway when the bread is cooked in the oven and we need to make sure the internal temp reaches 200 degrees?

        1. Heather,
          Yes, but at that point the culturing that pre-digests the grains has already happened, during the soaking time. Make sense? 🙂 Katie

      1. The reconstituted powder will make buttermilk but it will not be cultured (the lactic acid would not be active) so I am not sure if it would do the same thing to the grains to break them down. I contacted the company and they said the powdered buttermilk was not cultured.

  15. For quite a while this was our standard bread. (I know it’s a “compromise” but it was a huge step in the positive direction at the time.) Our family really liked it and it did make decent sandwich bread. It also made great buns for burgers. It does have a unique taste, but it never seemed to interfere with any other flavors. Also I only ever used a stand mixer to knead it because that’s all I have. It always turned out fairly soft and light….at least at first. It had a tendency to get crumbly and/or moldy very quickly.

    Whew…I didn’t know I could go on so long about a type of bread! 🙂

  16. Wow that does sound a bit compicated compared to the others. Personally I think your “happy rolls” make the best bread with Tammy’s coming in second. We are kind of addicted the the Happy Roll bread around here!

  17. Thanks for the review. The weird thing for me about NT baking recipes is they don’t turn out consistently. I’ve had success with the muffin recipe, then the next time it was a total flop!

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