The Last of the Buttermilk

Admittedly, two big loaves of soda bread does use up a fair amount of buttermilk.  It does not, however, use up as much buttermilk as comes in the very smallest container a body can find in the entire metropolitain area.  It doesn’t even use up half of that. 

As previously mentioned on this blog, I have a horror of wasting food.  After a week of opening the refrigerator to a glowering bottle of buttermilk straining for its expiration date, I gave up waiting for a dairy-based miracle, and baked.  Or rather, I forced Teacherman to bake.  Right around the time that I determined that the buttermilk MUST be used, I came down with the latest iteration of the cold I’ve had all winter (very irksome when the temperature has finally reached 70).  I didn’t have the strength to knead two loaves worth of the whole wheat buttermilk bread* that I’d decided to make, so I measured the ingredients, called Teacherman away from his computer and bade him roll up his sleeves. 

That man can knead dough like no one I’ve ever seen.

It is a fact that he is well-muscled, due to intense bouts of weekend fencing, but more than that, he seems to have unlooked-for skills.  The Touch, even.  When I knead bread dough, the goopy mixture crawls up the not-inconsiderable distance to my elbows, I need to add extra flour and stop for breaks to catch my breath, and I never get the dough to the consistency that I truly want it.  Teacherman added no extra flour at all.  None.  He spent only slightly more than half as much time as I do to knead the dough 600 strokes, and the dough was beautiful–soft and elastic, springy to the touch and not remotely sticky on the outside.  And, due to the lack of extra flour, not at all dry, some thing my own loaves are prone to.  The bowl he’d kneaded in was clean on the inside–it didn’t even need to be wiped before we set the dough to rise in it.

And rise it did.  It rose so much that I was worried that it would over-proof and turn sour, so I gave the dough its second rise in the refrigerator (something I like to do anyway, since it allows the yeast to develop an almost sourdough-like flavor).

The next morning I took the dough out of the fridge, punched it down and formed it into four small half-loaves.  They whooshed up into almost straight-sided tuffets on their baking sheet, and might have risen more if I hadn’t been too nervous to let them.  Into the oven they went, where they browned (but not as appreciably as white-flour loaves would) and became crusty. 

Teacherman took the first loaf for lunch today, thereby, he tells me, inciting the envy of all the Teacher’s Lounge denizens, who covetously watched the fall of each crumb.  Maybe if they’re lucky, he’ll bake for them sometime. 

*(The bread, I must point out, is from The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, a tome that I basely stole from my mother when I left for graduate school.  It is the only book that I really trust when it comes to 100% whole wheat or other-interesting-grain bread, and I’ve never had a failure.  Some other favorite loaves therefrom are the Loaf for Learning, a yogurt-based yeast bread, and Fruited Loaves, for which one steeps dried fruit in tea before adding the tea-infused fruit [and the fruit-infuseded tea] to the dry ingredients).

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Published in: on March 26, 2007 at 7:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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