Buttermilk Bucket Bread

by Wendy

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Freshly buttered thick as icing buttermilk bread was breakfast this morning to four wildhearted boys on our little homestead.  Comfort food at its finest.  Homey, thick slices grace plates and fill tummies with stick to your ribs goodness.  Washed down with a tall glass of cold as snow milk it is good to the last crumb.  Amber drizzled honey dripping down sides, or maybe you prefer the sweetness of summer raspberries preserved, or perhaps the soft peach fuzz kiss of august?  Sunshine in each bite.  Mmmmm…..  Warms the wool socks on wood floor winter mornings filling my heart with joy as I watch those wildhearted boys savor the richness in each bite.

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Buttermilk Bucket Bread

3 c.  buttermilk

1 1/2 T.  active yeast

1 1/2 T.  Redmond’s Real Salt

2 T.  raw honey

1/4 c.  butter, melted

5 1/2-6 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

To begin, gather your bucket, crock, or very large mixing bowl with a cover or lid.  I have used my wooden cutting board to cover the dough, whatever you can come up with is just fine.  Your container just needs to hold at least 6 quarts and have a lid to prevent drying out.  Be creative.  Grab a hefty wooden spoon while you are at it.

Pour 3 c. of buttermilk into your bucket.  Add yeast, salt, honey, and melted butter.  Stir in 2 c. of flour to make a very loose dough.  Add 3 more cups of flour, stirring to combine well.  Add another 1/2 c. of flour.  Your dough should be getting pretty thick by now, we are striving for a thick, wet dough very similar to biscuits, or a quick bread dough.  It should still be sticky, but not runny.  You may need to add the last half cup of flour, depending on how thick your buttermilk was.  Finish stirring and place cover onto the bucket.

Put covered bucket in a warm place to work for 6-12 hours, or until dough has risen up and fallen back down into the bucket.  Go play, do dishes, laundry, feed the chickens, hula hoop, go to town, whatever you might fancy, cuz this dough doesn’t need you for a long, long time.  The beauty of bucket breads!

After the dough has worked its magic, you may either refrigerate, or bake right away.  The dough will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You may choose to cook just one loaf, or all of them, depending upon the appetites in your home.  Keeping the dough in the refrigerator, and baking as needed keeps your homestead in fresh bread with minimal fuss.  Chilling the dough makes it easier to handle, but for the adventurous soul bake right away.  This recipe will make up to four loaves.

When you are ready to bake, remove lid from bucket, or container, and lightly sprinkle with flour to cover the surface of the dough.  This will help your loaf to keep its shape, and we all like shapely loaves….I digress.  With wet hands scoop out dough from bucket the size of a small cantaloupe, or large grapefruit.  Pinch, pull, or cut dough to remove.  Keeping the floured side up, shape dough for your pan.  If you are using a regular loaf pan(s), be sure they are well buttered.  Shape into an oval, or oblongish shape, and plop it into the pan.  It’s really not fussy.  If you have chilled your dough and it is easy to handle, then you may pull the dough underneath itself and pinch to create a nicely rounded loaf, but it you are like me, always flying by the seat of your pants, just plop it on in the pan, it will come out just fine, remember it’s a rustic loaf.  That is the beauty of the homestead recipe, it’s rustic, country, and all things imperfectly beautiful.  Have no fear.  Stay calm and bake on.  Let rest in a warm place to rise for 30-60 min. depending upon how warm your place is.  Loaf will be nearly doubled.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place a small pan on the bottom rack in the oven to create steam for baking.  Let it preheat in the oven.   Place risen loaves into hot oven.  Add 1 c. of water to create steam into your hot pan on the bottom oven rack.  Close door and bake for 25-35 min. until loaves are deeply golden and sound hollow when tapped.  Do not underbake, cook those babies till they are done!  Remember, be a fearless homesteading baker!

Remove from oven once they are deep, golden brown, and cooked through.  Let rest in the pan for 5 min.  Remove from pans and place onto cooling racks to cool completely.  Resist the urge to cut them immediately, but if temptation is too strong, don’t forget to generously butter the hot, thick slices, and gulp down with icy cold milk.  Oh, and if you can tear yourself away, don’t forget the jam and honey!!!!

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