There's nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread, and this buttermilk bread is sure to draw a hungry crowd when you take it out of the oven. Credit: Sandy Oliver / BDN

When a friend decamped recently for warmer climes and gave me a partial bottle of buttermilk she thought would spoil while she was gone, I thought, this is the perfect moment for that buttermilk bread recipe I have that Doris Heintz sent a while back, along with a recipe for Scotch Oat bread. Both recipes sounded good to me, so I hung onto them as I tend to do.

Ah, freshly baked bread. The stuff of poems and breathless prose. Problem is, cliché though it might be, there really is nothing like it. So some buttermilk, wheat germ, flour, honey, yeast and about three hours later, three loaves are cooling on the kitchen table, and inhabitants of this house are circling, inquiring whether or not it is cool enough yet to eat.

If you make bread, even irregularly, nothing about this recipe will stump you. It calls for a fair amount of butter and lots of buttermilk. With two tablespoons of yeast, it jumps right up speedily. In fact, having been lulled lately by the much easier-going rising pace of sourdough bread, this one took me by surprise, and at least one loaf over-rose a bit. I could have punched it down and raised it again, but I didn’t.

The water you add and the buttermilk both need to be what the recipe called “warm” but not a pleasant, comfortable warm; rather, it ought to have a little bite to it. You can use an instant-read thermometer to find 110 degrees or you can use your finger and deem it ready when you feel a bit of ouch.

I’ve taken to doing all bread kneading in my large stainless steel bowl. I mix the ingredients in it, then add flour, kneading with one hand and turning the bowl with the other. That way I don’t have to scrape and scrub dough off a board or table top. Easier to clean up.

If you haven’t seen some of your family members or housemates in a while, go ahead and make this bread. Let it sit cooling on a rack until the missing ones drift in, noses twitching, wondering where the bread knife is.

Buttermilk Bread

Makes three loaves

2 tablespoons, or 2 packets, dried yeast

¾ cup warm water, ca. 110 degrees

3 cups warm buttermilk, ca. 110 degrees

3/4 cup, or 1 ½ sticks, butter, melted

¼ cup honey

1 tablespoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup toasted wheat germ

9-10 cups flour

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large mixing bowl.

Heat the buttermilk in a saucepan together with the butter, and when they are warm enough, mix them into the dissolved yeast.

Add the honey, salt, baking soda and wheat germ and combine thoroughly.

Add about half the flour and mix in, adding another couple of cups gradually, shifting from mixing to kneading, and adding enough flour to form a soft dough.

Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic and springs back when poked.

Let rise in a greased bowl, turning the dough so its whole surface is oiled. Cover with a damp towel.

When doubled, punch down, turn out, and divide into thirds.

Form three loaves, and place in lightly greased bread pans to rise.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

When the loaves are doubled, bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until they are golden brown, and sound hollow when you tap them.

When done, turn out of the pans and cool on racks.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...