Buttermilk Cluster with love to Sally

Cooling on the rack – a  cluster of buttermilk rolls egg glazed and topped with sesame seeds

I have been following Sally’s blog, Bewitching Kitchen,  since I first discovered blogland.

I think I met her when we took part in Dan Lepard’s Dundee Cake bake off. I so wish he would do one of those again!

 There are loads of food blogs out there, some look incredibly professional, some are full of advertising and tied to promoting something or other and those are the ones I have less interest in. The blogs I love the most are the ones which are invested with the personality of the person who is writing them, the ones who write because they just feel like doing it. Sally is one of those people, incredibly busy, moving from place to place and still finding time each week to post recipes full of joy and enthusiasm, reflecting her lifestyle and her passion for good food.  She’s not a professional cook, nor promoting a book, nor a course nor trying to sell you a particular diet, she’s just who she is and I love her for it.

I have made various recipes I have read from her blog, I am very fond of her grilled lettuce salad for example, which helped me solve the problem of excess garden lettuce in a five star way last summer and on Friday night when I was tired I made this buttermilk cluster (Sally’s original post) dough and had lovely soft white bun bread to offer for breakfast over the weekend. It reheated beautifully on Sunday morning and the top crisped up and now it’s all gone.

A quick and easy bread for which I thank Sally once more! This is one of the most popular recipes on the Fresh Loaf, a huge and busy bread forum which attracts bakers from all over the world to share, argue and discuss their baking activities. I recommend dropping in there whatever stage of your baking journey you are on. For a quieter and more relaxed pace of discussion you can always try the Mellow Bakers who I bake with. Mind you I have been a bit too mellow this month and haven’t yet baked any of the May breads. Ouch!

You could be in a Greek milk bar having this for breakfast...

I took one tablespoon of the buttermilk I had bought and made a whole batch of fresh buttermilk to use in my next lot of baking. You can see it in the photo above. I can’t believe how easy it is to make cultured buttermilk or yoghurt for home use. There is a post here about it if you want to read more. Confused about buttermilk? I suggest reading the Wiki article here and then you will know as much as me!

For the batch above:-

  • 1 tablespoon of fresh buttermilk
  • 500 ml of milk (longlife)

Stir together, put into yoghurt making container, basically a pot stood in a heated unit for 12 hours. You could use a thermos flask if you don’t have one. Then hey presto, you have a lemony buttermilk flavoured yoghurt/cultured product. I use a yoghurt maker from Lakeland, but it’s not necessary to buy this to do this. Having said that, I have been using this for all my yoghurt for the past year so I reckon I’m in payback time now.

For the bread:

  • 500 g buttermilk (2 cups) –  sold in the UK in 250 g pots
  • 2 teaspoons fresh yeast
  • 750 g bread flour (6 – 6½ cups)
  • 15 g salt  (2% of flour weight) I always weigh salt as it varies so much
  • a big tablespoon of English honey from Bakery Bits – light and flowery tasting
  • an egg
  • sesame seeds (three tablespoons)

Dissolve the yeast in a little warm water and warm the buttermilk  by standing the bowl in a sink of hot water.  Mix it all up to a rough dough. Do some light intermittent kneads for the next hour and a half.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces, make rolls. Then find a big stainless steel casserole pan (28 cm diameter)  which is oven proof, grease, dust with flour and arrange the balls inside. You can use a springform cake tin also. The closer the balls are together to start with, the denser the final loaf will be, so if you want to make the bread more airy, it might be best to make more balls, say eighteen and split them into two lots and two pans. Leave to rise for another 45 minutes.

Finally beat up an egg with a little water, brush the egg glaze over the tops of the balls and sprinkle them heavily with sesame seeds.

Pre-heat the oven to 220 º C (425 F).  Fan oven would be lower than this, I guess 200 º

Bake (no steam) for 30 minutes and then leave it in the oven for five minutes more with the door open.

This is a big substantial piece of bread, and the crumb is quite close as the balls don’t really have anywhere to expand to apart from upwards. I am going to try this again, with a little more liquid in the mix and spacing fewer balls further apart in the dish next time to see if I can get a slightly lighter crumb feel. Having said that, it was delicious and tangy from the buttermilk and it was all eaten super fast, so it’s definitely one to have up your sleeve for a day when you don’t want to think too hard about the bread baking, and a nice one to have for a party or a celebration meal.

I don’t know if this bee was responsible for Patrick’s delicious honey

32 thoughts on “Buttermilk Cluster with love to Sally

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Go on, jump off the wagon…. you could make a little one of these, with half or a third of the quantity of dough. It’s a big American sized loaf this one!

      I’m pleased to hear you’re tempted though ;)

    2. Robin

      Nic (and Joanna)

      I’ve just got some buttermilk and was planning soda bread, but those rolls look fantastic…I’m torn now…

  1. Christine

    Oh, my, these look good, Jo! I would love to try making the homemade buttermilk sometime using the same method as the yoghurt. We don’t consume a lot of buttermilk…. do you think that any excess could be frozen to use as a starter culture for next time….?

    On to the honey.. it sounds very tempting with the word “English” in front of it. I’m really itching for some ‘English honey’ right about now, especially after seeing that busy little bee in action :)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I’ve frozen other yoghurts and thawed them out so why not? I think ‘buttermilk’ is one of those terms that confusingly refers to two different things, one is the residue from buttermaking, the other is this particular culture, which I think of more as a yoghurt, something like European smetana, it’s been sold here for years under the name of buttermilk though. It is lighter and thinner than most of the yoghurts we get and has a distinctive lemony flavour to my way of thinking.

  2. Abby

    Why didn’t I ever think about making my own buttermilk before? So glad you posted that! And I love the picture of the inside of the roll cluster…so pretty and yummy. I’ll have to try Sally’s recipe. =)

    Hm, I just read your response to the comment above…I didn’t realize that there was more than one thing called buttermilk…will have to research further….

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Abby I’ve added a link to the Wiki page on buttermilk in the post, which might answer some of the questions. I am unsure whether we all call the same thing buttermilk…. Look forward to seeing your take on this one day :D

  3. C

    Your bread looks absolutely delicious Joanna. I know exactly what you mean about reading other people’s blogs – it’s the human interest that really adds to it all and I think I found Sally’s blog via yours. I enjoy reading both of them for the same reason – the recipes are stunning as is the photography, but in a beautifully natural way without being over-staged (I’m sure you work very hard on your photos though, and it does show!).

    I often think my blog is boring for that reason – I mostly make things because I see them and fancy them, not for any other reason! However, I shall continue doing what I do. I do fancy getting a yogurt maker now though….. must resist, must resist….

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      You say the nicest things C ! I wouldn’t have dreamed of taking so many photos of loaves of bread before I did this. I’m not really that keen on photography, but the blog medium needs pictures, and it helps me remember them better. I am very fond of your blog. I am rarely bored reading about cakes, and enjoy sharing in your thought processes as you explore ideas and recipes. :D

  4. sallybr

    I am absolutely speechless… I honestly don’t even know what to write here. Thank you? That doesn’t quite do it… ;-)

    this post was like a pot of honey sweetening up my day, week, month, year, and it comes at a time in which I do need it.

    Thanks so much, Joanna, I’m so glad we got to “meet”!

    (and really, Dan should make another bake-along, it was so much fun! )

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Everyone needs a little blog love :) Maybe we should do a blog bake-off one afternoon when you are back in your home, have a good week dear Sally!

  5. hopeeternal

    I really must start making bread again. I used to do it regularly but it is so easy to get out of the habit! This recipe looks delicious and the batch of rolls would be ideal for a summer picnic or gathering.
    ‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Hi Hope, this is an easy one, and you can vary what you put on top of course! It is very popular on the Fresh Loaf for Thanksgiving dinner apparently. :)

  6. drfugawe

    If I may, I’d like to suggest a simpler way to make buttermilk – I add about 1/4 old buttermilk to 3/4 new milk and just let it sit at room temp for quite a long time 36-48 hours, depending on how warm room temp is (you may shake it every 8 hours or so) – interestingly, the good bacteria cultures present keep the milk from a traditional ‘souring’ by imposing their own character on the milk.

    I found your link to the Wiki article very interesting in that it states that some buttermilk is commercially cultured with Lactobacillus bulgaricus, the principle culture of most yogurt – that suggests that it may/would be possible to make buttermilk by using some plain yogurt as a starter, which I will do at next opportunity – and I’ll report in my success or failure in a future post.

  7. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    Hi Doc, I have tried the long culture thing with various strains of lacto bacteria I was playing around with last year, and I found that some went quite cheesy during the process, not nasty cheesy, but definitely cheesy, but it’s certainly worth trying, and as a method must predate my little yoghurt heating gadget. I believe that these bacteria are thermophillic, so need warm temperatures to flourish, it is quite chilly here over night. Maybe our milk is different too?

    What’s your working definition of buttermilk? There are loads of articles on Wiki about all the different types of cultures for milk. The one on Filmjolk is particularly interesting and all its variants, the long milk is particularly wierd (langfil) it has an elastic consistency….

    1. drfugawe

      Must admit I’m just now becoming aware of all the Scandinavian milk cultures, and since I love the drinking yogurts, I’ve really got to get down to our local Health Food store and see what they’ve got – failing that, I could do a web search for some – There! A summer project.
      Thank you, my dear.

  8. cityhippyfarmgirl

    I’ll have to read that wiki article. Cultured, buttermilky, yogurty business of some kind or another that makes cooking taste good. That’s what I usually say ;-)
    This looks good. I will definitely play. I haven’t done a cluster for awhile, or played around enough with said buttermilk. I’m sticking yogurt in anything that vaguely looks yogurt friendly though, and that seems to be working.
    A friend and I were talking about a wheat free diet on the weekend… oh heaven forbid!

  9. heidi

    That loaf looks so good. I use buttermilk in making scones as well as bread. The acidity works well with the leavening agents. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of dried buttermilk in the bulk stores. I use it in my milk bath and have tried it in several breads- but it doesn’t seem to get the same rise in baking.

  10. Joanne Jones

    Wonderful looking bread! Owning goats has helped me to learn how to make all sorts of milk based products. I have pictures of making goat cheese/feta a few weeks ago, but haven’t posted about it yet. I think breads made with buttermilk, yogurt, or kefir really makes a big difference in my breads. In fact I think it helps my stomach digest the grains so much better. Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your post!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I love the interplay of cultured milks and grains – such basic foodstuffs and they do seem to lend digestibility to each other, as well as softness, colour and of course flavour. Any reason for the wheat free diet in particular Brydie? I wish everyone would just bake their breads a bit longer and then I am sure the digestiblity of the bread would be improved. I am struck by how many people underbake their loaves and end up with squidgy crumb that is hard to digest. People think bread tops should be light in colour and associate a darker colour with being burnt, cultural mindsets and so on. :)

      @ Heidi I had some dried buttermilk once and I don’t remember being very impressed with it, but I wonder if you added it to some fresh (new milk) and a spoon of live yoghurt whether you would get something nice that way, leaving it out in a warm covered spot for a day or two, like Doc suggests? :)

      Hi Joanne, thanks for the compliments :D – I wonder what goat buttermilk is like? I would love to try it. Do you visit the Forging Formage Group, if I had livestock (no room in tiny suburban garden) I would definitely join in there.

      I made a bread last year using a Finnish culture called piima, the bread was one in which you make a soaker with grains and the yoghurt which you then use for the bread. I blogged about it here.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Patrick’s honey is home produced and particularly fine – I like honey that tastes of flowers, am a big fan of Greek country honey for that reason too :)

  11. gina

    your divine baking skills and your nice pictures make my day blooming with sentiments of joy! we thank you! i wish i could send you a tin of that greek flower honey from astypalaia! :)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Really truly I think that nothing compares to Greek honey, but maybe that’s because I associate it with some very happy memories! It’s always the first breakfast I used to have when I arrived in the islands – yoghurt, walnuts and honey back in the days before Greece exported its yoghurt to the rest of Europe and it was revelatory Gina :D

  12. chocveg

    Hi Joanna, lovely recipe thanks! Didn’t have any buttermilk on a bank hol Monday before an indoor BBQ! (rain started here at 3.30!) so I used yogurt and milk warmed and mixed, and it was a lovely set of rolls that look just like yours!! I think the fresh yeast also has something to do with making it softer. Also looks good to take out visiting!! Come along now rolls…………….. Hope you had a lovely weekend,

  13. jan trounce

    I love this blog – I’m sitting here, not feeling crash-hot today, with the vacuum cleaner sulking behind me – and having read all this and feasted on your lovely photos, especially that beautiful bee, I feel energised. But…vacuum cleaners don’t allow one to be creative do they – except I suppose ones mind is free to go its own way – my mind never has a problem with that! Thanks for blogging Joanna.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I love writing it for you Jan! And all the other lovely people who drop by :) As for vacuum cleaners, mine mostly comes out when I have visitors coming. So if you would just pop over, I might dust it off ;)

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