Clusters of pillowy, soft rolls, I’ll say. This buttermilk cluster will be an attractive addition at holiday gatherings, and compared to other breads, this is relatively easy to make and fun to eat – best enjoyed by pulling the rolls apart, while they’re still warm from the oven. They stayed nice and soft the next day too.
Makes 12 to 18 rolls, depending on size.
[I ended up making 15.]
- 6 to 6 1/2 cups (750 grams) bread or all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 2 1/2 tsp active yeast
- 1 tbsp lukewarm water
- 2 to 2 1/4 cup buttermilk, lukewarm*
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp water
- 1-2 tbsp seeds (poppy, sesame) or grains (cracked wheat, wheat bran, rolled oats)
*About buttermilk: I actually used 2 1/4 cups of really thin homemade yogurt and it worked well. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, some helpful substitutions that I’ve tried before are:
- 1 cup milk + 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice; let stand for 5 minutes or so before using
- 1 cup milk + 1 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
The milk will thicken slightly after you add the vinegar/lemon juice/cream of tartar to it.
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Combine the warm water and yeast in a small cup and allow to proof for 10 minutes.
Pour the yeast, buttermilk, and honey into the flour mixture and mix well. If the dough is so dry that some of the flour won’t stick, add a bit more buttermilk or water. If the dough is too sticky to knead, more like a batter, add more flour by the tablespoon until the correct consistency is achieved.
Knead by machine or hand for approximately 10 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cloth, and set aside to rise until the dough has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 to 18 pieces. If you are a stickler you can scale them so that they are even, but I just cut them roughly the same size. Shape each piece into a neat ball and place in a round dish or spring-form pan close together.
When all of the rolls are in the pan, cover again with plastic or a damp towel and set aside to rise again for 45 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425F. [I actually set mine to 350F]
Uncover the rolls and brush gently with the egg wash. At this point, you can add the topping of your choice; I used wheat bran in this case.
Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, until the rolls are firm and spring back when tapped.