Buttermilk Cluster

Buttermilk Cluster

Buttermilk Cluster

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.

Buttermilk Cluster

Adapted from here at The Fresh Loaf.

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.


I’m sending a roll to Susan at Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting, and to Floyd at The Fresh Loaf for sharing this recipe.


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33 Responses to “Buttermilk Cluster”

  1. elisfoods Says:

    Your Cluster looks great and so soft! Thanks for sharing!


  2. javapot Says:

    what a lovely cluster!

  3. Rosa Says:

    Beautiful! A delightful loaf!



  4. Jessica@Foodmayhem Says:

    Oh wow, that looks so good! I love pull apart breads!

  5. CourtJ Says:

    They look so soft and pillowy I just want to poke one of them, and then tear it off and eat it smuthered with butter!

  6. Andrea Says:

    I love your beautiful cluster! Plus, I’m very good at grabbing, so I’m sure I’d be able to get a nice piece all for myself 😉

  7. Mary Says:

    Your cluster is absolutely beautiful, as is your blog. I’m so glad I stopped by.

  8. em Says:

    oooh looks yummy and so cute!
    The picture of them before you baked them makes it look like dim sum buns. lol.

  9. hannehanne Says:

    Those are beautiful. My family has a go-to rolls recipe (overnight buns) that, when I make them, always end up being pull-apart–I space them so close! It never occurred to me to serve them that way, though! It’s so pretty!

  10. foolishpoolish Says:

    That looks so inviting and moreish.

  11. toxobread Says:

    Eli, javapot and Rosa: thanks!

    Jessica: I love pull apart breads too. They’re just so tempting 😀

    CourtJ: Mmm I ate them plain but yes, smothered with butter would be a treat as well.

    Andrea: ha ha I would definitely make you a *whole* cluster, no need to worry about whether or not you would get a piece!

    Mary: thank you for your very kind words of encouragement. I’m really glad that you like my blog.

    Em: Yes! You know, I bet if I steamed them instead of baking them in the oven, they would turn out like dim sum buns (but if I did make them as dim sum buns, I would probably put some sort of filling in them).

    Hanne: I’m such a fan of quick and easy rolls now. Freshly baked and homemade rolls can grace my table for any meal!

    Foolishpoolish: Thanks!

  12. Jude Says:

    Love the nice shiny tops! That recipe from TFL is good stuff 🙂

    • toxobread Says:

      Thanks, Jude! Egg wash is one of my best friends.
      Yes, that recipe – along with many others – from TFL is great. 🙂

  13. YeastSpotting December 26, 2008 | Wild Yeast Says:

    […] Buttermilk Cluster […]

  14. Susan/Wild Yeast Says:

    Pull-apart rolls are so good for taking to a gathering because you don’t need a knife to serve and you can bake a lot at one time. Not to mention that they just look so beautiful!

  15. toxobread Says:

    Susan: Agreed!

  16. Kevin Says:

    Those look nice and light and fluffy and golden brown and good!

    • toxobread Says:

      Kevin: They were exactly that – nice and light and fluffy and golden brown and good, as in got to have more than just one good! 🙂

  17. Rajee Says:

    Urs really lood very delicious and yummy. As soon as I see ur blog and rushed to try to make it. Unfortuanately, it didnt rise becos it’s too stick. I add only 2 1/4 cup buttermilk and followed ur recipe correctly. Pls help me what to do now. I took it out and again add more flour. Should the dough be like pizza dough? Pls help.

    • toxobread Says:

      Hi Rajee,

      Yes, the dough should be a soft, kneadable dough similar to pizza dough. It will be a bit tacky but not sticky – what kind of flour are you using? I use unbleached all-purpose flour for baking; if you use bleached, it tends to require less liquid and that’s why yours might have a stickier consistency than when I used unbleached?

      Do try adding more flour in small amounts until the dough is “workable” in a way that you can handle it easily. The other thing is, if you pre-warmed your buttermilk before adding the yeast, if the buttermilk was too hot (lukewarm and should feel comfortable when you dip your fingers into it, or put a few drops on your wrist), it may have killed your yeast and so the dough didn’t rise… but I think trying to add more flour is your best bet at the moment.

      Hope this helps!

      Good luck,


  18. Rajee Says:

    Thanks lot for helping me. I used bread flour. I did one big mistake that I added cold buttermilk and I put one 1 tablespoon lukewarm on yeast to proof for 10 minutes and procced the recipe. Now, I made the dough like the pizza dough. I am still waiting now for the dough to rise. Pls let me know will it rise or not. Thanks again. I’ll keep visiting ur site and improve to learn my baking experience with you.

  19. Rajee Says:

    Hi Jacqueline,
    It’s me again. I checked dough now as it’s too soft to touch and it comes up when I touch it. I dont know what to do with the dough if it doesnt rise. Do u have any idea of what to make this dough? I am worried and sad now. Pls help! You’re my guru.
    Thanks lot,

  20. toxobread Says:

    Hi Rajee,

    Oh! If your dough is cold (because the majority of your buttermilk was cold), it won’t rise as quickly because the yeast won’t be as active at colder temperatures. To avoid this, I like to warm up the main liquid component of the recipe e.g. milk or water to lukewarm and make sure the yeast will be happy and double in the amount of time I expect it to.

    I sometimes this trick to encourage yeast to make the dough rise faster: turn on your oven to, say, 350F for ~10 seconds, and then turn it off. Then, put the bowl containing your dough (covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel) into the oven, which should now be slightly warm. This will keep your yeast at a temperature that’s ideal for rising. You can also achieve the same effect if you put your covered bowl of dough in the oven along with a bowl of hot water: the steam and heat from the water will keep your dough rising happily.

    Cold dough will definitely take a lot, lot, lot longer to double in bulk compared to slightly warm dough – that’s also why if you don’t have time or will be away from your kitchen for a long time, it’s best to put the dough in the refrigerator (cold environment) so that the yeast’s activity slows down, and you don’t let your dough overrise by accident.

    * * *
    @your update:

    Sounds like your dough hasn’t risen to approximately double in bulk yet – try giving it a bit more time (and the warm place to rise trick) and see what happens. I know it’s hard, but resist the temptation to check every few minutes because it might be better to leave yeast alone and let them do their thing. If you proofed your yeast and it was bubbly/foamy after 10 minutes, your packet of yeast should still be active, which means your bread should rise.

    Have faith in your dough, and it will reward you with delicious, homemade bread in return! 🙂

    Good luck,


  21. Rajee Says:

    Thanks lot. Did u get mail email last night? Pls help me what to do the dough after taking out from the fridge. Before putting the dough in the refrigerator last night. I am quiet happy to see dough has rise 11/2 inch but not in doubled. I am waiting for ur response, Jacqueline.

  22. toxobread Says:

    I would probably shape them now into the cluster, allow them to proof (second rise), then bake. Hope that helps.

  23. Rajee Says:

    howmany inch of round pan u’re using? I think my pan is 9 inch. Did u make small ball first? It’ll become big after proofing.

  24. toxobread Says:

    I also used a 9-inch springform pan, and yes, you have to shape them into small balls first, which will then need a second rise before baking.

  25. Rajee Says:

    That’s not quiet easy to make small dough as the dough is so soft and smooth and can have less membrane. Using the flour, the dough can make into small ball with thumb holding the dough to pop up to get firm shape. But it needs lot of patience for those who didnt have experience at first just like me. Is it? Can I put the other 4 dough balls on the dough in the pan as 9-inch springform pan is covered with dough? Now I put the other 4 in the loaf pan to proof after one hr.

  26. toxobread Says:

    I use this shaping technique for rolls: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MVHDdDtuRc. I’ve also poked my finger up through the dough to shape and that works well too.

  27. Rajee Says:

    Done Look beautiful but only for the bird can eat. We cant eat as it’s hard but not soft and pillowy like urs. I’ve to do it again. I think 2 to 2 1/4 cup buttermilk is too much too add for the bread flour. Let me try again with the all purpose flour.

  28. toxobread Says:

    Seems strange to me that the bread would be too hard if there was too much liquid – I could be wrong, but I would think it’s the other way around i.e. too much flour makes the bread tough and dry, instead of soft and creamy.

    When you try again, maybe hold back on the liquid and gradually add it to the mix. When you think you have the right consistency, take note of how much liquid you used and that should give you a better estimate for future baking.

  29. Annie Says:

    Hi Jackie, Thank you for the lovely recipe. The bread turns out soft and fluffy, my family loves it so much. I used 5oz of natural yougurt with 1 cup of water instead of buttermilk. I have added 1.5tbsp of water to the 2.5tsp of instant yeast as it was a bit thick. I was rather skeptical at first about the texture of the bread, after 35mins of waiting anxiously by the oven (haaa), I tapped the bread and didn’t get the “spring back” reaction as mentioned by you, I was a little disappointed. BUT after 10 mins as it cooled down a little, it’s soft and springy! I ate one and gosh I just love the texture and the honey fragrant in it. Thanks again my dear for shaing this wonderful recipe!


    • toxobread Says:

      I’m so happy this recipe worked out for you, Annie! The Fresh Loaf is full of wonderful bread recipes and every time I visit the site, I always end up with more items added on my “Must Bake Soon!” list.
      Heh heh I get very anxious about my breads too, almost like a worried mommy. 🙂
      – Jackie

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