BBD#18 – Basil Buttermilk Bread

Basil Buttermilk Bread

Basil Buttermilk Bread

They say James Bread could never ignore a good bread.

This recipe originated from a country inn not far from Melbourne, where Jim had travelled after his Beard on Bread became a huge success in Japan. Baking soda is the leavening agent here rather than yeast. It will react with the buttermilk (or in my case, thinned homemade yogurt) and cause all sorts of gas – the good, science fair volcano eruption from baking soda reacting with something acidic like vinegar kind, only without the red food colouring. Or the volcano.

Basil Buttermilk Bread

From Epicurean Delight: The Life and Times of James Beard

Makes 1 loaf: I found it to be on the small side in a 9″ x 5″ pan; it will probably fit better in an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan, or an 8″ or 9″ round cake pan.


– 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
– 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil*
– 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
– 2 tbsp melted butter
– 1 1/3 – 1 1/2 cups buttermilk**

*You could substitute the fresh basil with around a tablespoon of dried, but the resulting loaf won’t be as aromatic.
**I used homemade yogurt thinned with some milk.


In a bowl or an electric mixer with a dough hook, combine the sifted flour, baking soda, salt, basil, and pepper. Rub in the melted butter. Make a well in the center and mix in the buttermilk until you get a soft sticky dough, adding more flour if needed. Turn out on a floured board. Knead just enough so that the dough becomes smooth and holds its shape – soda bread doesn’t require much kneading. (Note: I didn’t even know soda bread required kneading!) Form into a loaf for the appropriate pan, flour the top heavily to give the loaf a crusty finish, then place in the well-buttered pan. Bake in a preheated 450F oven for 40 minutes. Allow to cool.

* * *

I’m sending this loaf to Mansi at Fun & Food Blog, the host for this month’s Bread Baking Day #19 – Quick Breads, to Zorra of 1x umrühren bitte as the wonderful founder of Bread Baking Day, and to the memory of Jim and his love of good bread.

Update: the roundup has been posted!



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3 Responses to “BBD#18 – Basil Buttermilk Bread”

  1. Jude Says:

    Interesting recipe… Can’t say I’ve ever tried a James Beard recipe before. Sounds like a good savory bread to have on hand.

  2. Sara Says:

    This sounds wonderful and it looks so moist!

  3. toxobread Says:

    Jude: I stumbled upon James Beard after reading about him in a Julia Child biography heh heh. His recipes produce hearty, “honest” loaves of bread.

    Sara: Thanks! It makes a great tomato and mayonnaise sandwich. 🙂

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