buttermilk cluster (bookmarked, YS)

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summary: bookmarked recipe for buttermilk cluster based on Floyd’s “Freshloaf” recipe; submission for YeastSpotting (YS); (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

buttermilk cluster Isn’t this gorgeous?

It seems ridiculous that it took me so long to make this bread. I’ve been staring at the photo of Floyd’s (The FreshLoaf) buttermilk cluster for ages. Every time I thought, “I’ve GOT to make that!”

And then The Fresh Loaf website was featured in this year’s SAVEUR 100. Which bread did the SAVEUR kitchen choose to feature? Buttermilk cluster, of course.

I was really surprised when I saw a scathing review of the loaf on the SAVEUR site. Silly me, I believed the person who did the review and complained that the bread was doughy and tasteless. I was REALLY surprised because all of the reviews on the FreshLoaf say the complete opposite. I examined both versions of the recipe and saw that the SAVEUR recipe calls for 5 cups flour rather than the 6 – 6½ cups flour on the Freshloaf recipe.

I assumed that SAVEUR had made a typing mistake.

I just couldn’t believe that all of these rave reviews on The FreshLoaf would be wrong, nor could I believe that SAVEUR would have added the FreshLoaf into the 100 list if the bread were no good.

So I used the Freshloaf recipe. Silly silly me!! I NEVER add all the flour in other recipes! But I dumped in 2 cups whole wheat flour and 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (which came out to 790gm) with 1¾ cups buttermilk and started stirring.

Too dry too dry!!!

I added another ¼ cup buttermilk and continued struggling to stir.

Still too dry!!!

I added ¼ cup water and managed to stir but the dough was still pretty stiff. Kneading it was no picnic. I had to resort to lifting it up and throwing it down on the board.

…now I’m thinking that SAVEUR was probably not so off-base to say 5 cups flour.

I proofed the dough in the oven with only the light turned on (our kitchen is ridiculously cold right now at 14C) and just hoped that it would produce wonderful bread in spite of my tribulations.

buttermilk cluster Well!! As you must have guessed from the photo, we were thrilled after pulling this bread out of the oven.

It looked and smelled fabulous!! I removed the outer ring and stuck the thermometer in – huh! only 180F. So back into the oven it went for 5 more minutes to drive the internal temperature up to 200F.

We left it to cool overnight and had it for breakfast this morning with butter, goat’s cheese and black currant jam. It was crusty on the outside and soft and springy on the inside.

It. Was. Delicious.

This is what I did to the FreshLoaf recipe:

Buttermilk Cluster
based on the recipe inspired by one in “Country Breads of the World” featured on The Fresh Loaf AND in the 2010 SAVEUR 100.


  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp + ¼ c warm water
  • 2 c buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 c (527 gm) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 c (260 gm) 100% whole-wheat flour
  • ½ Tbsp seasalt


  • ~ 1 Tbsp 3.2% milk
  • good shot sesame seeds


  1. dough: In the early morning of the day you plan to make the bread: put the yeast into a small bowl and whisk it with the water (make sure that it’s lukewarm: do the baby bottle test on your wrist to ensure the water is not too hot).
  2. Pour buttermilk and honey into a bowl large enough for the final dough to double. Add all but ½ cup of all-purpose flour (reserving it to use for kneading) and salt and mix well, using a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough seems very dry, add a bit more buttermilk or water.
  3. kneading: Turn the rough dough out onto a lightly floured board (use the reserved flour).
  4. Wash and dry the mixing bowl.
  5. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes until it is smooth and springy. Note that this dough may seem quite stiff. Don’t worry; it gets better with proofing. As you knead, resist the temptation to add too much more flour. (You don’t have to use up all of the reserved flour!)
  6. Put the kneaded dough into the clean bowl, cover, and let rise til double on the counter in a non-drafty area.
  7. shaping: Turn the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured board (just the smallest dusting will be enough). Divide the dough evenly into 12 pieces (or 18 if you want smaller final sections).
  8. Shape each piece into a sphere. Place the spheres close together into buttered 12-inch spring-form pan. Cover with a damp (clean) tea towel or plastic hat.
  9. Leave to rise til the loaf is almost doubled (about an hour or so).
  10. Half an hour before baking, turn the oven to 400F.
  11. topping: Just before baking, brush the top of the loaf with cream.
  12. Sprinkle seeds overtop.
  13. baking: Put the bagels bread nearer the top than the bottom shelf of the 400F oven (to prevent the bread from burning on the bottom). Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, turning the pan once to allow for uneven oven heat, until the bread is golden brown and hollow sounding on the bottom
  14. Remove from the oven and take off the sides of the pan. Check that the internal temperature of the bread is 190F. If not, put the bread back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so.
  15. Allow to cool on a rack before eating. (The bread is still baking when first removed from the oven.)

If you like warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled. Serve with butter. Or cream cheese. Or goat cheese. And black currant jam. Or apricot jam. Or red currant jelly. Or soup. Or stew. Or….

:: I measured by volume but weighed the amount of flour I used just so I’d know for the future.

:: Next time, I will use only 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1¾ c buttermilk. If the dough seems soupy, I can always knead in more flour….

:: Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Water from the hot water tap sits festering in your hot water tank, leaching copper, lead, zinc, solder, etc. etc from the tank walls… the higher temperature causes faster corrosion. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave.

:: The Fresh Loaf and SAVEUR call for an egg wash instead of milk for the glaze. I have a horror of using an egg wash. I don’t really care for the taste when it’s cold AND at the price of free-run eggs these days ($4 – $5 a dozen), there’s no way I’m going to waste an egg! Next time though, I think I’ll use 10% cream. There’s more protein in cream than in milk so the shine will be more pronounced.

:: If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely. To reheat the bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the uncut bread in the hot oven for ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust perfectly.

buttermilk cluster We left it to cool overnight and broke it open in the morning to have for breakfast with butter, goat’s cheese and black currant jam. It was delicious! It would be equally terrific with a hearty soup or stew for dinner and perfect to go with a festive dinner.

I do think that the whole wheat adds to its loveliness and would be disinclined to leave it out.

Next time, I’ll follow the SAVEUR version – if it seems like the dough is too wet, I can always add flour. (Duh. I should have done that in the first place…).

Also, next time I’ll put a piece of parchment paper down on the peel and only use the sides of the spring-form pan. Leaving the bread overnight on the bottom of the pan was a mistake. It continued to steam a bit as it cooled.

Sure, I could have just removed the bottom of the pan when the bread came out of the oven but it would be easier to just leave out that step.

Yeastspotting - every Friday ( image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


Bookmarked Recipes - every MondayBookmarked Recipes
Some time ago, Ruth (Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments) created this event to urge herself (and everyone else) to actually make the several recipes they have bookmarked in various books, magazines and internet pages.

Unfortunately, it looks like the “Bookmarked Recipes” event is no longer officially happening. But you might like to look at previous bookmarked recipes:


This post is partially mirrored on The Fresh Loaf


(click on images to see larger views and more photos)

8 responses to “buttermilk cluster (bookmarked, YS)

  1. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    I’m also so please when I follow my instincts and they prove great bread but then there are those moments when the way I see it I unplug my brain and allow someone else to do my thinking and find I should have followed my instinct. Of course there are those times when I refuse to follow the authority and I should have. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could tell which to follow …
    Your buttermilk cluster looks gorgeous.

  2. baking soda

    Lovely bread! So tall and gorgeous! I can feel your stepping through the mines of two different recipes, trying to decide which to follow on each turn of the road. I’m forever doing that when sewing clothes as well… the size the size!

  3. Laura

    These rolls looks truly fabulous–you triumphed over adversity! They look just like a challah shape known as pull-apart or crown (there might be other names) which always features a dozen rolls baked together like that into a high round.

  4. Cathy Collins

    Hi there, I enjoyed your posts on freshloaf and thought I’d pop over and see your site. I too have a weblog I plan to update and enhance with more bread breaking, cooking from scratch, and kitchen gardening. Check it out (

    I’ll post on freshloaf my results with the Buttermilk Cluster.

    Nice site, great to meet you (virtually that is)

    Cathy aka gardenchef


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