Picture this: a friend gives you a loaf of homemade bread and you receive it with joy, holding it to your nose and taking a deep whiff of the still warm crust, feeling the lovely heft of it in your hands, maybe holding it to your ear to hear the hollow tap when you flick the side. You can wait no longer, you gesture to your friend to follow you out to the pergola where a little table sits under the vine covered lattice, a cat washes itself in the sun, unsentimentally crushing the geraniums where it lies, the smell of basil and thyme float toward you, your eyes fall to the tomatoes red and taut on the vine, and rows of sunflowers lining the stone fence, the only sound their drying leaves rustling as a late summer wind stretches and wakes. You look at your dear friend, her beautiful familiar face and without a word, break the crust with your hands, rip off a chunk for each of you and share in the beauty of the day and freshly baked bread. It’s heaven.
Picture this: a friend gives you a loaf of home made bread and you receive it with joy, holding it to your nose and taking a deep whiff of the still warm crust, feeling the lovely heft of it in your hands, maybe holding it to your ear to hear the hollow tap when you flick the side. You can wait no longer, you gesture to your friend to follow you the five feet from the door to the dining table/desk, shoving stacks of books and bags of recycling out of the way, shooing the maniac dog from under your feet, kicking the laundry basket into the closet, clearing the papers and old coffee cups off the table and you sit down and before you can look at your friends beautiful familiar face, she takes a small crock with a little waxed paper circle on the top and puts it on the table. You glance at is as you reach over and shut the window to drown out the sirens and bellowing taxi drivers below. You tear into the bread, a piece for both of you, as she unwraps the crock and you share in the beauty of the day, and freshly baked bread. It’s heaven…only better, cuz there’s butter.
I ask you, which scenario are you going to take? The one with the dumb cat and the herbs wafting about, or the one with butter? Freshly baked bread, with freshly made butter is the bees knees, and if you can make bread, you sure as heck can make butter. Add some flaky sea salt and you’re going to go insane. Now don’t you want to make your lovely faced friend go insane? Come on, let’s do it.
Here is the recipe I used for the bread: Simple Crusty Bread Recipe and it was indeed crusty and simple, and delicious. Now during this process I did have doubts, the dough rose up fine, and it was late so I put it in the fridge overnight which is also fine, when I took it out the next day, I shaped it and set it to rest in a banneton which is a round rattan basket, because I like that spiral rustic marking, though truthfully, I have never had success with this method, and did not have success here. The dough was much wetter than I expected, very much like a baguette dough, and in fact I will try this dough with my baguette pan and I expect it will work very nicely. Be aware that when this recipe says it makes four loaves, he’s talking about four boules, as far as I can tell – little round loaves. I halved the recipe and I got two small loaves. When I turned the dough out of the banneton, it just got ugly, so I reshaped it and let it sit on a pizza peel that I had sprinkled with corn meal – that’s very important if you want your bread to slide off the peel and onto the stone or pan. (this is all in the recipe) Again, mine did not slide willingly and I just sort of nudged it onto the stone. I’m sure I just did something wrong here because even when I went to slice the top with the lame (a razor, used to cut the top of bread before baking) it would hardly hold the cut. I got my banneton and my lame from breadtopia.com, but you can just use a sharp knife or a pair of scissors with a snipping motion works very well. You certainly don’t need anything special to bake bread. You can just shape the loaves on a cookie pan – turn it upside down if it has a rim, cover it with parchment paper, sprinkle the parchment paper with cornmeal and then you can slide the parchment paper right onto the baking stone, or if no stone, another baking sheet – upside down if rimmed, that’s been preheating in the oven. I’d say the most important part is to be sure to put the broiler pan or, yet another rimmed baking sheet, on the bottom of the oven while it’s preheating. Once you have your bread situated in the oven, carefully pour a cup of hot water in to that pan and shut the door quickly, the steam that releases is what gives you that nice crusty crust.
Here’s my dough in the banneton. It did rise quite well but it did not hold the markings. My fault, he just tells you to shape it on the peel, so that’s what I get for thinking.
Here’s one of my oddly shaped loaves, and a smaller one behind it. Looks aren’t everything, it was very, very delicious. I have a feeling that I should have left more time for the dough to come to room temp for second rising. It felt very cool to the touch all along, but I’ll have to try it again without the chilling overnight to see if that was my problem.
But let’s move on to the miracle of making butter at home. You can actually make butter in a jar if you have the wherewithal to be shaking it that long. The quickest and easiest way is a food processor. I would start with the best freshest heavy cream you can find within your budget. I buy a pint of Organic Valley but if you have a farmer’s market by you, you might try that, I’m too cheap to pay 7 bucks for a pint of cream at my market, though I’m tempted to try it just once. Pour the cream in the food processor and let er rip! It doesn’t take long at all
Here you see the cream -as is. in the first picture. In the second picture you see the cream has just barely passed the whipping cream stage. When you start to see liquid hitting the top of the food processor you’re almost there.
Do you see how the butter has solidified and is a yellowish color and the liquid is separating out? I think I went maybe 10 or 15 seconds more, you just want a nice yellow color and a separation of butter and buttermilk. – Be aware this is not a cultured buttermilk as you would buy in the store or quite easily make at home, but you can save the liquid and use it in recipes just the same. Many people use cheese cloth at this stage of the game, I do not because I don’t have success at scraping all the precious butter out of the cheesecloth and I’m not that fussy about it. Here’s what I do
I just put the butter in a strainer and paddle it about to pull it together. There is also a process of washing the butter, this is adding some water and giving it another spin in the processor, sometimes I do that, but this time I simply rinsed the butter under water and paddled it about again with a wooden spoon shaping it and pulling it together. You want to do this until there is no more liquid running from it. I just rinsed it once and called it good.
I put it in a small french porcelain ramekin (that sounds fancy but they’re anywhere from 2 to 4 dollars each) then cover it with a parchment paper circle that I previously traced with the ramekin, stamped with one of my little stamps. A word to the wise, the stamps really don’t work on parchment but it was too cute not to try. I also made a little packet of flakey sea salt which adds such a wonderful flavor and texture, but you can sprinkle whatever salt on there you like. In fact there’s no end to the way you can flavor your homemade butter, chives, lemon or orange rinds, cardamon, parsley, just to name a few. Cardamom butter on fresh biscuits is every so nice.
I wrapped the butter in cling wrap and the bread in a linen napkin, tossed them in my purse and went to share them with my lovely faced friend who watches my maniac dog when I’m gone. And it was heaven.
Speaking of bread… check out my Gofundme page. I’m always aiming to step deeper into the process, this time with a Komo grain mill.