If you have the time and resources, I think it's absolutely worth it to make your own bread. Other things that are worth the time it takes to do them, at least in my eyes, include coupon clipping, washing your dishes in the sink (unless you've had a party or something), and shredding cabbage for pepper slaw.
Have you ever eaten buttermilk bread? Though I made it at the bakery several times, it didn't take me long to learn that it's a whole different beast in a home kitchen. In fact, my first attempt was almost a total bust--flat, pale, and not so tasty. I had plenty of theories as to what went wrong: not proofing long enough on either rise (something for which I was notorious at the bakery--patience is not my finest virtue), bad baking soda, not enough kneading (no Hobartat home--doh!), not enough flour, wrong oven setting and temperature (I tried the convection setting since that's what we used at the bakery, but that turned out to be the wrong choice), I got my liquids too hot and killed some yeast, or any combination thereof.
With my next loaves, I thought about going into scientist mode and fixing just one of those potential errors in order to ferret out the main culprit behind my flat bread, but in the end, I just adjusted all of them. Happily, the resulting loaves were lovely. This bread is awesome--soft and fluffy and flavorful. It's amazing toasted and tastes great in soup or as the basis of a simple PB&J.
Keep in mind that even if you're a practiced bread maker, you might have a bad day. Even a flat loaf is still pretty tasty. If you've never made your own bread and are intimidated to take a stab at it, you might ease into it with a mix--Krusteaz makes a great one. You'll never learn if you don't try and practice! I really do think it's time well spent.
Buttered Buttermilk Bread
Makes 2 9x5-inch loaves
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup water
- 2 ounces butter, plus more to finish
- 4-5 cups bread flour, divided use
- 1/4 ounce instant yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Combine the buttermilk, water, and 2 ounces of butter in a small saucepan and heat until butter is nearly melted. You'll want to take the temperature of this and make sure it's somewhere between 110 and 120 degrees F.
While this is happening, combine 2 cups of bread flour and remaining ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.
Pour the warm milk mixture into the bowl and stir to combine.
Add 2 more cups of bread flour and stir. Continue adding flour and kneading the dough until it's no longer sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it a while longer, then place it in a large, oiled bowl.
Cover this bowl and place it in a warm spot until it rises to double its size.
At that point, punch it down and turn it out onto a floured surface.
Divide the dough into two equal portions and knead them out into rectangles sized approximately the size of a piece of notebook paper. Roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch the seam closed.
Place each log of dough into a lightly oiled loaf pan, cover, and leave to rise until the dough has risen about an inch over the top of the pan.
Using a serrated knife, make a slit down the middle of each loaf.
Bake in an oven heated to 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, or until browned and reading 200 degrees F on a thermometer.
Turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack and brush melted butter over the top and sides of the warm bread.
Let cool completely before slicing.