Remember how I was singing the praises of flour not that long ago? Well, flour must also be on other people’s minds because I opened up one of my favorite blogs the other day and there was this gorgeous picture of flour in action.

It seems Michael Ruhlman was also reading the same issue of Saveur I was but instead of chicken paprikash, the recipe that caught his eye was one for buttermilk dinner rolls baked in a cluster in a springform pan. He adapted the original recipe, which itself was an adaptation of one found on The Fresh Loaf. Funnily enough, in following Ruhlman’s recipe, I ended up having to make some adaptations of my own, including sticking the dough in the fridge when I had to leave for a Super Bowl party. When I got home and was assembling the cluster, I took a little extra time to rewarm each of the dough balls by working the dough with my hands before rolling them into little tight boules.

Lately, I’ve been working from home every so often when I don’t have to go into lab for meetings. I love that not only do I actually get more work done from home, I can also multitask and make bread during the day. It takes all of 15 minutes to mix up some dough in the morning and then while I’m being the good little worker bee all day, the yeast is also working hard in the kitchen. By the time the sun is setting, you’re ready to stick the dough in the oven and look forward to freshly baked bread for dinner. I predict this recipe will come in handy during one of these future work-from-home days.

Adapted from Ruhlman’s recipe. (Note: I used the amount of flour and buttermilk called for in his original recipe but he has since suggested lowering the amounts to 25oz of flour and 18 oz buttermilk.)

28 oz of all-purpose flour (about 5.5 cups, although if you’re measuring by volume, I would start with 5 cups first and add more if needed)
2.5 cups (20 oz) of buttermilk
1 pack (0.25 oz) of active dry yeast
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp honey
butter, for greasing pan and for eating!
1 egg
1 tsp poppy seeds or sesame seeds

In the bowl of a standing mixer or just a large bowl if you’re mixing by hand, combine flour, buttermilk, yeast, salt, and honey. (Yes, you read that right – in this recipe, you don’t need to proof/dissolve the yeast in water first for it to work.) Mix until the dough is smooth and springy and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This should take about 10 or so minutes on medium speed or a bit longer if mixing by hand. If the dough doesn’t pull away from the sides, add small amounts of flour (like by the tablespoon) until it does. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it has doubled in volume, which should take about 2-3 hours.

(At this point, you can put the dough, still covered in plastic wrap, in the fridge if you would rather bake it the next day. If you do this, allow extra time for the second rise so the dough can come back up to room temperature. If however, like me, you just don’t have the extra time, all is not lost. Once you divide up the dough into little balls, gently work the dough with your hands to warm it up.)

Butter a springform pan. On a lightly floured counter, turn the risen dough out and knead it for a bit, about 5 min or so. Divide the dough into 12 portions and form boules with each. Arrange the boules in the pan in a cluster, cover with a towel, and let it rise again for another hour or so in a warm place.

(By the way, here’s how I form boules: I roll the piece of dough in my hands until I get roughly a ball shape, then flatten it slightly. I use a motion (kind of like flipping a hat inside out) to pull the left and right hand sides of the dough ball around the back (the under side of the ball) and pinch together. Then I rotate the ball a bit and do the same a few more times, ending up with a ball shape that has a very taut top and a bunch of pinched seams at the bottom. Then I roll the bottom of the ball on the counter to smooth out the seams.)

Preheat oven to 375F. Whisk the egg well. After the dough has risen a second time, brush the egg wash onto the cluster. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame. Bake for about 40 min. When done, the tops should be very nicely browned and a chopstick or toothpick stuck into the centermost ball should come out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pan for about 10 min before serving. And you must, of course, serve it with butter!

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