Side Orders: Bake this buttermilk bread in standard or mini loaf pans

Once my parents were finally settled into assisted living and we knew for certain they were never going back to their house again, my sister and I began the daunting task of decluttering it. The kitchen/breakfast room was the biggest challenge with enough tableware and a collection of Revere Ware and CorningWare that would supply at least three households. All of that and not a single good knife, but I digress.

Among the clutter, though, I found some of her most treasured recipes, those we asked again and again for her to make as we progressed from childhood to those wonderful teenage years and beyond.

When asked by my sister whether I might want any of the tableware/cookware, my immediate and emphatic answer was "Lord, no!" Not too long before that, I'd cleaned out my mother-in-law's house and was now the proud owner of three sets of china, untold glasses etched with a "B" for Braly and plenty of glassware from Baylor School. My own kitchen was probably worse than Mama's. OK, definitely worse.

But after resurrecting my mother's buttermilk yeast rolls last year, I began thinking of the small, neat loaves she made with that same dough. They were just right for two people and ideal for sharing, as she so often did. It was just two little pans that nested together. Surely there was room in my kitchen for those, so they went home with me. Now when I use them, I can feel my mother close at hand.

(READ MORE: Recipes to fill the kitchen with the scent of bread and cinnamon rolls)

Over the last few months, I've been trying to perfect this dough and get my hand back with yeast bread in general. The cold months of winter are ideal for staying in and playing with dough.

Buttermilk Bread

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm (not hot) water

About 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups whole (not low-fat) buttermilk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Dissolve the yeast in the water, and let it proof for 10 minutes. It should evenly cloud the water and may start to bubble a bit as it sits.

Meanwhile, set aside 1 cup of the flour and put the remainder in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, soda and salt, and whisk to mix them. Heat the buttermilk and butter until it's just warm enough to melt the butter,, stirring until it's completely melted and blended with the liquid. Let it cool slightly (to less than 110 degrees F.).

Stir the water and yeast into the buttermilk, then make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the liquids. Work it into a soft, cohesive dough. Lightly sprinkle a work surface with some of the reserved flour, and turn the dough out onto it. Knead for about 8 minutes, adding the reserved flour, as needed. You may not use all of it. The dough should be elastic and smooth and spring back when you press into it with a finger.

Clean the mixing bowl, rub it with oil, and return the dough to it. Cover it with a damp, double-folded towel or plastic wrap, and set it to rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 4 hours, or you can let it rise overnight in a cool but not chilly spot.

Punch the dough down and lightly knead for about 1 minute.

To make loaves, lightly grease four small (7 1/2- by- 2 1/4 inch) or 3 (9-inch) loaf pans with butter or olive oil. Divide the dough into 4 (or 3) equal parts, shape each into an oblong loaf, and put them in the prepared pans. Cover with a damp towel, and set them in a warm spot until they're doubled and clear the tops of the pans, 1 to 1½ hours.

When ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat it to 375 degrees F. Uncover the pans, and put them in the center of the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, then increase the temperature to 400 degrees and continue baking until they are nicely browned and hollow-sounding when tapped, about 15 minutes longer for the smaller loaves, 20-25 for the larger ones. Turn the bread out of the pans onto wire cooling racks, and let it cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Fully cool them if you're making the loaves ahead to freeze.

RESTAURANT NEWS

Area Huddle House restaurants have launched a limited-time-only menu with a Southern favorite: Hash browns!

It's not your average side of shredded potatoes with eggs and bacon. No, this iconic American diner is serving hash brown casserole, that beloved side dish served at Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas and even with grilled steak in the summertime. Southerners just can't get enough of it.

But hash brown happiness doesn't stop there.

Hashbrown Casserole All the Way is hash brown casserole with sautéed onions, green peppers, diced ham and tomatoes stirred into its creaminess.

Sausage Bacon Hashbrown Casserole is an entree rather than a side that tops the signature cheesy casserole with country sausage, scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon and sausage gravy.

Southern Fried Chicken Hashbrown Casserole is a sure winner, with the casserole topped with fried chicken, applewood smoked bacon, scrambled eggs and sausage gravy. It's a mess of comfort on a plate.

In addition to the hash brown dishes, Huddle House has two new cakes: Chocolate Overload Layer Cake and Carrot Layer Cake.

These new offerings are on the menu through March 26. For Huddle House locations and a complete menu, visit HuddleHouse.com.

Email Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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