The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

buttermilk cluster

ejm's picture

buttermilk cluster

Isn't this gorgeous?
buttermilk cluster - ejm January 2010

It seems ridiculous that it took me so long to make this bread. I’ve been staring at the photo of Floyd's 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 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.

I used whole wheat and unbleached all-purpose flour and a little less yeast, but otherwise pretty much stuck to Floyd's version. After some tribulation (I had to add more liquid because the dough was so dry), the final result was stellar!

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.

Thank you, Floyd!


P.S. For more photos and details about what I did, please see buttermilk cluster (bookmarked, YS)


dstroy's picture

oh wow... they really did miswrite the recipe didn't they! I put a correction in the comments there n Saveur's website, but it's not going to help folks that go purely by the mistyped recipe in the magazine! What a shame.

Floydm's picture

I know they baked it at least once in their test kitchen, so it may not have been a mistake.  But, yes, whereas many people have found that the recipe on my site is too dry, their recipe may be a bit too moist.  So it goes.

Glad it came out so lovely for you.

ejm's picture

Judging from how dry the dough was when I used more than 5 cups flour, I'm thinking you're right, Floyd, that it is not a typo on the SAVEUR site and that the testers in the SAVEUR kitchen thought the same thing as I did, that the amount of flour should be reduced. 

I'm not sure why they felt the need to add sugar though.


korish's picture

It looks lovely, great job on the bake

ejm's picture

Thank you, korish. It does look nice, doesn't it? We're always going to try photographing at that time of day! We love the sunlight streaming across the board.

dstroy, I just put in another review on the SAVEUR recipe as well. It just doesn't seem right to have such a low low grade as the one and only review for this bread.



shallots's picture

In East Tennessee, I have a choice in most grocery stores of six different buttermilks, from low fat up to "Buttermilk"  with no indication of reduction of fat.

Most East Tennessee cornbread recipes that call for buttermilk either allow a phenomenal leeway for the volumn of buttermilk or a comparable variation in the cornmeal (and flour). 
Many times, when using the (I don't want to call it real, but it approximates out of the cow) buttermilk in recipes, I find a need to add at least an additional quarter cup of buttermilk to two cups of dry ingredients (up from a cup or a cup and a quarter.)

I can see no way to quantify which buttermilk anyone used, but I can see a whole lot of potential variability in the commercial buttermilks.  There's variability in what comes out from different breeds of cattle in terms of butterfat.


pmccool's picture

most "buttermilk" sold in US supermarkets (and it also appears to be the case here in South Africa) is actually cultured milk that never saw the inside of a butter churn.  In essence, it's a liquid form of yogurt.  So, fat content is entirely up to the whim of the producer.  (Note that most commercial dairies produce fluid milk of varying fat contents by separating the cream, then reincorporating it into the skim milk in carefully controlled quantities.  This renders the question of the breed of cattle producing the milk, their diet, etc., moot; from the perspective of fat content in the milk we see in the dairy case.)

Real buttermilk has very low fat content since most of the butterfat, in the form of butter, has been removed from the cream by the churning process.  It's typically fairly thin and watery since it is just the residual liquid that previously contained the suspended fat particles of the cream.

Butter made from sweet cream leaves a very mild-flavored buttermilk.  Butter made from soured (not spoiled) cream leaves a tangier, more acidic flavored buttermilk that is more in line with people's expectations for buttermilk.  The additional acidity is what makes it work so well in chemically leavened baked goods (biscuits, cakes, scones, etc.) because it reacts with the baking soda to produce CO2 gas.


joeg214's picture

I was looking for something different to go with tonight's dinner and decided to try the Buttermilk Clusters recipe.  Didn't have any buttermilk so I "made" a substitute using milk and lemon juice.  

I weighed out the 750 grams of flour and slowly added the flour / salt mixture to the (1 -3/4 c) warmed buttermilk, honey, and yeast.  As I added the flour, I also added a little  more milk when it appeared to be too dry.  I'd say I added somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 c more.  I can see where some people might have had an issue with this.   You simply can't add all of the flour without making some adjustments with additional liquid along the way.  The dough was just a bit stiff and slightly tacky.   I let it sit in a covered bowl for about an hour until it was doubled in size; the dough temp was 81F (perhaps the "buttermilk" was warmer than I thought).  After shaping the dough into 12 balls and placing them in the 10" springform pan, I let it proof for 40 minutes, gave the top and egg wash and topped it with sesame seeds.  I pre-heated the oven to 425F but lowered it to 400 after 10 minutes of bake time (I was afraid it would get too dark too quickly).  I baked it for 35-40 minutes (until I got a good internal temp).  I was very pleased with the end result...  it looked great!  The crust had a nice, pleaseant crunch to it and the crumb, while dense, was light and fluffy.  I would not say it was "tasteless" at all.  Then again, what are people expecting it to taste like?  It's flour, buttermilk, salt and a little honey :)

All in all, this was the perfect bread for the curried pork and veggie dish I made this evening.  It's a great "dippin'" bread :)

I will definitely make this again.  It's a winner :)