Fresh bread is a luxury. This morning, as I sat writing at the dining room table, the smell of baking wheat filled the living room. Alex tiptoed downstairs to find the origin: whole-wheat brown bread.
The bread, part of my weekly effort to keep the two of us in good appetite and locally fed, was inspired by the 20 pound bag of flour that arrived from Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, Maine on our doorstep several weeks ago. The finely ground hard red wheat kernels were the best and closest source of the grain I could find. Grown on the family farm in the western hills of Maine, they carry both the heartiness and good taste of the region and its growers.
When the braided loaf emerged from the oven, I cut us each a slice and add a dab of butter infused with rosemary from the plant outside our sliding doors. Moistened with milk and honey, the bread was a firm crusted yet soft morning snack.
Makes one braided loaf
Proof 2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast in 3 tablespoons warm water. When dissolved, add 1 cup warm whole milk, 5 tablespoons olive oil, 1 fresh egg, 3 tablespoons honey, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well.
Add 3 and 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour gradually. Knead dough well.
Let rise in a ball in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in size. Punch down and roll into three strings. Stick dough together at one end and braid like hair. Arrange on baking sheet; let rise again for at least 2 hours. The extra rising time is needed to lighten the heavier whole-wheat dough. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; bake 15-20 minutes or until just brown.
Pour a pint of fresh cream into the blender and set it on low. When a heavy whipped cream forms (3-7 minutes), continue mixing for several more minutes until the mixture separates into solids and liquid (butter and buttermilk). Pour buttermilk into a container. Press the butter using a wooden spatula against the walls of a rough wooden crock for about ten minutes, or until it stops yielding buttermilk. Drain liquid periodically. Pour a very small amount of very cold water into butter and continue working as before until the water runs clean. (Do not skimp on this step, as if buttermilk remains in the solids the butter will go rancid).
Sautée several sprigs rosemary in a half tablespoon butter until fragrant; mix into fresh butter along with one teaspoon sea salt. Enjoy on bread; keep refrigerated.