“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scrapped over too much bread.”
– Bilbo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring
While I know that Bilbo was talking of growing old and the odd feeling of being pulled in every direction by responsibilities that one does not want to bear, but I cannot help but think of beautiful freshly made bread with homemade or even compound butter when I read this quote.
As you grow older you begin to realize the small things in life are what bring happiness and satisfaction. One of the greatest joys in life is a beautiful, warm slice of homemade bread with fresh, bright and well-seasoned butter. And while I completely understand Bilbo Baggins the older I get I do feel like a recipe for a beautiful loaf of bread and handmade butter is worthy of note when discussing the food of the Lord of the Rings.
The following recipes are for my favorite No Knead French bread, and Butter in three ways…a normal beautiful salted fresh butter, a garlic and herb savory compound butter and a brown sugar and vanilla sweet compound butter.
For Fresh No Knead 1-hour French Bread:
- 2 c. warm water
- 2 TBS instant yeast
- 2 TSP salt
- 3 TBS vegetable oil
- 5 ½-6 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 egg white or 1 TBS melted butter for creating a crusty surface
For Fresh Salted Butter:
- 1 pint of heavy cream
- ¼-½ TSP Kosher or Sea salt
Additions for Compound Butters:
Garlic and Herb:
- ½-1 TBS Fresh Garlic Paste or 2-3 TSP Roasted Garlic Paste
- ¼ TSP onion powder
- ¼ TSP black pepper (fresh ground is the best!)
- 1-2 TBS fresh herbs or half this of dried (oregano, rosemary, thyme, or parsley all do well in this)
Brown Sugar and Vanilla:
- ¼ to ½ a cup packed brown sugar
- ½ to 1 TBS good quality vanilla paste (I’m using a beautiful Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste for this recipe)
How to make the things!
For the No Knead 1-hour French Bread:
- Additional tools you will need for this recipe are as follows:
- A stand mixer with a whisk attachment and a dough hook
- A standard sized baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside…you will need this when the dough is ready to rise
- Add your water, yeast and sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk this mix together until frothy, usually around 3-5 minutes. Make sure your water does not exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (between 37 and 38 degrees Celsius) as water that is too hot can kill the yeast
- Once this is bubbly and frothy remove the whisk attachment and switch to your dough hook.
- Add in your oil, salt and 5 ½ cups of all-purpose flour mixing on low speed until the dough comes together in a loose, shaggy texture then increasing the speed to medium until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl to form a ball. If this doesn’t begin to happen fairly quickly then add more flour slowly until it does (you shouldn’t need more than 6 cups of flour total).
- When this happens allow the dough to knead in the bowl for 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed.
- Remove the dough hook and cover the bowl with a warm damp towel to allow the bread to proof the first time. Allow this to rest for at least 15 and no more than 30 minutes
- Grab your parchment lined baking sheet then remove the towel and punch down the dough. Divide the dough into two roughly equal sizes and shape into a loaf…I like to make mine into longer oval shapes (about 15-18 inches or 38-46 cm in length). Cut a few diagonal cuts in the surface without going too deep into the tops.
- Allow the dough to rise a second time while you move the rack in your oven to the center ang preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). As soon as the oven is heated put your bread into the oven to bake
- Set your time for 23 minutes. Remove your bread from the oven and brush with the melted butter or egg white mixed with a little water being sure to catch all the exposed bits of the loaf so they turn golden brown
- Return to the oven for an additional 3-5 minutes watching for a nice crisp crust that is golden brown but being careful to not let the bread burn
- Rest the bread on a wire rack after removing it from the oven for at least 5 minutes before serving.
- You can store remaining bread in a few ways…(if it lasts that long!):
- Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days room temperature
- Full loaves can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days at room temperature
- Full loaves can be stored in plastic wrap and foil in the freezer for up to 3 months
For the Fresh Salted Butter:
- Additional tools needed:
- A stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer with whisk attachments (though I do recommend the stand mixer for this one as you’ll be holding the mixer for up to 20 minutes)
- Pour 1 pint of heavy cream into the stand mixer bowl with a whisk attachment on the machine. Start slowly on low speed until the milk is frothy gradually increasing the speed so that you don’t end up with cream splattered everywhere in your kitchen
- Allow the cream to go through the stages of whip from frothy to soft peak, then stiff peak to broken where it will eventually separate into to things…buttermilk and butter… this can take anywhere from 8-15 minutes
- When the butter and the buttermilk separate and the buttermilk starts to splatter then stop the machine and pour off the buttermilk (save this in the fridge for up to a week and use it to make some delicious buttermilk pancakes…you can find the recipe for these in the Proper Fry Up post as a bonus recipe)
- Take the butter from the bowl and rinse it in ice water, pouring the cloudy water off and rinsing again and again until the water runs clear… this is getting out all the remnants of the buttermilk which can cause the fresh butter to spoil
- When the water runs clear, add salt to the butter, mixing it in well and enjoying on fresh bread OR split it in two sections to continue with the compound butters that are next!
For the Compound Butters:
- Additional tools needed:
- A stand mixer with a whisk attachment
- Or a fork and a bowl
- A spatula
- Take your divided butter which should be at room temperature (or take a stick of good quality unsalted butter at room temperature) and add it to your mixer or your bowl
- Add in your ingredients for your compound butter of choice
- Mix either on medium speed or like crazy with your fork until the ingredients are incorporated
- Scrape the butter out onto plastic wrap or parchment paper and carefully roll into a log, put in the fridge until it stiffens up OR use on fresh bread right away!
- The vanilla brown sugar butter is amazing on fresh bread, toast, waffles or buttermilk pancakes and the herb garlic butter makes incredible garlic bread especially tossed with a little parmesan cheese (which also makes a beautiful addition to compound butter as well…)