Monday, July 23, 2012

the perfect BLT + homemade buttermilk bread.

As of late my meals have been rather simple affairs.  Toasted bread rubbed with garlic topped with a smear of ricotta, sliced tomatoes, and a sprinkle of coarse salt and black pepper.  Corn sautéed in a little bit of bacon fat (so good!), sprinkled with cayenne, salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime.  I’ve begun to enjoy the ease with which it takes to make a meal, it allows more time for outdoor dinner table conversations and card games galore (I adore Rummy).  I know I will move back into the more is better camp with elaborate meals as soon as Labor Day hits, but until then I’m happy to eat so simply.

My favorite simple summer meal, the one I look forward to as soon as Memorial Day hits, and the meal I eat with abandon as soon as heirloom tomatoes are ripe is a BLT.  A BLT’s screams summer.  A BLT requires the best possible ingredients.  For my first one of the season, I took a lot of care into making it the best.  I agonized over the type of bread to make.  I poured over Bernard Clayton’s The Complete Book of Breads in search of the perfect one and decided on his recipe for Buttermilk Bread.  This is a wonderful bread with a really nice crumb and a beautiful tang from the buttermilk.  It pairs perfectly with the smoky bacon, ripe heirloom tomatoes, and crisp lettuce.  A smear of mayo (on both pieces of bread!) completed the sandwich.  The only accompaniment needed was a side of crunchy potato chips.  I love summer eating. 

The Perfect BLT
Makes 2 sandwiches

Making a BLT is a bad idea unless you have the best of the best ingredients.  This is the time to splurge on good local bacon from your butcher.  I personally love the bacon from Dickinson Farmstand in the Chelsea Market. They always slice it super thick for me and it has the perfect smoky flavor, which makes for a very delicious sandwich.  I also love heirloom tomatoes but a beefsteak tomato also makes for a fine sandwich. 

4 slices of bread (recipe for the Buttermilk Bread I used below!)
1 large or 2 small tomatoes slicked ¼ inch thick
4 slices of thick cut bacon (see notes above)
Salt and Pepper

Lightly toast your bread.  You want the bread to still have a little give when you touch it.  Give a generous swipe of mayo to the bread.  Top with 2 slices of bacon, then the tomatoes.  Sprinkle the tomatoes with fresh black pepper and salt.  Top the tomatoes with the lettuce.  Swipe mayo on the other slice of bread and place on top of the lettuce.  Cut in half and serve with really good potato chips. 

Buttermilk Bread

Makes 2 Loaves

This recipe makes 2 loaves.  I froze the other one figuring it would come in handy when I don’t have time after work to make fresh bread.  You may find that you eat both loaves in one weekend because its that good.  There is no shame in that. 

5 to 5 ½ cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 package dry yeast
1 cup water
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup shortening

In a large mixing bowl stir together 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and yeast.  In a saucepan combine the water, buttermilk, and shortening and place over low heat to warm.  Warm until the butter melts (because of the buttermilk the mixture may appear curdled but that’s ok!).  Gradually add the liquid to the dry ingreadients and beat for 2 minutes with the flat beater on your mixer.  Add one cup of flour to the mixture and beat for an additional 2 minutes.  Switch to a dough hook and work in the remaining 2 to 2 ½ cups flour.  Add the flour gradually, until the mass of dough is soft and not sticky. 

Knead the dough in the mixer for 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  If the dough appears sticky, add sprinkles of flour.  It will pull away cleanly  from the sides of the bowl when it has enough flour. 

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and put in a warm place until the dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. 

Grease 2 medium sized loaf pans and place them to the side.  Punch the dough down and cut into 2 pieces.  For each piece, turn the cut side under and gently press and par it into an oblong shape that will barely touch the ends of the pan.  Place into greased pans. 

Cover with wax paper or plastic wrap and return the loaf pans to the warm place for about 45 minutes or until the dough has risen about 1 inch above the pans. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees about 20 minutes before baking.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the load sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.  Place the loaves on wire racks to cool.

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