Buttermilk Honey Bread

Buttermilk Honey BreadAdapted from Annie’s Eats
Yield: 2 loaves (rectangular or free form)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 tbsp. instant yeast
1 tsp. agave nectar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, warmed to take off the chill (or brought to room temperature)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp. honey, warmed until runny
1 tbsp. salt
5-6 cups white whole wheat flour
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. milk or cream (for egg wash)
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds for topping (optional)

Directions:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the water, yeast, sugar, buttermilk, butter, honey, salt, and 4 cups of the flour. Mix on low speed just until a dough has formed. Switch to the dough hook. Continue mixing on low speed, adding the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until a smooth dough is formed that clears the sides of the bowl. Continue kneading on low speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, turning once to coat, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 60-75 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently punch it down. Grease two loaf pans (if using). Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape as desired. (To shape into a braided wreath, follow the instructions in this post.) Cover the loaves lightly with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise until fully doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Twenty minutes before you want to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Center a rack in the oven. Just before putting the loaves in the oven, brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle with topping, if desired. Place the pans on the center rack and bake about 45 minutes, rotating 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. If the tops brown too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Remove the loafs immediately to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing

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