Buttermilk is essential for adding tang and tender crumb characteristics to Southern favorites such as buttermilk biscuits, buttermilk pie and cornbread. The acid in buttermilk, when combined with baking soda, produces light baked goods. In addition, buttermilk adds extra tenderness, moistness and flavor.
Buttermilk is a cultured milk with a tangy flavor and creamy texture. It is not a byproduct of butter production. Commercial buttermilk is soured and thickened with known bacterial cultures to maintain consistency, but is as versatile as buttermilk produced on the farm. Although buttermilk’s rich-sounding name and creamy texture suggest a high fat content, buttermilk is surprisingly low in fat and calories.
- When baking soda mixes with the acid in buttermilk in a wet batter, a harmless gas (carbon dioxide) is released. The gas expands when heated in the oven, leavening the baked product to produce flavorful, light and tender results.
- Buttermilk can separate as it sits, so shake well before using.
- Buttermilk is an easy, low-fat tenderizing marinade for poultry and meat. It also adds low-fat creaminess and flavorto soups, salad dressings and sauces.
Buttermilk is available in nonfat and low-fat (1 percent to 2 percent) versions.Buttermilk comes in pint, quart and half-gallon cartons and is also available in dried form in 12-ounce cans (equivalent to 3.75 quarts) in the baking section of most supermarkets.
- Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white or cider vinegar to a liquid measuring cup and add enough milk to yield 1 cup for each cup of buttermilk desired, and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Mix 2/3 cup plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt with 1/3 cup low-fat or whole milk for each cup of buttermilk desired.
- You can substitute buttermilk for milk or water in a frosting: Sift the contents of a 1-pound box of powdered sugar and 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder into a large bowl. Melt 4 ounces unsalted butter in a small saucepan with 6 tablespoons buttermilk; pour over sugar-cocoa mixture and stir to combine. Blend in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour through a sieve. Makes enough frosting to cover one 10 x 15-inch sheet cake or two 9 x 13-inch cakes. Allow time to set (4 hours to overnight).
- Use buttermilk instead of whole milk in vanilla ice cream recipes.
- To make a homemade version of crème fraîche, add 1 tablespoon buttermilk to 1 cup heavy cream (preferably 40 percent milkfat). Heat just to 100 degrees F. Pour into a jar, cover with a lid and shake. Set aside at room temperature until mixture thickens slightly, from 8 to 12 hours. Refrigerate (it will thicken). Store in refrigerator for up to 10 days.