Thursday, December 26, 2013

Buttermilk A Magical Ingredient

Random thoughts on buttermilk...
You might be surprised to learn there is no butter, per se, in buttermilk, and it is lower in fat than sweet milk. Old-fashioned homemade buttermilk is the slightly sour, residual liquid which remains after butter is churned. It was usually flecked with tiny spots of sweet, creamy butter that did not quite make it to the top to be skimmed. The flavor of buttermilk is like yogurt. It is slightly thicker in texture than regular milk but not as heavy as cream. 

I like to think of buttermilk as a magic ingredient. It can transform the texture of meat by tenderizing it and turns baked goods into springy, moist confections. It gives tang and texture to dressings, ice creams, and custards. And, of course, it’s the not-so-secret ingredient in fluffy pancakes. 

Different cuisines have focused on different properties of this magical ingredient. In the Deep South, buttermilk is used to tenderize chicken before frying. In India, it's mixed with spices and served as 'chaas' - a drink which cools the palette and aids digestion. And in Ireland, the acidity of buttermilk is used to react with bicarbonate of soda and cause soda bread to rise without the need for yeast.

Buttermilk is readily available from the store but you can make your own. In a measuring cup pour in 1 cup of milk and add 1 TB. of vinegar to it. Let stand for 5 minutes. You will only use 3/4 of the vinegar mixture for this recipe. 

Ever Ready blog will feature on the next few postings a variety of recipes using the versatile ingredient buttermilk in baked goods, meats, dressings and sauces. 
Baked Goods
The slight acidity of buttermilk tenderizes and moistens baked goods while allowing you to cut way back on butter or oils. Buttermilk lends a slight tanginess to the winning combination of bananas and blueberries. 

Buttermilk, Banana and Blueberry Loaf
Cook's notes: This adapted recipe comes from

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup regular white sugar
  • 2 overripe bananas to yield about 3/4 cup mashed bananas
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 stick (4TB.) butter - melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 TB flour

  •  Pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees
  • Spray the loaf pan with non-stick baking spray
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt into a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugars
  • Blend eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and pure vanilla extract with a mixer, beat until fluffy 
  • Drain blueberries, pat dry on a paper towel and toss with 2 TB flour-set aside
  • Add the wet ingredients (egg mixture) to the flour mixture and blend with a spatula until just combined
  • Stir in mashed bananas and blueberries 
  • Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan and smooth the top surface
  • Mix 2 TB. sugar with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the top
  • Bake for about 55-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  • Let loaf cool in pan 10 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely
Buttermilk Glazed Mini Fig Cakes
Cook's notes: By Christmas Day I figured most of us have had our share of holiday meals and sweets. So when I had to go to a family gathering I picked this dessert recipe and baked it in a mini muffin pan so people had small bites. I must say these moist mini fig cakes were quite a hit with a hint of spice and fig flavor.
Note when using this mini size pan recipe makes 64!!
Next time I make this recipe I will try a regular size muffin pan so each person could have an individual cake.
A 13 x 9 pan could also be used for this recipe.
The recipe was adapted from Southern Living November 2013  
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup fig preserves
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Stir flour and next 5 ingredients
  • Gradually add in oil beating until well blended
  • Add in eggs one at a time and beat till blended
  • Add in buttermilk and vanilla, beat until blended
  • Add in fig and blend, fold in toasted pecans
  • Grease pan and pour batter in each well about 3/4 full
  • Bake 15 minutes
  • Cool in pan 5 minutes and then invert cakes to wire rack to cool
Buttermilk Glaze
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • Bring sugar, buttermilk, butter, baking soda and cornstarch to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring often
  • Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar with vanilla
  • Place wax paper underneath wire rack and spoon glaze over cooled mini fig cakes  

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