What is buttermilk? Does buttermilk contain butter? Inquiring minds want to know. So many people labor under the misconception that buttermilk is a buttery, high-fat milk-ly drink. Nope, surprise, surprise there is no butter in buttermilk. Rather this slightly sour liquid is what’s left over after the “butter” has been churned out of it. Old fashioned buttermilk sometimes has tiny globs of sweet, creamy butter that did not quite make it to the top to be skimmed out.
Most commercial buttermilk, however, is made by adding a lactic acid cultures to pasteurized milk.
The flavor of buttermilk is sort of like yogurt. It’s slightly thicker in texture than regular milk but not as heavy as cream. Buttermilk is excellent in baked goods, and also as a soup and salad dressing base. It lends a rich, hearty flavor with fewer calories than milk or cream. The tangy flavor of buttermilk goes well with sweet fruits such as peaches, cherries, and pears, particularly as creme fraiche.
If you have no buttermilk, you can make your own substitute, but go for the real thing if you can. Yogurt may be substituted for buttermilk on a 1 for 1 basis. Using buttermilk recipes usually calls for the inclusion of baking soda not baking powder. This is because the buttermilk has more acid than regular milk and using it with baking powder can upset the recipe balance of acid to alkali needed for leavening.
So, rule of thumb, when using buttermilk instead of milk, substitute baking soda for some or all for of the baking powder. For each cup of buttermilk used in place of sweet milk, reduce the amount of baking powder by 2 teaspoons, and replace with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.
Buttermilk Substitutes, Equivalents and Measures:
- 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup yogurt
- 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk PLUS 1 Tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice (let stand for 10 minutes before using in recipe)
- 1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk PLUS 1-3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 cup buttermilk = 1/4 cup milk PLUS 3/4 cup yogurt
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.
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