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Front Page - Friday, February 5, 2016

The facts about buttermilk (Is there really any butter in it?)

Kay's Cooking Corner

Kay Bona

Buttermilk brings to mind good old-fashioned home cooking. My Granny used it in just about everything, and was never out of it.

In pioneer days, nothing went to waste on the homestead, including the liquid leftover after churning butter. Combined with natural airborne bacteria this liquid thickened and soured, resulting in buttermilk, which made an excellent addition to baked goods. It even touted healing properties!

Dairy farmers and country folk celebrated buttermilk as a tonic. Folklore claimed one big glass of the creamy, tangy drink would fortify and fuel you through a day’s work, cure hangovers, and when heated with garlic, cure a variety of ailments, such as immunization against poison oak and ivy. Pioneer women used buttermilk as soap, believing the flecks of butter brought a smooth and creamy complexion. I’m sure it was smooth indeed!

Buttermilk education

Biscuits are probably number one on everyone’s list, but buttermilk has many different uses. Most people think buttermilk is a buttery, high-fat milk, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Contrary to its name, there is no butter in buttermilk. Today’s buttermilk is made by adding a bacterial culture to pasteurized sweet whole milk, skim milk or non-fat milk, and is usually labeled cultured buttermilk.

Buttermilk is high in potassium, vitamin B12, calcium, and riboflavin as well as a good source of phosphorus. Those with digestive problems are often advised to drink buttermilk rather than milk, as it is more quickly digested. It is also lower in fat than regular milk, since the fat has been removed to make butter. For those watching their caloric or fat intake, try putting a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk on baked potatoes or in mashed potatoes instead of sour cream or butter. You can also make mock sour cream using buttermilk powder. Buttermilk will last up to two weeks due to its high acidity level, although it is best used within a week for drinking purposes (it will be fine for baking even after the expiration date).

The acidic properties of buttermilk make an effective and flavorful marinade, particularly with poultry. It is used as an acidic ingredient in baked goods to combat dingy grayish discoloring often caused by the chemical reaction of blueberries, walnuts, and other foods that give off a blue cast. It also promotes browning of baked goods and improves texture. Many prefer dipping meat, poultry and fish in buttermilk rather than milk before coating for frying and baking. 


If you have no buttermilk, you can make a substitute. Yogurt can be substituted for buttermilk, volume for volume, one cup of yogurt per one cup of buttermilk.  Likewise, buttermilk can usually be substituted for yogurt or sour milk. You can also buy buttermilk powder, (dehydrated buttermilk).

1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup yogurt

1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk PLUS 1 Tbsp 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

Buttermilk has evolved with the times, making a mark in salad dressings, soups – even ice cream. Below are a few delicious recipes to try. One with chocolate, of course, and a new twist on cornbread!

Dr Pepper Texas Chocolate Cake


2 cups flour 

1 cup sugar 

1 cup dark brown sugar 

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 

1 cup Dr Pepper 

1/2 cup chocolate chips

2 large eggs 

1 cup buttermilk 

1 cup vegetable oil 

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla 


3/4 cup butter-flavored

   vegetable shortening 

6 tablespoons unsalted butter,


4 cups sifted powdered sugar 

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa


1/4 cup Dr Pepper

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla 

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13x9 inch cake pan. Sift together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, cocoa and baking soda into a bowl and set aside. Pour the Dr Pepper and chocolate chips into a saucepan. Heat on low, stirring often, until the chips are melted. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Combine the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla in bowl and mix on medium speed about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the Dr Pepper-chocolate mixture and continue beating for 1-2 minutes. 

Gradually add the dry ingredients. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more. Pour into pan; bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

For frosting, beat shortening and butter in a mixer bowl until soft and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and cocoa, and continue mixing until combined. Pour Dr Pepper and vanilla very slowly into the frosting, beating with the mixer on high speed. Continue beating until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

Corn Bread with Faresh Tomatoes and Mozzarella

1-1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon

   unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

2 tbsp sugar

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup (about 4 ounces) mozzarella

   cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup chilled buttermilk

2 large eggs

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh

   Italian parsley

2/3 cup (about 4 ounces)

   diced seeded plum tomatoes

Preheat to 400 degrees. Butter 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Whisk 1-1/2 cups flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large bowl. Combine mozzarella and remaining 1 tablespoon flour in small bowl; tossing to coat. 

Whisk buttermilk, eggs, olive oil and chopped Italian parsley in medium bowl. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir just to combine (do not over mix). Sprinkle mozzarella cubes and diced tomatoes over batter; stir gently just to distribute evenly. 

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until brown on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Cool bread 15 minutes. Cut into squares or wedges and serve warm.

Kay Bona is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at kay@dailydata.com.