photo credit: Jason Chow Photography
At most grocery stores, it's only available in 1L cartons - and sometimes you find it, sometimes you don't, sometimes it has a long expiration date, sometimes a week or less! It can become quite a nuisance when you bake to order and you suddenly get a last minute request but you are out of buttermilk, or you buy more than you need and end up tossing out half the container because it goes past due. Yes you can freeze buttermilk - best to do it in small amounts which can thaw easily, but again that's a nuisance.
Recently we brought in dry buttermilk powder - all the essence and qualities of buttermilk but in dry form just waiting to be reconstituted. Now I have buttermilk on hand whenever I need it - I can make a little or a lot depending upon my needs - no waste! And this is true buttermilk like the product from days gone by - it is the residue left over from making sweet cream butter, and then dried into powdered form. Today's commercial buttermilk is cultured, i.e.: it is milk with an addition to it to create a buttermilk taste & texture. For more info about buttermilk, see this Wikipedia post.
So what can you use buttermilk for? It is excellent in baked goods; from muffins, to quick breads, to cakes - it gives an amazing texture & flavour to your baked items. Here's a quick non-cake related recipe in which buttermilk is the star - Irish Soda Bread. This bread is VERY easy to make, takes less than 5 minutes to prepare, can be on the table in 45 minutes, tastes amazing and has 4 simple ingredients! It's homemade and your family will think you hit a home run! Try it!
Irish Soda Bread
adapted from finecooking.com
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
To make 2 cups of buttermilk:
Mix together 6 1/2 tbsp (62.5g) buttermilk powder with 450mL water
One amazingly delicious 6"-7" round loaf
1-8 depending! :)
Using the centre rack of the oven, pre-heat the oven to 450F and lightly flour a rimmed baking sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together all your dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre of your flour mixture and pour in 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk. Using one hand, stir together, incorporating all the ingredients. If too dry, add additional buttermilk 1 tbsp at a time until the dough just comes together. This dough is soft, do not overwork the dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface, gently knead together and shape into a round about 6"-7" in diameter and 1 1/2" high at the centre point. Flip the bread round over so that the floured side is face up. With a sharp knife, score a cross in the dough - from one side to the other about 1/4" deep.
Place dough on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 400F and bake until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap on the bottom - approximately 20-30 minutes.
Best if allowed to cool for approximately 2 hours prior to slicing and serving .... if you can wait that long!
Get creative: add raisins, herbs, chopped chocolate, caramelized onions, currants, dried cherries, crystallized ginger, olives - experiment & have fun!