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What to Use Instead of Buttermilk

May 22, 1986|JOAN DRAKE | Times Staff Writer

Question: Is there a substitute for buttermilk? It's often called for in recipes and is not something I purchase on a regular basis.

Answer: There are a couple of equivalents that can be used when buttermilk is called for as a recipe ingredient. One is to combine 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice with enough regular milk to make 1 cup and then let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. Another solution is to add 1 3/4 tablespoons of cream of tartar to 1 cup of regular milk.

Q: I have acquired a recipe for chili that goes back many years. It calls for kimino (roll and crush). What is it and where can it be obtained?

A: It is probably cumin seed, also referred to by the Spanish word comino and a common chili ingredient . An ancient spice native to the Middle East and India, today cumin is grown to some extent in countries throughout the world.

One of the most popular uses for the spice is flavoring rice and bean dishes, leading to it's popularity as a seasoning throughout Latin America. Although chili powder, an American innovation, uses cumin as a chief ingredient, many chili recipes still call for additional amounts of the cumin.

Cumin seed is available both whole and ground in supermarkets throughout the Southland. Once purchased, date the container and store tightly closed in a cool, dry place. The seeds will keep longer than the ground spice, but under good storage conditions, the qualities of aroma and flavor of even ground cumin should be retained a year.

Q: What is clarified butter? I've noticed it's called for in some recipes, but I can't find it at the supermarket.

A: Clarified butter has the milk solids--whey and casein--removed. It is clear and golden and much less likely to burn when used for cooking. Another name is drawn butter, traditionally an accompaniment for lobster.

To make the clarified product, melt butter over moderate heat. Skim off the foam (casein) that rises to the surface, then remove the pan from the heat and let stand a few minutes for the whey to settle. Skim the clear yellow clarified butter from the top and store, refrigerated, in a covered jar. The foam may be used to season vegetables, but the whey should be discarded.

Q: Help--my bread refuses to rise. I purchase yeast in bulk packages that is still active according to the stamped date. Is there a method of testing the freshness of the yeast other than baking?

A: You can proof yeast by dissolving it in about 1/2 cup warm water. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, molasses or honey, stir and let stand. If it bubbles and foams, you'll know the yeast is alive and ready to be used. Reduce the amount of liquid called for in the recipe by 1/2 cup. The small amount of sweetening used should not appreciably alter the flavor of the finished product.

Yeast flourishes in the presence of sweetness, warmth and moisture. If the above test is not used, be certain the recipe includes a sweetener on which the yeast can feed. The water or milk used with active dry yeast should be between 105 and 115 degrees. Test with a candy thermometer--too cool and the yeast will not be activated, too hot and it will be killed.

Yeast doughs should be so near body temperature you scarcely feel any warmth or coolness when kneading. It is also important to let the dough rise in a warm place, 80 to 85 degrees, dry and free from drafts. It should double in bulk so that two fingers pressed into the dough about 1/2-inch remain. If they disappear, let the dough rise another 15 to 20 minutes and test again. Soft dough will double in 3/4 to 1 hour, heavy doughs may take 2 hours.

Yeast is a living organism and is relatively delicate. Care needs to be taken throughout the preparation and baking processes in order to ensure an optimum end product.

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