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GOOD COOKING

The Cultured Milk

April 01, 1993|ABBY MANDEL

Buttermilk has a thick, rich texture and a deliciously tangy, buttery flavor, but it is made with less than 1% butterfat. All of which makes it a perfect ingredient for low-fat baking.

Like yogurt and sour cream, buttermilk is made from milk that thickens and curdles when combined with acid-producing bacteria. Cheese, on the other hand, uses rennet--an enzyme from a calf's stomach--for its texture and taste.

Traditionally, buttermilk is the liquid left over from making butter. During churning, it comes in contact with airborne bacteria that slightly thicken and sour it. Though some buttermilk may still be cultured this way, today most is made from skim milk that is cultured with specific bacteria that give a buttery flavor and texture.

These recipes use less fat--whether from butter or margarine or egg yolks--than is standard, but remember that the fat has been decreased--not omitted.

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These dark, tender cupcakes are perfectly delicious with nothing but a dusting of powdered sugar on top. But if you prefer frosting, I've included a glaze recipe. Paper liners make cupcakes much easier to handle. These cupcakes are really good when still warm from the oven . Let cupcakes stand about 12 minutes before serving.

BUTTERMILK-CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

2 egg whites

Buttermilk-Chocolate Glaze

Powdered sugar, optional

Combine buttermilk, water, cocoa and vanilla in 2-cup measure. Set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto piece of wax paper. Set aside.

With electric mixer, beat granulated sugar, butter, egg and egg whites until smooth and flowing. Add buttermilk mixture. Mix to combine. Add flour mixture. Use low speed to mix until well combined. Ladle batter into muffin tin filled with paper liners, filling about 7/8 full.

Bake at 350 degrees until wood pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving. Cupcakes may be frozen after being completely cooled; wrap airtight.

To serve, frost cupcakes with Buttermilk-Chocolate Glaze, or dust with powdered sugar pressed through fine sieve. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Each serving contains about:

188 calories; 150 mg sodium; 29 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 35 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.23 gram fiber.

Buttermilk-Chocolate Glaze

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed

2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk

Dash salt

1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened

Combine sugar, cocoa, buttermilk, salt and butter in small mixing bowl. Use wooden spoon to mix until smooth. Spread thin coat of glaze on cupcakes.

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