Buttermilk is understated--a quiet, old-fashioned ingredient that brings its own small delight to summer dishes. Yet a bit of buttermilk imparts a tangy and refreshing edge to cakes, salad dressings, even ice cream.
The secret is its sour taste, which adds a little acidity but also a homeyness. Originally, buttermilk was the leftover milk after churning butter from whole cream. It's now typically made from pasteurized skim milk, with a culture added to develop the flavor and produce a creamier texture.
You might not think of buttermilk as a flavoring for ice cream, but it works perfectly. This vanilla bean ice cream is not as sweet--but also not as bland--as scoops of vanilla; try it with summer berries or as a topping for fruit crisps and pies.
The lemon buttermilk muffins capture that old-time taste, and guess what--buttermilk marries well with lemon. Serve the muffins for breakfast or with afternoon tea or coffee.
The cake, included here from "The Cake Bible," is a wonderful warm weather dessert--the buttermilk enriches the cake's buttery taste. It's best served with whipped cream and fresh fruit.
Buttermilk is lower in fat and cholesterol than regular milk and comes in low-fat varieties. It will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator, but often will be fine for baking even after the expiration date.
You can create a buttermilk substitute when baking if you have none on hand: Add enough milk to one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to equal one cup. Stir and let the mixture stand about five minutes. Buttermilk should not be substituted for regular milk in recipes, however.
Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Ice Cream
Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes, plus 5 hours chilling, and freezing
1 (4-inch) piece vanilla bean
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, shaken well
Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a non-aluminum saucepan. Add the pod and cream. Gently heat over medium heat until hot, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the sugar and eggs with an electric mixer until thick and yellow, 1 minute. Stir in some of the hot cream, then return the mixture to the pan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
Immediately pour the mixture through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Press on the vanilla bean to extract all the seeds and flavor. Discard the pod. Stir in the buttermilk. Chill the mixture thoroughly, at least 5 hours.
Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Store in a plastic container, covered airtight.
To serve, let the ice cream rest at room temperature until it softens slightly, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
About 3 1/2 cups. Each 1/2-cup serving: 185 calories; 79 mg sodium; 84 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 25 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0 fiber.
Lemon Buttermilk Muffins
Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 45 minutes, plus 30 minutes cooling
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk, shaken well
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lemon juice mixed with 2 tablespoons sugar, for glaze
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners, or grease the cups.
Place the zest, sugar, butter and egg in a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix well. Stir in the buttermilk. Combine the flour, baking soda, cloves and salt, then stir into the egg mixture. Don't over mix. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Dip the tops of the muffins into the glaze while still hot. Let rest at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm by reheating in a 300-degree oven or microwave on medium-high power.
12 muffins. Each muffin: 228 calories; 151 mg sodium; 39 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 35 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.61 gram fiber.
Buttermilk Country Cake
Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour
This recipe comes from "The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum (William Morrow, 1988). The cake is delicious with sweetened whipped cream and sliced peaches and berries.
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup buttermilk, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch round cake pan, or grease a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment or wax paper, grease again and flour lightly.
Lightly combine the yolks, 3 tablespoons of buttermilk and the vanilla.