Cultured buttermilk can refer to several products—both from animal and nut milk. Traditionally, buttermilk is what is left when making butter. I’ve prepared butter many times using fermented, raw cream. This way, the buttermilk left is already fermented. Buttermilk in grocery stores is created in an industrial process similar to commercial yogurt. Then there’s buttermilk powder which is actually surprisingly good for baking.
What does cultured buttermilk contain?
Probiotic bacteria produce lactic acid when consuming milk sugar thus creating the acidic, tangy taste of fermented buttermilk. The acidity is what makes it so useful in baking. Casein is the protein that makes the buttermilk slightly thicker. The name buttermilk is a bit misleading as it does not contain any butter. Fat contents are actually low since most of it remains in the butter.Nutritional value of buttermilk)
Cultured buttermilk contains
- Vitamin B12
- Natural enzymes
- High levels of protein
- Great source of calcium
- Natural probiotic bacteria
Summary: Cultured buttermilk is like a lighter, tangier version of yogurt. It has a high nutritional value and is easy to digest. You can consume it as it is, however buttermilk excels in everything baked (see below).
Cultured buttermilk the traditional way
When I make butter, I use raw, fermented cream. The raw cream will ferment after a few days in room temperature because of the bacteria naturally present in the cream. When fermented, the cream turns really thick like crème fraiche. Cultured butter has a rich and very “buttery” taste. It’s absolutely fantastic to use of freshly baked bread!
The buttermilk is the liquid leftover. In the bowl to the right, the buttermilk has separated from the butter. This buttermilk can be used right away or stored for later. It has a slightly sweet taste and small spots of creamy butter floating.
If you use standard cream from the grocery store to make butter, then you can ferment the buttermilk separately. One way is to pour the buttermilk into another bowl, add a little raw milk and let it sit at room temperature for 18-24 hours. The bacteria in raw milk consume sugars and turn the buttermilk thicker and tangier. Another simple way is to use a starter (see below).
Summary: Traditional buttermilk is a leftover when making butter. If you use fermented cream, then the buttermilk is already cultured and ready to be used. This buttermilk is slightly sweet and has a stronger or fuller taste than commercial buttermilk.
Cultured buttermilk from whole milk
You can use raw or standard milk (1-2%) for this recipe. But avoid ultra-pasteurized milk. Preparing your own buttermilk has some advantages, like if you prefer using raw milk. However, for use in baking standard buttermilk from a grocery store will work very well. But I also really like the simplicity of using the buttermilk powder mentioned below.
How to prepare you buttermilk from standard milk.
- 4 cups whole milk
- A buttermilk culture starter.
- A mason jar
Stir the starter culture into the milk. Cover it with a towel or lid but avoid capping it tightly. Let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. The buttermilk will become thicker and have a slightly tangy smell. Store it for about a week in the fridge.
Try using almond milk
If you want to avoid using animal milk, try making a buttermilk substitute with almond milk. If you have a juicer, it’s easy to make your own superb almond milk. Otherwise, use store-bought almond milk. You can use the same amount of almond milk as buttermilk in recipes.
- About 1 cup almond milk
- Add 1 tablespoon acidic substance like lemon or lime juice, or raw apple cider vinegar
- Let it sit 5-10 minutes, or until the milk thickens
- Use this in the same amount as buttermilk in recipes
Buttermilk in baking
Buttermilk in baking adds a pleasant, subtle tang to cakes, breads, biscuits, pancakes, and even in dressings. Because buttermilk is an acidic ingredient, it adds a soft, rich, creaminess to whatever you’re baking. Buttermilk gives it more body. Biscuits become more rich and flaky, it helps bread to rise. And buttermilk pancakes bet a different texture and fluffiness that many love!
In short, you really should try buttermilk when baking.
Powdered buttermilk is a good option for baking. This powder is made from the liquid that’s left after churning butter so it’s great. Add 3 tablespoons of powder to about a cup of water depending on how thick you want it. The powder keeps for several years.
If the recipe calls for buttermilk but you have none at home, then try using natural standard or Greek yogurt. Usually, you use the same amount of yogurt as you would buttermilk. If you don’t have yogurt at home, try a last resort—a blend of one cup of milk and a tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar.
Summary: Buttermilk can take whatever you’re baking to greater heights. It makes most breads, muffins, and cakes taste and look better. Pancakes get a nice texture and greater fluffiness. Even dressings get an excellent taste and creaminess when using buttermilk.
It’s great in everything baked as it adds a subtle tang and increases the rise together with baking soda. You can also use buttermilk in meat marinades before frying. It’s great when preparing dressings.
It’s possible but thawing can be problematic as the buttermilk easily separates. Some say thawing in a microwave helps.
In a fridge it will remain fresh for 5-7 days or longer. It’s still fine to use after 7 days but it will become tangier the longer you store it. The acidity of buttermilk is what helps preserve it longer. When buttermilk turns bad, it looks grainy and has an unpleasant smell.