Powdered buttermilk (Recipe: apple spice bread)
When most people think of Rhode Island, they think of Newport mansions and the America's Cup.
Clambakes on the beach.
Rhode Island Red chickens. (Okay, not everyone thinks of chickens....)
Until I moved here, I was one of those people. If you'd told me I was moving to apple country — that, in fact, I'd be buying my Macouns at an orchard named Apple Land — I would have said "hah!".
But here I am, smack dab in apple land, where I can buy Jonagolds and Cortlands, Mutsu and Macintosh, from August until March.
The thing about apple land is that it's miles from here to anything like a grocery store. So I always keep powdered buttermilk, an essential ingredient in my favorite apple spice bread and other baked goodies, in my pantry.
What is buttermilk? And what makes it cultured?
First thing to know: real buttermilk contains no butter, and it's not so much milk as the liquid left behind after butter is churned. Commercial (cultured) buttermilk, however, is made by adding a lactic acid bacterial culture to skim milk, which is then left to ferment for 12-14 hours at approximately 69°F. The milk sours and thickens.
For some reason, cultured buttermilk is sold only in a quart size, which is fine if you're planning to drink it, but most recipes for baked goods call for much smaller quantities, and the opened quart container festers in the back of the fridge, turning into a science experiment. Using powdered buttermilk eliminates the "buy a quart, use a cup" dilemma.
Fresh buttermilk makes a great tenderizer for chicken and lamb; when baking, add powdered buttermilk to offset the chemical reaction of foods like blueberries that turn batters a dingy blue.
According to Irish folklore, drinking a glass of buttermilk will offset a hangover. Adding a clove of garlic to it will offset just about anything else that comes your way.
Apple spice bread
I stumbled across this recipe in the New York Times Bread & Soup Cookbook by Yvonne Young Tarr at least a decade ago, and I've been making it ever since. It's definitely more cake than bread, and I always serve it as a dessert. The combination of apples and spices just screams "Fall is here!", and the arrival of apples at my local farmstand this week makes it irresistible. Makes 1 loaf.
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup tart apples (Granny Smith, Macoun, or a mix -- approx. 3 large apples), grated
1/2 cup buttermilk (made from powdered buttermilk)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sift together first 6 ingredients. Stir in whole wheat flour. Set aside. In a large bowl, or stand mixer, cream the shortening and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs, and stir to combine. Then, alternating a little bit at a time, add dry ingredients, buttermilk and apples to the egg mixture. Spray a bread pan with PAM and pour in the mixture. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and let cool to desired serving temperature. Serve slightly warm with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, or serve cold. (Can be frozen.)