My grandmother used to tell me about life before everyone had a telephone and a television and a car.
No phone. Seriously, I thought she was so old.
My mother use to tell me about life before TV dinners and boil-in-bag vegetables and drive-in movies.
I thought she was so old.
Now I'm the one who's old. I remember life before computers and playstations, digital cameras and cell phones, polar fleece and pluots.
I remember when milk came from the milkman. So did chocolate milk, and buttermilk. It came in bottles, not in boxes.
Then, in the 1970s, along came powdered buttermilk, in a box, and believe it or not, that was progress. I never realized it until I moved to a more rural community, with the nearest buttermilk-stocked supermarket ten miles away.
Not only do I have to drive to get buttermilk, but also, more often than not, a recipe calls for half a cup, or maybe a full cup, out of each quart (and why, folks in the milk industry, does buttermilk not come in smaller sizes?). The rest sits in the fridge, spoiling after a week or so. The powder sits on the pantry shelf, not spoiling, almost indefinitely. Progress, indeed.
While liquid buttermilk is made from cultured skim milk, powdered buttermilk is made from real buttermilk, which, as the nice folks at SACO explain, is much better for baking:
When cream is agitated in a butter churn, the membranes around the fat globule membrane separate from the fat globule. This allows the butterfat to precipitate out in the form of butter. The phospholipids, meanwhile, remain in the fluid phase. The fluid that remains, after all the butterfat has been removed as butter, is similar to skim milk except it contains the phospholipids and proteins from the fat globule membranes. These phospholipids are natural emulsifiers. When real buttermilk is used in a recipe, the presence of these emulsifiers results in finer dispersing of the shortening throughout the batter. The smaller air cells which form in the presence of the emulsifier make the grain of baked goods finer, the volume and texture superior.
Buttermilk powder does not contain the live culture that makes liquid buttermilk a good starter for cheese or yogurt, but it also does not contain the lactic acid added to most modern liquid buttermilk. Many brands are kosher, and all are useful for people with mild lactose intolerance and those who eat gluten-free.
To substitute buttermilk powder in recipes like waffles, pancakes, cupcakes and scones, mix the buttermilk powder with the other dry ingredients, then add the appropriate amount of water when the recipe calls for liquid buttermilk.
Keep some buttermilk powder in your pantry, and banish open-but-barely-used quarts of buttermilk from your fridge.
Southern buttermilk biscuits
My friend Lucia introduced me to these wonderful biscuits from The Bed & Breakfast Cookbook, written by her sister, Martha Murphy. I've adapted the recipe to make with buttermilk powder, where the original calls for one cup of buttermilk. Makes 12 biscuits.
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 packet buttermilk powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp shortening
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Sift together flour, baking powder, buttermilk powder and salt. Cut in the shortening until it resembles a coarse meal. Mix baking soda and water. Add slowly to the flour mixture and mix to a soft dough. (At this point the dough may be stored in a covered dish in the refrigerator for several days.) When ready to use, roll out on a lightly floured board to 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet or Silpat, and bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.
Bake. Decorate. Donate. It's a simple idea. Bake some cookies. Invite friends, family, co-workers, or neighbors to help decorate. Donate your cookies to a local agency serving people in need, and "give back" while having fun.
Planning a Drop In & Decorate event? Please let me know (lydia AT ninecooks DOT com) so we can share the fun.
To learn more about Drop In & Decorate Cookies for Donation, including how to host your own party, visit www.ninecooks.com; then stop in at A Veggie Venture, 37 Days, Culinary Types, Nikas Culinaria, Homesick Texan, Food Blogga, The Inadvertent Gardener, Jaden's Steamy Kitchen, La Mia Cucina, One Hot Stove, The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz, French Kitchen in America, Veronica's Test Kitchen, Kelly the Culinarian, shawnkenney.com, Thyme for Cooking: The Blog, Chew on That, Nook & Pantry, Cookthink, Tea & Cookies, Mele Cotte, Cream Puffs in Venice, startcooking.com, Shazam in the Kitchen, The Family Quilt, The Daily Tiffin, Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy, The Budget Bambino, Baking and Books, and What's for Lunch, Honey?
"I love Drop In & Decorate for the gathering of the community. To see old and new friends gathered around a table of cookies with icing in hand brings a smile to my face every year!" Jennifer, cookie decorating volunteer