Buttermilk balances sweetness and keeps baked goods tender


While one of the ingredients in today’s recipe might seem a bit old-fashioned, it’s the perfect addition to baked goods such as muffins, pancakes, quick breads, and cakes. The ingredient is buttermilk.

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Besides adding a subtle flavor to balance the sweetness of baked goods, buttermilk does a few amazing things. First, the acidity of buttermilk activates the baking soda and produces a gas that causes the dough to rise. This acidity also breaks down the protein strands in the pasta, giving baked goods a delicate texture.

The buttermilk that our grandparents enjoyed was the liquid left over after churning the butter from the cream. Today, buttermilk is typically made by adding cultures (beneficial bacteria) to 1% milk. The result is a slightly thickened milk with a tangy and tangy flavor. Since buttermilk tends to separate when in the refrigerator, shake it well before using.

If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make a substitute by mixing a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in a cup of 1/2% or 1% skim milk. Most instructions for making this instant buttermilk recommend letting the mixture sit for about 10 minutes, allowing it to thicken and curdle slightly, before adding it to the dough.

Interestingly, the folks at American’s Test Kitchen did some experimentation and found that the 10 minute wait time was really not necessary. The rise (rise), browning, and tenderness of the baked goods tested were the same whether the homemade buttermilk was used immediately after the addition of lemon juice or after a 10 minute standing time.

They also found that adding cream of tartar, an acidic ingredient, to dry ingredients gave baked goods the same elevation and tenderness as low fat buttermilk. If you’re concerned about the unpleasant flavors that can result from adding lemon juice or vinegar, the cream of tartar trick is a great option. Using 1 ½ teaspoons of cream of tartar for each cup of milk worked perfectly.

Darlene Zimmerman is a Registered Dietitian at the Heart & Vascular Institute at Henry Ford Hospital. For questions about today’s recipe, call 313-972-1920.

Blueberry cornmeal cake

Serves: 12 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 50 minutes

Vegetable oil cooking spray

¼ cup plain or vanilla fat-free Greek yogurt

¼ cup tub margarine

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1 tablespoon of lemon zest

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup white whole wheat flour

cup of cornmeal

1 teaspoon of baking powder

½ teaspoon of baking soda

¼ teaspoon of salt

â…“ cup of low fat buttermilk

1 ½ cup of fresh blueberries


½ cup of powdered sugar

1 tablespoon of skimmed buttermilk or skimmed milk

1 teaspoon of lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Liberally coat sides and bottom of 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray; put aside. In a bowl, combine the yogurt, margarine, granulated sugar, egg, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest.

In another bowl, combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add dry ingredients to liquid ingredients, alternating with buttermilk, beating on medium-low speed until just combined. Stir in the blueberries and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

To prepare the frosting, combine powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon of buttermilk and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest until smooth. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack. When ready to serve, coat each slice of cake with icing.

Created and tested by Darlene Zimmerman, MS, RD, for Heart Smart®.

194 calories (14% of fat), 3 grams fat (1 gram Big sam, 0 grams trans fat), 40 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 183 mg sodium, 19 mg cholesterol, 33 mg calcium, 2 grams fiber. Food exchanges: 2 starchy foods, ½ fruit, ½ fat.

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