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Mar 9, 2013 09:21 PM

Kate's Real Buttermilk now available in local supermarkets; was excited to try, however my results so far have been inconsistant

A month or two ago, my local store started carrying this product. Up until now, I've used Friendship the couple of times a year I need buttermilk, and had no complaints; but I figured this was going to be an amazing improvement. I bought two quarts because I had so many things I wanted to try.

First up, pancakes. I used the recipe I've been using for at least twenty years. They usually fluff up nice and thick, since I overdo it on the baking powder and eggs; but with Kates they came out like Swedish pancakes. Did not rise at all. Tasty but not what I was looking for by a long shot. Luckily my husband gobbled them up anyway, guess it was a nice change for him.

Next up, corn muffins. Again a tried and true recipe. They only rose about half way up the cup and also stuck to the metal despite greasing well, they usually overflow the pan for me. I was planning a skillet of cornbread for company a few weeks later and would not take the chance to mess up again, I used cream instead of buttermilk as I was afraid of what the results would be. Sad because the main reason I bought it was to make "authentic" cornbread for this particular dinner.

After that I took a break, I was sort of annoyed by it all. I did taste it and it was interesting, for a second like sour milk but then suddenly a strong lemon flavor, very refreshing. So eventually I determined to keep trying. I used a bunch of it to marinade chicken for frying and it definitely made a difference. The meat came out very tender. Encouraged, I then used it instead of half and half in a creamy soup and it was fine, plus I'm sure healthier. So now I was feeling a little more optimistic.

Yesterday it was time for my annual soda bread baking spree. Again, my recipe since the 1970s. I made the usual loaf (all purpose flour with whiskey soaked raisins and caraway seeds) but also made a second loaf as an experiment, doing half whole wheat, with a handful of oats mixed in and a bit more sprinkled on top, plus a dash of molassas. The regular loaf was noticably better tasting than usual, and since it doesn't have to rise much the size seemed normal. The new concoction was very nice too, although of course a bit denser, but both seemed lighter than most soda breads I've had. At this point the buttermilk is at least a month old, I wonder if it improves with age? I still have a bit left and will use for something; guess it's one of those products that last forever, despite the expiration date!

Anyway I had posted some of this awhile back on my local board and roxlet suggested posting here, in case any bakers have experience cooking with real buttermilk. Perhaps there are secrets beyond just adding it in. I read about this product in the NY Times awhile back and was so looking forward to cooking with it, but it's been sort of weird so far.

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  1. How much baking soda and/or baking powder were you using?

    Some recipes depend entirely on the buttermilk interacting with baking soda. If Kates isn't as acid, that would account for less rise. But other recipes used enough baking powder to give good rise even without the baking soda and acid. If I use just buttermilk (no baking soda) in that sort of recipe I get enough rise, but less browning.

    Conventional buttermilk is thicker than milk, but I haven't seen any scientific claims about how this affects baked goods. The thickness comes from acid acting on the proteins. It is not due to fat (as in cream).

    1. Paul, funny you should say that. I use 2 tsp of powder and one of soda. After I wrote that post last night, I remembered I had a little of the seond bottle still in the back of the fridge and turns out it was exactly the amount I use for pancakes. Just finished making a new batch for breakfast and it was perfection. Rose well enough, maybe a tiny bit less, but light as a feather. Ashamed to say, but bet I forgot to put the baking powder and soda in, the only explanation I can think of.
      As far as the corn muffins, hope I figure it out someday.

      Sorry Kate's, hope they're still selling this at my local store because I'm in the mood for another batch of fried chicken.

      5 Replies
      1. re: coll

        Coll - I bought two bottle of Kate's to make a few soda breads for St. Paddy's after reading about your pancake and chicken successes, but I ended up getting sick that week and didn't bother making the breads. Today I finally made a loaf, using the Kate’s, and I can honestly say that it is the best soda bread that I have ever made, and I used the same recipe that I have made for years. It came out very moist and with a very crispy crust. That extra bit of butterfat is magic!
        Thanks for the delicious recommendation!

        1. re: EM23

          Thanks for the backup, I feel bad I gave a bad review at first. Especially because it was probably me, not them. They had it on sale this week again (didn't have last week when I wanted more) so I bought two more bottles, since they seem to last forever. It really does give a better texture and I am hooked! Me too, same soda bread recipe since the 1970s, but never quite as good as this time. Maybe we should keep our secret to ourselves?

          1. re: coll

            Secret is safe with me;)
            I had a slice of soda bread made by a friend on the weekend, and it was good (we use the same recipe.) But the Kate's really improved on what was already a good recipe. Plus I add a T or 2 of extra Irish butter to my bread - that never hurts.

            How long do you soak your chicken in the buttermilk?

            1. re: EM23

              Ah I happened to have Kerrygold on hand for the first time this year and that may have been part of it too.

              I soaked the chicken most of the day, how long is optimum I'm not sure. At least from when I got up I'd say.

          2. re: EM23

            extra butterfat? Comparing the labels of Kates
            and Trader Joes Reduced Fat, guess which has more fat (2g v 4g).

            Add fat (e.g. butter) to traditional soda bread is supposed to improve its keeping qualities. That is, the traditional no-fat version is fine right after baking, but quickly looses its luster. (Southern) biscuits are basically the same thing, but with a lot more fat (of your choice).

        2. Is good to test baking powder, it gets bad with age: Nice update second batch with both better.

          Congrats on consuming two quarts of buttermilk. I only get a quart when have plans to use. Buttermilk is good in pancakes, stroganoff, ranch salad dressing, biscuits, dips, sauces, and mashed potatoes. Great with fresh herbs. A favorite with chicken, rosemary, thyme, fresh chopped garlic, and finished with butter plain or over a starch (like: rice, potatoes, quinoa, noodles, or ...). Also good with fine chopped chives - bacon bits optional (and / or a few drops of liquid smoke).

          Sour cream with or instead of buttermilk sometimes helps. Similar flavor. Thicker results. If buy sour cream pick a brand with few ingredients: Daisy, Dairgold all-natural, Tillamook Natural, etc. Daisy is made with only cultured cream:

          8 Replies
          1. re: smaki

            And then I like to sub Greek yogurt when sour cream is called for, one of the ones which have no other ingredients than milk and cultures. Usually only for baking though. Don't think I've bought sour cream since Fage made its appearance!I've been known to do the lemon juice trick when I'm desperate though.

            For some reason my pancakes are always buttermilk, and my waffles are always heavy cream. If I don't have those ingredients on hand, I just switch to an omelette or other egg dish, that's one thing I never run out of.

            1. re: coll

              I used to buy buttermilk though I never drink it and only bake with it rarely. Now I throw caution to the winds and use plain yogurt (regular or Greek, full fat or low), adding a little water to thin it, when making cornbread or cakes that call for buttermilk. Works fine.

              By the way, buttermilk can be frozen. It separates so would not be great for drinking or marinating after thawing, but shake it up and you're good to go for baking.

              1. re: greygarious

                I have frozen Friendship buttermilk, such a relief not to have to throw out. I use it in curry a lot so nice to have a bit on hand all year round, instead of just St Paddys Day.

                I use yogurt as it when baking, it is so rich yet good for you. Win/win!

            2. re: smaki

              not hard to consume buttermilk, especially Kate's because it is delicious to drink or to pour over crumbled corn bread. Also it keeps forever. I just returned from three week vacation and the bottle we had opened a week before we left is still delicious.

              1. re: magiesmom

                I was very impressed, the date on my Kates was late January but it was fine now, mid March. Pouring over the cornbread is an interesting idea!

                1. re: coll

                  Buttermilk is also fantastic on oatmeal, it is pretty much the only thing I put on oatmeal anymore.

                  1. re: GretchenS

                    Great suggestion, if dairy I always use yogurt, but when I was a kid it was always brown sugar and milk. You have me craving it now!

              2. re: smaki

                <finished with butter plain or over a starch (like: rice>

                I got a lesson from a friend born in Kerala, India about buttermilk over rice, and I've done that ever since. Delicious!

                <I use it in curry a lot so nice>
                Also do this, either in lieu of yogurt or in addition to yogurt--that bit of tang adds a great flavor!

                I'm Southern U.S., so buttermilk in a glass with crumbled old cornbread is heaven, as well.

              3. I always keep Saco powdered buttermilk on hand for baking. Pancakes ALWAYS great. Recipe on container. Have tried with fresh buttermilk, never as good. I reserve fresh buttermilk for making delicious smoothies with banana and nutmeg--if banana really ripe, no sweetener needed.