Info on the Chemical Role of Buttermilk in Baking?
Posted: 17 June 2009 02:40 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello everyone!
I have done a search of blog/forums for buttermilk and read very useful tidbits of information here and there, most hidden in the answers to larger baking questions.

I am researching buttermilk right now and wondered whether anyone could point to a good article, post, book chapter, etc. on the role of buttermilk in baking.

I understand generally that buttermilk is acidic and will interact with leavening differently as a result (which is why I eliminated the use of acidic lemon juice in the batter of my lemon poppyseed wedding cake recipe, in favor of lemon oil and zest in the batter). From this thread and the knowledgable Christine S., buttermilk (b/c it’s acidic) “weakens the gluten in the flour, and makes all-purpose flour behave more like cake flour in terms of gluten strength.” So it would appear that it is the acid in buttermilk that creates the wonderful tenderizing effect.

Is that the end of the story?

In Rose’s recipe for blueberry muffins , she recommends that one susbstitute baking powder for some of the soda for flavor, not for texture.  I wonder why that is?

At brunch with friends, I notice that buttermilk pancakes taste much better to me than others. Certain pancakes have a foul metallic taste in my mouth, and my theory is that I am tasting the baking soda that otherwise would have been neutralized by the buttermilk. But that theory seems to go against what Rose says in her muffin recipe above. And I trust Rose!

I love using buttermilk (and sour cream, which has similar properties) in baking, and am very interested in finding out more about how it works in the chemical reaction of baking. If anyone could point to a resource to find out more, I would appreciate it. Maybe I missed something in TCB!

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Rachel

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Posted: 18 June 2009 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I agree with Julie that Rumford is good - I have noticed the metallic taste in butter cakes made with other brands of baking powder, but haven’t detected it when using Rumford. I’m no help with the buttermilk properties, though. smile

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Posted: 18 June 2009 02:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thank you so much everyone! This is so fun- the internet is awesome.

I am a little embarassed that I didn’t think of Shirley Corriher (the biochemist and cookbook author) since she just won the James Beard Award for her book BakeWise! And did I mention she is a biochemistred face

Someone else recommended Harold McGee’s book (?On food and cooking?the science and lore of the kitchen?) for the section on buttermilk, so I will definitely read that as well.  And I believe he is coming to Bay Area (CA, where I live) to give a talk this fall. so I better get going and read the book.

I also got a recommendation for Bakewell Cream leavening agents, which are supposed to have a milder taste. I have never seen or tried them! However, I can confirm that I use Rumford in my own baking and have for years, and I have always been very happy with it.

I have also noticed that many bakers prefer to substitute some or all of the soda called for in a recipe with baking powder. I suppose the answer to the flavor question was in my question! People most likely to do that avoid metallic aftertaste!

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