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What happened to all the buttermilk?



This luscious liquid will benefit your baking no end.


By Rose Prince

Buttermilk is the by-product of butter churning, an acidic liquid, thicker than milk, which can be used in bread making, taken as a refreshing drink and even sloshed over faces to treat teenage spots. It is low in fat and nourishing.


Darina Allen, Irish author of Forgotten Skills of Cooking, The Time-Honoured Ways are the Best remembers buttermilk as a cure for all ills. “Buttermilk was considered the best drink to give energy, slake the thirst and cure a headache,” she says. “Young girls washed their faces in buttermilk to improve their complexions, while their mothers and grandmothers used it to make bread.”


In Ireland, where Darina grew up and where she runs the Ballymaloe Cookery School, buttermilk is still important. It is sold along with milk in every village shop because it is an essential ingredient for making soda bread. Darina, who runs courses where forgotten skills like baking and butter making can be learnt, says this cheers her up because it means the baking tradition is still alive.


When buttermilk is added to the other basic ingredients in soda bread – flour and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) – the acid in the buttermilk reacts with the sodium bicarbonate, releasing carbon dioxide. This creates large bubbles in the dough, very quickly.


You do not need to leave the dough to rise, as with yeast bread, but can put the loaf straight into the oven. It is possible to make a loaf, from start to finish, with little work, within an hour. Imagine that, or a little basket of freshly baked, hot soda rolls, first thing on a Saturday morning.

Rose Prince / telegraph.co.uk
© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2010/2011

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