What is buttermilk?
Buttermilk is an exceptional nutritional ingredient, with a higher nutritional value than milk. As it has a high content of macronutrients and micronutrients, buttermilk is an ingredient of high biological value and has many benefits for the human body. It has great functional properties, which is why it is widely used for baked products. In some countries it is used for savoury dishes and even as a restorative drink. Let’s have a look at all the benefits hidden behind this nutritious ingredient.
Where does buttermilk come from?
Buttermilk is a dairy by-product of butter making, hence the name. Because of its name, most people think it has a high fat content. However, when we compare it with the nutritional values of whole milk we can see that while whole milk has to 3.5 g of fat per 100 g, buttermilk has approximately 0.7% fat.
When milk or cream is churned to make butter, the solids separate from the liquid. On the one hand the butter will have a solid consistency and almost all the cream’s fat; on the other hand, the buttermilk will have a liquid consistency and almost all the protein.
Characteristics and general benefits of buttermilk
Buttermilk is low in fat and is an important source of protein with a very interesting nutritional profile. In particular, it should be noted that it contains the healthiest part of milk fat with a high content of polar lipids, which can be found in the cell membrane of every living being and has great health benefits. Important scientific studies have revealed its importance in the prevention of bowel cancer and lowering cholesterol, its bactericidal effect, protection against gastric ulcer and the improvement of brain function.
In addition, the mineral salt content of buttermilk helps control the body’s water balance, which is why in some countries it is traditionally used as a natural isotonic drink.
In the functional side of things, by using buttermilk we can obtain textures that are soft, creamy and very easy to work with, in addition to a very intense and slightly acidic flavour. Buttermilk’s natural emulsifiers provide very stable formulas that can be easily combined with different ingredients, fat or water-based. It can also be exposed to cold or heat without losing its structure.
Baking with buttermilk
Buttermilk is a very popular ingredient in baking for its remarkable properties especially when baking doughs. When combined with baking soda, its natural emulsifiers add air to sponge cakes, biscuits and pancakes. This results in better risen doughs, flavourful and moist. For this reason, buttermilk is usually included in recipes with baking soda because it is an effective way to neutralize its acidity. Milk would not have the same effect and the result would not be as good.
We will find it as a basic ingredient in popular recipes all over the world. For example, in the well-known American Red Velvet cake or the famous Belgian waffles. In Baltic countries such as Finland or Estonia, it is used to make sweet porridge, mixed with barley, rye, oat or pea flour and served with honey and berries.
Although these are some of the most popular uses of buttermilk, we also find traditional savoury recipes with buttermilk. This is the case of the famous Boxty, a rich potato pie from Northern Ireland. In the United States we can also find it in many savoury recipes such as Buffalo Chicken Wings. It is often used in marinades together with other ingredients because lactic acid softens meats. Another virtue of buttermilk is that it also improves the adherence of batters, which become crispier.
Products with buttermilk
Because of its properties, recipes made with buttermilk can have health benefits for all ages. For growing children, its high nutrient content contributes to the development of their brain function, something so important during childhood, and like all dairy products, contributes to strong bones. For adults or the elderly, it strengthens the immune system and therefore slows the ageing process. For athletes, its high content of polar lipids fights the stress of intense exercise, avoiding muscle pain and improving recovery after training.
Thanks to innovation, at Quescrem we have developed a cream cheese made with buttermilk, with a polar lipid content ten times greater than milk and twice as much as other cream cheeses.
This not only means our cream cheeses have the excellent nutritional properties described above, but also a silky and extremely creamy texture, ideal when used as a culinary ingredient, both in sweet and savoury recipes. Because of the natural emulsifiers of buttermilk we can obtain better emulsions, as well as more aerated and stable foams, with fat or water-based ingredients. The end result is a healthy cream cheese with a more intense cheese flavour.
In other countries we can find products made with buttermilk, such as yoghurts, drinks or sauces. In Europe, its use is very common in places where a lot of butter is produced. Such is the case in the region of Auvergne, France, where the Gaperon cheese is made. This cow’s milk cheese is made with buttermilk and matured for four weeks. With added garlic and pepper, it has an intense aroma. Its production has been recorded since the 9th century to use the whey obtained when making butter. It is currently made, among others, by the Androuet artisan cheesemakers. We also find it in sauces or dressings, such as the dressing marketed by the American brand Briannas.
Now that you know what buttermilk is and what properties it has, we hope that you will understand why we use it in our cream cheeses. There is no doubt that buttermilk is an ingredient that combines exceptional organoleptic, nutritional and functional properties, and is beneficial for the health of people of all ages.