I decided that if I'm going to get serious about baking, I need to keep buttermilk on hand. In keeping with this decision, I went to my source for really good dairy products - Earth Fare. I chose a beautiful glass bottle from Homestead Creamery.
I was planning to use it to make biscuits, but I always seem to have overripe bananas laying around. Maybe I could use these ugly things to make something yummy. I found a recipe for peanut butter banana muffins. This had potential, but it called for rolled oats which sounded a little too healthy. I decided to try the recipe, but substitute the buttermilk for the sweet milk.
I measured the oats into a bowl and poured the buttermilk over them. Well, it didn't really pour, it glopped. This was some seriously thick and creamy stuff. I let this sit so the oats could soften while I got the other ingredients ready and the little boy out of bed. When I got back to the kitchen, the oats and buttermilk had little bubbles like it was actively fizzing. What is this stuff?
I carried on making the recipe under the watchful eye of a 3 year old.
I mashed the banana with a fork and added peanut butter, the softened oats and egg.
Then the flour and baking powder were measured. It's important to level that cup of flour by sweeping your finger over the top to get rid of the excess. Then add the baking powder on top and give it a little stir with the measuring spoon before you dump it into the bowl.
When all was ready, I put them in the oven and went to look up buttermilk on the internet. What is this stuff that is so thick and active?
I thought buttermilk was the milk left over after butter is churned. From what I gathered, if you have your own milk cow ( as our great great grandparents might have) and churn your own butter, then the remaining milk after the butter clumps up is indeed buttermilk. It would be fairly thin, with little flecks of butter that didn't clump floating around in it. This product is not sold in stores, and I guess I've never seen or tasted it. I called my grandmother to ask about this mystery because I know she and her late father have always loved buttermilk. She didn't seem to know what I was talking about or why this was so interesting to me. So I went back to the internet.
The buttermilk we buy at the grocery store is a cultured product. This means that a culture, or bacteria is added to the milk and it ferments before it's refrigerated. Just like yogurt, sour cream or creme fresh, each company has their own formula of special bacteria to give their buttermilk it's particular flavor. Also like yogurt and other cultured dairy products, buttermilk is easier on your stomach and keeps longer in the refrigerator without going bad.
I stopped to take the muffins out of the oven and do a taste test. I gotta tell you, these muffins were...
hands down the best I have ever made. They are possibly some of the best muffins I've ever eaten. My little family must have agreed, because they gobbled them up extra fast. And then they ate some more.
It was so easy! I know I have to thank the buttermilk. I couldn't detect any oatyness, just tender, fluffy, moist and delectableness. The peanut butter and banana flavors are subtle and they're not too sweet, but the texture is perfect.
This drove me back for more research. I knew the only difference in this and other recipes I've made was the substitution of buttermilk for sweet milk. Two things contributed to the perfection I had found. The first is that since I used a cultured product, the oats and gluten in the flour were tenderized. The second factor is the fat. You can buy fat free, 1percent, or whole milk buttermilk. The Homestead Creamery doesn't make low fat buttermilk, so apparently I had bought and used a very high fat product. I guess that's why it's so thick. Duh. And we all know that butterfat makes things delicious. But wait, there's more!!
Did you know that you can make your own buttermilk? All you need is some fresh buttermilk from the store and some regular milk. You use a ratio of 1 part buttermilk to 3 parts sweet milk. Simply mix the milk in a clean glass jar and leave it in a warm spot overnight. This really freaked me out because I feel that dairy products should be kept super cold at all times. You will notice that the milk will thicken and smell like buttermilk. Then just put a date on it and stick it in the fridge. After extensive online research into this phenomenon, I decided to try it. It worked, but I was still skeptical so I only used it to bake. I'm way to squeamish to eat something I cultured myself without cooking it first.
Peanut Butter Banana Muffins
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mashed banana - about 1 or 2 bananas
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a muffin pan for 12.
Measure the oats into a bowl and pour the buttermilk over them. Let this sit while you get everything else ready and/or get your children out of bed.
Mash the banana and mix in the peanut butter, egg, oil and vanilla, then add the oat/milk mixture. Add the dry ingredients and mix it until just combined. Fill the muffin cups ( don't forget to spray them or use paper liners, this is a good job for the little ones) and bake for about 18 minutes until they're golden.
These are really good left over, so if you can't get it together early in the morning you can bake them the night before and they'll be awesome for breakfast.