Sunday, January 9, 2011

buttermilk and/or bringing the funk

This week I've really been ruminating on buttermilk, especially after learning an awesome buttermilk recipe from Megan, the older-bro's girlfriend.

She got it from a bread-recipe collection from baker-extraordinaire, Beth Hensperger. You can get it too, via Google Books, here. Hensperger says,
"This is the breadmaker's 'little black dress,' a beautiful bread to grace any table..."
and it really is. Deeply bronzed on top, with a nice sheen (via the egg wash prior to baking), it's awesome for toast, sandwiches...and if you let it get stale (tough to do, I know), supremely great French toast.

The other day I decided I wanted to make some buttermilk cornmeal pancakes, inspired by this Serious Eats restaurant brief. Some quick searching yielded a Bon appetit recipe.

Piggly Wiggly--I've almost forgiven you for wronging me so.

As a kid, my Tennesseean (by way of California, Indiana, Nevada, & Arizona) grandpa often made buttermilk hotcakes for breakfast; I despised them. They had an almost-creamy texture, very soft, with the pungency that comes from buttermilk evident in each bite. My distaste may have come from a singular event; as a youngster I atypically helped myself to a refill while at the kids' table during a family get-together. I saw the familiar "Piggly-Wiggly" logo, and poured what I assumed was milk into a tall glass. I took a sip before sitting down, and made a face that was referenced for years by older family members, who apparently watched with humorous detachment the entire sequence of events.

Injera--maybe the most unique bread product I've ever eaten.
Currently have a heavy jonesing for Major Restaurant.

But I guess since then my tastes have advanced---some of my favorite flavors in the world are fermented. (Which as it turns out, may be healthier than I knew, according to this article, in which people are only slightly more crazy than college-friends I assisted in consuming plenty of dumpster-salvaged foods.) Sourdough bread, Greek-style yogurt, beer, the fantastic Ethiopian flatbread "injera"---and now, buttermilk. Back to the pancakes at hand, (or maybe Johnnycakes or hoecakes, though the latter is linked to a Paula Deen recipe, a reference I wash my hands of) they were fantastic. A little thinner than typical pancakes, but with the cornmeal they turn out of the pan a burnished gold. Using some blackberries (we froze several gallons picked from Amelia's grandparents' bushes this summer), a couple tablespoons sugar, water, and cornstarch, I made a simple syrup to put on top. Pretty close to perfect...I'm glad I've come around to fermentation.

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