Metro-East Living

Baking and need buttermilk? Try mixing milk and cream of tartar

Banana Cream Cheesecake
Banana Cream Cheesecake

I’m always looking for decent shortcuts when cooking, though I’m cautious about using them when baking.

I like recipes that use buttermilk because the chemical reaction it causes in baked goods produces a variety of good reactions, including more tender and fluffier biscuits.

But I never keep buttermilk around the house, so I make my own. I’ve always used the combo of 1 tablespoon vinegar (or lemon juice) to a scant cup of milk. Let it sit 10 minutes or so on the counter and, poof, I’ve got a buttermilk substitute.

Recently, to my surprise, I came across another way to make a substitute. Here it is: Use cream of tartar. Mix 1 cup of milk with 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes until slightly thickened and curdled.

I haven’t tried this one yet, but because I always have cream of tartar among my baking supplies, I’m going to give it a go soon. My only comment on this kind of substituting is that using vinegar is cheaper than using cream of tartar.

A note on any of these buttermilk subs: never use fat-free milk; just doesn’t work. You really need some fat in the milk to make it curdle, so 2 percent is OK but whole is best and any kind of cream will work, too.

Why do we need buttermilk anyway? says whether we’re talking pancakes or quick breads, the role of buttermilk in almost any baking recipe is to add tenderness and lighten the batter.

Once the acids in the buttermilk come in contact with the baking soda or baking powder in the batter, a giant fizz-fest takes place, says “The reaction with the baking soda (or powder) cancels out the sourness of the buttermilk, leaving baked goods airy, tender and tasty beyond reckoning,” the site says.

Missing recipes found

I’m filling two requests this week. Beth Kimble, of Fairview Heights, asked me to try to find a cheesecake recipe she used to make that her sister wanted for her birthday. It’s a cross between banana cream pie and cheesecake.

The second was from Joyce, who lives in Cahokia. She wanted a fudge recipe her former boss made and she coveted. Seems she couldn’t ask the woman, so she sought my help. I think I got both recipes right.

Contact me at, 618-239-2664 and follow me on Twitter @BoyleSuzanne. Write to 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

Banana Cream Cheesecake

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted


1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided

3 to 4 medium firm bananas, sliced

1 3/4 cups cold milk

1 package (3.4 ounces) instant banana cream pudding mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch spring-form or square baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar; stir in butter. Set aside 1/2 cup for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of pan. Bake 5-7 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Fold in 2 cups whipped topping.

Arrange half of the banana slices in crust; top with half of the cream cheese mixture. Repeat layers.

In a small bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes, or until soft-set; fold in remaining whipped topping. Pour over the cream cheese layer. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or until set. Yield: 10 servings.

Taste of Home February/March 2000

Candy Bar Fudge

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup baking cocoa

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

30 caramels, unwrapped

1 tablespoon water

2 cups salted peanuts

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter, cocoa, brown sugar and milk. Microwave on high until mixture boils, about 2 minutes. Stir in confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Pour into a greased 8-inch square dish.

In another microwave-safe bowl, heat caramels and water on high for 1 1/4 minutes, or until melted. Stir in peanuts; spread over chocolate layer. Microwave chocolate chips on high for 30 seconds or until melted; spread over caramel layer. Chill until firm. Yield: 2 3/4 pounds or 64 pieces.

Editor's note: This recipe was tested in a 1100-watt microwave.

Taste of Home December/January 1996