Try buttermilk for especially light biscuits; cookies

If you're lucky enough to live near a dairy farm, you can make your own authentic buttermilk. First, skim the cream from the non-homogenized milk and churn it into butter. Whirling the cream in a blender for 5 to 10 minutes is a quick way. The thin translucent leftover liquid is the milk from the butter -- buttermilk.

This may be clabbered or thickened by a lactic acid-making culture or by adding a quarter of a cup of commercial cultured buttermilk to every quart of skim milk.

Authentic buttermilk contains low fat, easier-to-digest milk solids than whole milk. Commercial buttermilk, unfortunately, sometimes has butter fat added to thicken it. Nevertheless, it may be used effectively in baking.

Baking soda working with buttermilk acts to bake especially light biscuits and cookies. In other dishes, buttermilk adds a piquant zing to the palate. This combination of lightness, digestibility, and lively taste makes buttermilk a solid but too often neglected member of the kitchen.

The following recipes take advantage of the special buttermilk characteristics: Buttermilk Biscuits 1 tablespoon yeast 2 tablespoons warm water 1/2 tablespoon honey 1 large egg, slightly beaten 2/3 cup buttermilk 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons sweet butter

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add honey, egg, buttermilk. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Cut butter into flour to make cornmeal-like texture. Combine buttermilk and flour mixtures. Pat dough together on board, but do not knead. Pat to 1/2-inch thickness. Shape with biscuit cutter.

Place biscuits nearly touching in greased cake pans. Let rise in warm place 30 minutes or more until doubled in bulk. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 10 minutes or until golden. Makes 10 to 12. Buttermilk Chocolate sponge Cookies 1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 1/3 cup cocoa 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup sweet butter 1/3 cup brown sugar 1/3 cup honey 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 large egg 1/2 cup buttermilk

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar.Add honey and mix well. Stir in vanilla. Beat in egg. Alternating with the flour mixture, stir in buttermilk gradually. Mix well.

Drop well-spaced by large teaspoons onto lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 5 minutes or until set. Cool. Top with chocolate icing or sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Makes 35 to 40. Buttermilk Allspice Doughnuts 3 1/4 cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour 2 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon allspice 2/3 cup sugar 4 tablespoons sweet butter 2 large eggs 2/3 cup buttermilk

Sift flour, baking powder and soda, salt and allspice. Set aside. Cream sugar and butter. Beat in eggs one at a time. Alternately add flor mixture and buttermilk to sugar mixture. Chill.

With hands, not rolling pin, pat out dough 1/2 inch thick, using as little flour as possible to avoid sticking. Cut with doughnut cutter and let rest for 15 minutes. Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees F.

Gently place doughnuts onto oil-coated spatula and slide them into oil. Deep fry until brown, turning when needed. Drain on paper towel. Cool. Place cinnamon-sugar mixture or confectioner's sugar in paper bag. Add a few doughnuts at a time and shake to coat. Makes about 16.

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