Do you ever wonder why buttermilk is used in baking? Well I certainly didn’t understand it much myself, all I knew was that when buttermilk was added to my cake batter I produced a perfectly moist cake. That’s all that matters right. But it’s always good to expand our knowledge in the kitchen and when your guests say “wow, that cake is amazing”. You can then go on to explain the science behind buttermilk…..haha, don’t think your guests will come back after that boring science lesson. On a serious note it’s always good to know why we use certain ingredients in our baking, I’m curious that way. So here I’ve done a little bit of research on what is the science behind buttermilk so we can all look like a pro in the kitchen.

Buttermilk is thick and tangy and it is low in fat. At least now I can feel less guilty when I eat that piece of cake

Originally buttermilk was made from the leftover liquid after cream was churned into butter

Buttermilk these days is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to pasteurized skim or low-fat milk

Buttermilk can last up to two weeks after opening, I have personally used mine a week after opening and it was perfectly ok. However, it’s best to freeze your buttermilk if you have leftovers, it may look a little clumpy when thawed but just whisk it a little and it’s good to go

Buttermilk is acidic and having a little acid in our batter keeps our baked goods moist, tender and definitely gives it a better flavour. It tenderises the gluten strands in the batter giving your cakes a melt-in your-mouth texture .Buttermilk can tenderise your meat too

When buttermilk is used to make scones you get a light, flaky scone. I have tried using it in scones and it makes it super delicious

Buttermilk and baking soda works together as acid in the buttermilk reacts with the alkaline baking soda and creates bubbles (of carbon dioxide)  and it’s these bubbles that gives your cakes the volume it needs. Sorry for the little lesson in science.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes baking soda has that metallic taste when added to baked goods, if using buttermilk this neutralizes that metallic taste

For every cup of buttermilk used in your batter you should use about 1 teaspoon of baking powder and a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

Yogurt can also work well as a substitute for buttermilk as it has the same tangy acidity as buttermilk, I used it in my delicious Chocolate honeycomb cupcakes

I’m sure there are many uses for buttermilk but these are just some of the ways you can use your buttermilk,  in pancakes, scones, cakes, tenderiser for meat, waffles, potato salad, muffins, mashed potatoes and soups.

Happy Baking!

 

 

Here are some handy tips to bake the perfect biscuits, from Good Housekeeping UK. I must admit I haven’t had too many biscuit disasters so I must be doing something right. One of the tips is to refrigerate your biscuit dough before cutting them into shapes and baking them, however I find cutting them into shapes before refrigerating works a charm for me, it’s much easier to handle the dough when it’s not too cold. Over the years I have also learned that my biscuits are cooked when I can smell them, this can prevent your cookies from being overcooked. When rolling my cookie dough I always place some wax paper or cling wrap on my work surface and after cutting my shapes I lift them up with the cling wrap to prevent the shape from getting messed up. Just a few of my little tips but here’s more from the experts.  I hope these tips helps you bake better biscuits, you can try some tricks using my recipe for Butter Biscuits

1. Butter is better

I have to agree with this one. Butter makes the best biscuits. Margarine doesn’t have the complexity of flavour nor does it give the biscuits a crisp texture

2. Use the right equipment

Biscuits don’t need to rise a lot so use a wooden spoon or a food processor to combine the ingredients. A food processor is great for mixing without aerating

3. Chill it

A warm dough will allow the biscuits to spread whilst baking. Chill your dough before rolling out and cutting into shapes

4. They see me rollin…

If your biscuits are too hard, you’re probably rolling your dough trimmings too many times. Doing this develops gluten and makes tough biscuits. If your dough is becoming too elastic and hard to roll, wrap it in cling film and chill for 10 minutes to allow the gluten to relax

5. Tough Stuff

Don’t cook your biscuits for too long, this is the reason it may be too hard. Biscuits straight out the oven can feel a little soft but they do firm up as they cool

6. Falling apart

If your biscuits are too crumbly your recipe may need a little more liquid or you have too much flour.

7. Soggy Bottoms

If your freshly baked biscuits seem too soft after they cool, it’s either under baked or there’s too much liquid in the recipe

8. Great Shape

When transferring your cookies from our work surface to your cookie sheet use a palette knife to lift them. If you’re making drop biscuits use a small ice-cream scoop to portion out the dough so they are all exactly the same size

9.Give them some room

Space your biscuits on the baking tray, this allows them to bake evenly and they won’t stick together

10. Freezing biscuit dough

You can freeze your biscuit dough and defrost when you baking your biscuits.

11. Don’t be soft

Store biscuits in an airtight container to prevent them from getting soft

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here I am sharing some tips to making a great South African Curry. South African cooking is a little different to authentic Indian cooking, our food is a little more rustic. Everything is not ground into a smooth paste with a creamy sauce like the food at authentic restaurants. The flavours are still aromatic and delicious, it’s the method that differs. It’s not unusual to find chunky bits of onion and tomato in South African Indian curries, I remember my mum only ever chopping up her onion and tomatoes, nothing was ever pureed and I don’t ever recall her blanching her tomatoes unless she made a smooth tomato chutney (a basic sauce made with tomatoes, onion and chilli). If you want to try a great recipe then the one to try is Durban Lamb Curry

Here are a few tips to cooking a great South African curry

  • The flavour base of all South African Indian curries is created by using onion and ginger/garlic paste
  • Oil is the next essential ingredient in curries, it is the medium that carries the flavour and richness throughout the dish, most commonly used is ghee and vegetable oil
  • Curry leaf is also a key ingredient in curries, however not always used as it’s not so easily accessible to everyone, as it is in Durban
  • You then add spices, in South African cooking, masala is used, this is a convenient ready-mixed blend of spices, which comes in different strengths, mild, medium and hot,  however the authentic way would be to roast and grind your own spices and add them individually to your Indian dishes. Although many people use just masala to create a curry, you can also add more spices to suit your palate
  • The body of the curry, which is the rich sauce or gravy, as it’s referred to in South Africa, is formed with pureed tomatoes, the more gravy required the more tomatoes you will add to your curry
  • Whole spices such as cardamom, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, star aniseed, black cardamom and cloves is often used when cooking meat dishes, not much whole spice is used when cooking vegetarian dishes
  • Most vegetarian dishes are cooked using minimal spices and some of the dishes only requires chilli, onion and garlic, whereas a lot more spices are used in meat dishes
  • Popular spices used are cumin, coriander, mustard, fenugreek/methi, soomph/fennel, turmeric and chilli powder
  • Although garam masala is used, unlike authentic Indian cooking, it is not added at the final stages of cooking but it is added with the other spices at the start of cooking.
  • To create a delicious curry it has to be cooked low and slow, a rushed curry is definitely not a great curry. Curries taste even better the next day.

Please note that these tips are from my own experience in the kitchen, others may have different views. Hope this helps you get a little more familiar with making a great South African curry. Happy Cooking!

 

Don’t we all just love a light and fluffy cake. Everyone I know is always asking for a recipe for light and fluffy cakes. Well here’s a trick that really works, apart from buttermilk I think sour cream works really well in achieving your goal of baking a light, fluffy cake. So next time you bake be sure to add that sour cream to your batter. Happy Baking!

This is my little take on the art of roti-making, the South African Way. I never made much rotis in my life but that had to suddenly change when I married my husband. My rotis were not all that bad, was still very edible but not those soft rotis that the more skilled cooks make. I grew up in a South Indian home, the word South Indian doesn’t feature much in our South African vocabulary. In our home rice was a staple in our diet and with the North Indian community it was mainly roti,  therefore they’ve perfected the skill.

At first I was going crazy trying to perfect rotis but my husband soon got used to the idea of eating less than perfect rotis. He didn’t really have a choice as he knew if he kept complaining he would face my wrath, OMG I sound like Cruella de Vil, I’m not that bad. After all we are still married almost 11 years.

Roti making is a skill that can only be perfected with much practice and using the right techniques. There are recipes for rotis, I have a recipe too but no recipe can get you that perfect roti. Trust me I know.

So I called my mum-in-law, maybe only for the 100th time, asking her what’s her secret to getting that perfect roti. After all, who better to ask, than someone who has only been making rotis for over 40 years. I’ve never seen her make a bad roti, whereas my bad roti days superseded my good roti days. After taking her advice I did make the perfect roti, the best I ever made. So you can do it too, with these simple little tips.

1. Always pour your boiling water, I say boiling as the water still needs to be bubbling in that kettle, into the flour. The mistake I made previously was pouring my water into a measuring cup and then transferring it into the flour. Trust me, even this small step makes all the difference.

2.Pour enough water into the flour, you will see almost all of your flour will be covered with water, it will be moist but not drowning in water. For every cup of flour you use about half a cup of water. If you are an accomplished cook you will be able to judge when pouring. Another trick is to boil only a cup of water for every 2 cups of flour and pour this straight out the kettle. At first, mix the dough with a spoon and then use your hands. The water will be really hot so you will burn your hands if you use them immediately after pouring in the water.

3.You can use oil or butter in the dough, or just oil or just butter. Ensure that your butter is melted

4.You don’t have to knead your dough for too long, a few minutes will do. As long as you have a soft, smooth dough this will work

5.Another important rule, do not leave your dough to stand and loiter about, make your rotis immediately , allowing air into your dough doesn’t help. Working with speed does

6. If you want perfectly round rotis then start with a perfectly smooth, round ball. Do not roll out your dough too thin, think tortilla. Should be almost as thick as that

7.Dust your surface with a little flour when rolling out your dough, do not drown your dough in flour

8.Your pan or thawa must be hot, medium heat should be good. If your pan is cold you this will result in hard rotis

9.Brush your rotis with melted butter when turning them on the pan

10.Cover your rotis, after cooking each one, use a clean kitchen towel or paper towels

I do hope these little tips and tricks helps you in your next roti making venture and a great curry to go with the perfect roti is Gadra (Borlotti) Bean Curry

 

When your passion kicks in, it really kicks in. I’m so thirsty for knowledge, I read anything and everything involving cooking and the kitchen. What’s  amazing is that  even though the thought of creating your own recipes is daunting, especially with baking, if you are equipped with some knowledge it becomes so much easier to experiment even if you’ve never been to chef school and learnt the science behind every ingredient. My mission is to learn everything I can and keep improving the cook I am. My little research on sugar and why different recipes call for different types of sugar has left me enlightened and full of excitement, at least now I know why brown sugar is needed in those delicious choc-chip cookies. Here’s a brief lesson on sugar.

Sugar

Sugar serves to help gluten develop and make baked goods tender. Because sugar holds onto moisture it keeps your baked goods tender for longer.

Granulated sugar – this sugar has larger crystals and the most widely used sugar in cooking and baking. It can be used in almost any baking. Great for making caramel and crispy cookies.

Castor sugar – best used for light sponges, meringues and cakes with a low flour content such as brownies. This sugar is necessary when you want to beat air into your ingredients, when whipping egg whites for cakes, meringues and whipped cream.

Brown sugar – adds chewiness to baked goods such as choc-chip cookies. The molasses in the brown sugar makes it chewy and moist. If you want more chewiness use a dark brown sugar.

Powdered sugar/Icing sugar – finely ground sugar with addition of cornflour to prevent clumping, good for icings and frostings and to make melt in your mouth cookies. Great for dusting over cakes and pastries.

There’s nothing worse than over salted food. This is a trick my mum always used when she over salted her curries and trust me it works. My food is usually not salted enough so I don’t often have the problem of too much salt but for those who do, this is an amazing tip that really works!