by Kemp Minifie
MuffinsWe debuted the new Ask Kemp column last month with two rather meaty questions in the hopes of getting a lot more reader queries spanning a wide range of cooking topics. You came through with some good ones and thankfully, they weren't all about meat.
Q: @jkonecky asks: "What's a good dairy-free substitute for buttermilk?"
Kemp: I haven't had a lot of experience with dairy-free baking, but I know someone who has: my former Gourmet magazine colleague and expert baker, Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez. I knew Eriquez had had great success with dairy-free birthday cakes. Eriquez's recommendation? Substitute 1 cup soy milk combined with 1 tablespoon white vinegar or fresh lemon juice for every cup of buttermilk. This is essentially the same procedure dairy devotees use when they've only got milk and need buttermilk in a recipe: add 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk.
But the soy milk got me thinking about people with soy allergies. When my eyes focused on my husband's rice milk sitting on the fridge shelf (he uses it in his tea), I thought, why not? The blueberry corn muffins you see above are 100 percent dairy-free. The recipe already uses oil in place of butter. All I needed to make it dairy-free was swap 1 cup plain rice milk mixed with 1 tablespoon white vinegar for the buttermilk. As you can see, the muffins worked like a charm, and no one at the Epicurious.com office was missing the buttermilk this morning!
News Flash: I just returned from a healthy products food show, and tasted hemp milk, which had impressive body--much better than rice milk--and a delightfully creamy mouthfeel. It's loaded with important nutrients (omega-3's, folate, etc.), so next time I'm using that in place of rice milk with my blueberry muffins.
Q: @battleaxe1959 writes: I love biscuits. Can't find one that comes out soft, white in and light brown out. Cream of tartar or no? Butter? Shortening? Oil?
Kemp: I may not be a Southerner, which almost automatically disqualifies me from sticking my pinky toe into this hot topic, but this Yankee can vouch she's enjoyed a bevy of biscuits in her life. It's hard to answer a question like this when I don't know what recipes haven't delivered for what @battleaxe1959 wants.
What I can share is my love of two different biscuit recipes. Both are from Scott Peacock, the dear friend and caretaker of the late great chef, Edna Lewis, and a 2007 James Beard Award Winner for the Best Chef of the Southeast for Watershed restaurant in Decatur, Georgia. One is for cream biscuits. These are marvels to me. When you're making them the dough feels leaden and heavy (all that cream), but they bake up into incredibly tender mouthfuls. I brush the tops of mine with more cream just before they go into the oven, and they pop out nicely browned on top and white all the way through (the recipe uses a homemade baking powder).
The other biscuit recipe--also from Peacock--is for a buttermilk biscuit enriched with the best rendered lard you can find. Although Peacock gives the option of all-purpose flour, it's much better with the White Lily flour he lists first.
Southern cooks I respect have impressed upon me the importance of using the soft wheat flour preferred by Southerners for making biscuits. The most famous brand is White Lily, milled from soft red winter wheat. Some tell me that their beloved White Lily isn't the same since it was purchased by the J. M. Smucker Company, while others say it's fine. White Lily is now milled in Ohio, not Knoxville, Tennessee. In an ironic reversal, Vermont-based King Arthur Flour now sells a self-rising flour made from lower-protein wheat (like White Lily) in a mill in the South, and the company is pleased it's getting positive feedback from Southern customers.
Q: @amgiant asks: Will be substituting lime-infused olive oil for veg oil in a white cake mix, any suggestions on how to frost?
Kemp: (Full disclosure: @amgiant works a few feet from my desk, but as I said, I welcome all questions!) @amgiant wanted a super-easy frosting to highlight the lime flavor in her cake. I recommended the lime meringue frosting in this Key Lime Meringue Cake. Folks, you can't believe how easy the frosting is! You basically dump the ingredients in a stand mixer and let it rip for 3 to 5 minutes, by which time it's ballooned in volume and very fluffy. The lime zest gives you all the citrus hit you need. @amgiant reported in after Easter that the cake was a big hit. Phew!
Got more questions? Tweet them to me @AskKemp or go to the Epicurious Facebook page.