Buttermilk vs. heavy cream: can you substitute them? That depends on what you're making. It also depends on whether you don't mind the slight taste differences from swapping out one for the other. In addition, you have to consider the nutritional differences that come from both.
Cultured buttermilk first emerged in the 1920s, while heavy whipping cream emerged in the 16th century. They both have different purposes when it comes to cooking or baking. But what's the best choice for baking a cake or making something that requires heavy cream but not buttermilk? For example, buttermilk has a tangy flavor, while heavy cream is more because of its fat.
This guide uncovers everything you need to know about both kinds of creams. We look at what makes them unique and how they are made. We also look at the different recipes you can use with either. Lastly, we will look at the other health benefits they offer.
What Is Buttermilk?
Buttermilk is made by fermenting liquid after churning cream into butter. That's why it's called buttermilk – the milk of butter. It's the leftover liquid after milk is made. Today, buttermilk is much like yogurt because it has a unique taste.
The buttermilk you buy in stores today is similar to yogurt in its thickness. It's milk with added lactic acid bacteria. This ferments it. Instead of drinking expired milk, you're drinking milk with lactic acid that transformed it into buttermilk.
You'll find pancakes, biscuits, and other baked goods with buttermilk to give it a moist flavor. However, before you consider swapping it with heavy cream, you should know how it is made slightly differently.
What Is Heavy Cream?
If you love heavy whipping cream on cakes and cupcakes, you'll love heavy whipping cream. It's made much different than buttermilk. You make it with heavy cream by leaving milk out so the fat rises to the tip. Then you homogenize it.
When the fat rises to the top, skim it off the milk. The skimmed-off cream then gets pasteurized into metal cans and ready for production. One of the reasons that heavy cream is so delicious when made with whipped cream or toppings for desserts is because of the high percentage of fat. It's made with about 30% to 40% of fat. This is why it's so delicious when used as whipped cream on desserts.
However, now that you know how heavy cream is made, can you substitute them?
Can You Substitute Them?
When you substitute buttermilk for heavy whipping cream or vice versa, you need to know if they can be substituted because of how different they are.
For example, you can't substitute buttermilk for heavy whipping cream if the recipe calls for whippable cream because buttermilk can't be whipped like heavy whipping cream. Additionally, a recipe might call for more fat content only found in heavy whipping cream.
Another potential problem is that buttermilk that mixes with baking soda causes cakes and other recipes to rise. If you replace buttermilk with heavy whipping cream, your cake or baking won't rise well.
Another potential consideration is that buttermilk is sour. If you replace it with heavy cream, you might find that whatever you're baking is more sour than normal. Consider this if you want that extra sour taste found in buttermilk or if you want to avoid it altogether with heavy cream.
The Best Recipes With Either
If you only have buttermilk or heavy cream, the best thing to do is not your options on what to bake. You'll have a better idea of what to make without worrying about substituting either of them.
Here are the best things to make with buttermilk:
- Buttermilk pancakes
- Buttermilk biscuits
- Buttermilk waffles
- Buttermilk coffeecake
- Buttermilk bread
Here are the best things to make heavy cream:
- Heavy cream whipped cream
- Tiramisu pancakes
- Sweet corn blueberry muffins
- French toast sticks
- Lemon biscuits
These are only some ideas to consider with heavy whipping cream or buttermilk cream. They can give you some ideas if you have some leftovers with each or if you want to bake something unique.
What's the Better Choice?
There's nothing wrong with baking with either buttermilk or heavy cream. The key is to know what you like more about certain recipes. You should also be aware of how they can be substituted for one another. Adding the wrong one can have disastrous results!
Buttermilk and heavy milk are two of the best ingredients for making pies, cakes, biscuits, and so many other things. Learning how they work, what makes them unique, and how they substitute for one another can give you a better idea of how to use them.