Luscious buttermilk is a tangy cultured milk product made by adding healthful bacteria to whole or low-fat milk. Its slightly thick, creamlike consistency and gentle acidity make it an excellent tenderizer in muffins and quick breads. Recipes using buttermilk usually call for baking soda, an alkaline leavener that reacts with the acidity in buttermilk. The resulting carbon dioxide bubbles expand in the heat of the oven, creating steam that helps produce rounded, moist muffins.
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