Jen from Calgary organized another fabulous kitchen science experiment. This one was looking at the effect of different ingredients used in baking scones. Many scone (and muffin) recipes call for buttermilk and one of our questions was: Can we just use milk or does buttermilk make a difference?
We started by looking at the different reactions you get when you combine baking soda, cream of tartar and baking powder with water, vinegar and lime juice. We created a grid in a muffin tin to help us keep track of the various combinations. We put 1/4tsp of each powder in and about a tbsp of each liquid.
We observed the following:
This little video clip explained nicely what was going on in these various reactions. To sum up:
Baking soda is a base and it needs acid to create a reaction. There is no acid in water (so no reaction) but there is in vinegar and lime juice.
Cream of tartar is an acid so when you combine it with baking soda, you have the ingredients for a reaction once a liquid is added.
Baking Powder is a combination of ingredients including baking soda and an acid so it is sort of like the combo of baking soda and cream of tartar.
Next, we looked at how the three powders react to milk vs buttermilk. We set up a similar muffin tin grid.
We observed that the reactions were bigger and faster with the buttermilk. The reason is that buttermilk contains more acid than regular milk.
Next we mixed up a batch of lemon poppyseed scones (recipe below) using regular milk for one half of the dough and buttermilk for the other half. We predicted (based on our experiment) that the buttermilk ones would rise more. And we were correct! The buttermilk ones are the ones on the left and you can see how much bigger they are compared to the ones made with just milk!
So now we know why buttermilk is recommended in these recipes! And it is why if you don't have any on hand, you'll want to create a substitute by adding a bit of lemon/lime juice to milk. You need the acid to create the reaction to make your scones nice and fluffy.
LEMON POPPYSEED BUTTERMILK SCONES
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