Tag Archives: buttermilk

Another Contender for Grandma’s Cookies—Buttermilk Cookies

I shared my post for Serinakaker with the only two people left who might remember my grandma’s cookies, my brother and cousin. One remembered and one kinda didn’t, but my cousin has her mother’s recipe box that includes three new possibilities for the cookies, two of them variations of a buttermilk cookie. One of those two is labeled as Mums, giving it priority. The one that uses sweet milk is identical to the one labeled Mums, with an addition of cream of tartar.

I’ve made the one labeled as Irma’s three times now (some are in the freezer), twice with butter and once with vegetable shortening, which the recipe calls for, but which I was reluctant to use for taste reasons. I had been thinking, even when making the serinakaker, that butter might have been a luxury in my grandmother’s house. I’m guessing that by shortening, the recipes mean something like Crisco®, but it could just as easily have meant margarine, which, like butter, has some water in it—that does affect texture, as well as taste.

These cookies are softer than serinakaker, rising to a dome shape after being rolled into balls, but I found the texture to be a little more fine and uniform than I remember her cookies. I played around with the amounts of flour and found the lesser amount suggested (“try 5 or 6 cups”) to be more flavorful, especially without butter. With butter the dough is very sticky and you need a lot of flour in order to shape it. With shortening, the dough is quite easy to handle.

If you’re wondering whether there is a corresponding Norwegian cookie, I did find Kringla, which uses buttermilk. It is rolled into rope pieces and then formed into a pretzel or knot shape for baking. The cookies I made with Crisco could easily have been shaped that way. Some kringla recipes use both buttermilk and sour or sweet cream. You will find kringla claimed by both Norwegians and Swedes, not surprisingly.

But, who knows where my grandmother’s cookies originated? Her mother was a Gillingham and her grandmother was a Shreffler, conjuring up all sorts of other culinary possibilities. In the end, maybe they simply came out of a magazine or popular cookbook. You’ll notice that all three recipes on the cards are just called Cookies with reference to the relatives and friends who claim them.

When I make them again, and I will, but not until a holiday, I’m definitely going to try a knotted shape. That way you can distinguish them from the serinakaker, which I will also be making again. For now, I’m a little bit over cookies for a while. In the photos below, the first one shows cookies that had been scooped or rolled into balls, with no other shaping or topping. The second photo shows the same cookie, but with fork marks and decorating sugar. The third photo shows the fine texture of these cookies.

Here’s the recipe, as I made it:

Buttermilk or Sour Milk Cookies

  • Servings: about 4 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 350°; line cookie sheets with parchment paper, if desired.


  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening (or butter for more flavor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup  buttermilk or soured milk (to one cup of sweet milk, stir in one tablespoon of white vinegar and let sit until it curdles)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  •  5-6 cups all purpose flour


  1. Mix by hand or in a stand mixer. I used a stand mixer.
  2. Mix sugar and shortening until well combined, then beat in eggs.
  3. Slowly mix in soured milk and vanilla until well combined.
  4. Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt, then add to liquid mixture, mixing until smooth.
  5. If you used butter, wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, so you can handle it. Otherwise, you should be able to shape the dough immediately, with or without floured hands.
  6. Roll the dough into large walnut sized balls and place on cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake as is or do some shaping with a floured fork and decorating sugar.
  7. Bake at 350º for 10-12 minutes. I think they’re better cooled, especially the next day, but that’s my preference for all cookies.

This cookie would make a good vehicle for frosting, if you’re into that sort of thing

Apple Oat Bran Muffins

Remember when I took my go-to Quick Banana Bread and turned it into  Whole Wheat Oatmeal Banana Bread? It turned out very well, and it wasn’t the first time I had started with the simple recipe and made simple changes to achieve a different taste or texture. I changed it up once by taking out the banana and adding pumpkin for Skip the Bananas, Add Pumpkin: Nut Bread. I even used it to make Espresso Banana Walnut Bread. You get the point: one basic recipe that you like and that works is just waiting to help you make something new.

I’m in love with Buttermilk Bran Muffins, making them all the time to put in the freezer, so I can pop out just one for lunch whenever I’m in the mood. I love the strong sweetness of molasses and raisins, and the hearty combination of whole wheat flour and wheat bran. As I said in the original post, they are not really a dessert muffin, but they are just the kind of sweetness I like. So, it’s not that I need to make the recipe better; I just wanted to see how well it would adapt to a few other flavors. I made only a few changes to achieve a differently sweet muffin with a lighter crumb:

  • I replaced the raisins with roughly chopped unsweetened dried apples—the moist kind, not the crispy apple chips
  • I replaced the 2 cups whole wheat flour with 1 cup of the flour and 1 cup of whole grain rolled oats

That’s all. I kept the original wheat bran, the buttermilk, the molasses, etc. The resulting muffins have an interesting chewiness from the apples, and the oats made the muffin crumb a little more crumbly, but still moist. Most surprisingly, the molasses doesn’t dominate as it does in the original; I was worried that it would be too strong against the apple, but the apple and molasses create a totally different sweetness in this muffin.

Apple Oat Bran Muffins

  • Servings: 6-8 jumbo muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 350°; butter a muffin tin or use paper liners.

Dry ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup whole grain rolled oats

1 1/2 cups wheat bran (I used Bob’s Red Mill miller’s wheat bran)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt (the recipe said 1/4 teaspoon)

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

Wet ingredients:

2 cups buttermilk (I used dried buttermilk, reconstituted)

1 beaten egg

1/2 cup molasses

4 tablespoons melted butter (the recipe said 2-4)


1/2-3/4 cup chopped walnuts

3/4 cup unsweetened dried apples, roughly chopped (I probably could have chopped mine a little more)

  1. Combine the dry and wet ingredients separately; then mix them together until most of the dry ingredients are moist.
  2. Fold in the nuts and apples, mixing until all is combined. I used a stand mixer to mix all together just until combined. This is a wetter batter than the one that is all whole wheat.
  3. Scoop the batter into greased tins 3/4 full and bake for about 25 minutes.

Blue Cheese Ranch Dressing

I’ve been eating this dressing in an apple salad with walnuts and dried figs for lunch recently, but it would be good with any fruit or vegetable salad or with chicken strips or wings. The blue cheese is the star, but I wouldn’t use a premium eating blue, like my favorite Stilton in it. I would eat the Stilton in a deconstructed salad of apples, figs (dried or fresh), and nuts. Just buy two cheeses, one for the dressing and one for munching. Today, I used a Danish Blue in the dressing, and picked up a little wedge of Stilton while I was at it for an indulgent snack.

My ranch recipe is as easy as possible. Equal amounts of buttermilk, sour cream, and mayonnaise, plus chives and dill and salt. I haven’t been adding garlic for my apple salad purposes, but I would add it if dressing pasta or vegetables.

I’ve made more complicated ranch dressings before, but it soon became obvious that it doesn’t need to be complicated to be good. It’s not a low fat dressing, but it has no added refined sugar or sharp vinegar, both of which characteristics are good for me. You could easily make a lower-fat version with common substitutions.

Blue Cheese Ranch Dressing

  • Servings: 1.5 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (mine was whole milk buttermilk)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann’s
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons dried chives
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2-3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, such as Danish or buttermilk blue
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or less if your cheese is very salty

Whisk together the first 5 ingredients until smooth. Stir in the crumbled cheese with a spoon. Taste and add salt, as needed.


Buttermilk Bran Muffins

I suppose you’ve seen the Molasses Ginger cookies featured on my home page, and maybe I’ve said that oatmeal-raisin are my all-time favorite cookie, so it should come as no surprise that bran muffins with molasses and raisins are my favorite muffin. I’m just making six large muffins, instead of a dozen small ones—or as the recipe suggests twenty-two 2″ muffins. This recipe from my old Joy of Cooking (1967, p. 581) uses buttermilk, helping these hefty muffins retain some tenderness. I’m also adding some chopped walnuts with the raisins for a little crunch.

I would not call these a dessert muffin

I wouldn’t serve these on a dessert plate with a cup of tea. I think of them as more of a slightly-sweet bread to eat for lunch with lots of butter and cream cheese and a big mug of coffee. They are not for the faint of heart.

The amount of batter the recipe makes is odd—maybe the muffin pans were different in 1967. It filled my jumbo muffin pan with enough left over for a small loaf pan. I couldn’t find my little individual loaf pans, after rearranging the cupboards recently, so I ended up filling a small 7 3/8″ x 3 5/8″ loaf pan about half full.

The recipe offered two optional ingredients that I did not have on hand, but that I think would add very nice flavor and moisture: orange zest and mashed banana. I’m particularly interested in adding the orange next time.

Buttermilk Bran Muffins

  • Servings: 6-8 large muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 350°; butter a muffin tin or use paper liners.


Dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat bran (I used Bob’s Red Mill miller’s wheat bran)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (the recipe said 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • Optional: 1-2 tablespoons grated orange rind)

Wet ingredients:

  • 2 cups buttermilk (I used whole buttermilk)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter (the recipe said 2-4)


  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Optional: 1/2 cup mashed bananas


  1. Combine the dry and wet ingredients separately; then mix them together until most of the dry ingredients are moist.
  2. Fold in the nuts and raisins, mixing until all is combined. I did all my mixing with a large wooden spoon instead of a mixer, as muffin batters produce a better crumb if not overmixed. A muffin should be coarse in grain, instead of soft and fine like a cake—but clearly there are different kinds of muffins for different purposes.
  3. Spoon the heavy batter into greased tins 3/4 full and bake for about 25 minutes.