I admit it: I do not bake with buttermilk. I used to keep powdered buttermilk around and use it for certain things like cake and biscuits, but nowadays I don't. The principal reason is because I noticed a certain coarseness to the texture that you produce when buttermilk is used in cakes.
The ultimate in a velvet texture, for a cake, is Pound Cake. The texture turns out so smooth that it has become its hallmark. But if you make that same recipe with buttermilk, the texture becomes crumbly. I am sure some people still like it, but I changed my mind a few years ago. Now I make all my cakes, bread and cookies with milk or water.
It is said, though, that buttermilk imparts a nice tangy flavor to some baked goods. I find that it does, but one thing you can do, at least with chocolate cake or cupcakes, is to add sour cream to the batter or the frosting.
Buttermilk can be used successfully for salad dressing as well as baked goods, though. If you already like to bake with it and have some on hand, you might want to try this salad dressing, which would go well with something like a light roasted or baked meat dish such as chicken breasts.
This recipe is included in the Recipes from the Neighborhood cookbook that I picked up at my church's Christmas bazaar a couple of weeks ago. It resembles a ranch-type dressing and is a good alternative to using dressing mixes.
BUTTERMILK SALAD DRESSING
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon snipped fresh parsley
1/4 small white onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly. If necessary, add a little more buttermilk to achieve the consistency that you prefer.
Chill the dressing in an airtight container stored in the refrigerator before serving.
Romaine lettuce is a good base for a salad using this dressing, by the way, and I have been reading for some time now that Romaine is very healthful, especially if you buy it organic at Safeway in Tucson, or other markets that feature organic salad greens in their produce section.