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why do recipes call for sour cream?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
this might be a silly question, but can anyone tell me why so many recipe call for sour cream?
post #2 of 16
Because it contains fat and the acid tenderizes the gluten in the batter.
post #3 of 16
It also acts to combat some of the sweetness in box cake mixes. icon_biggrin.gif
I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. ~Etienne de Grellet
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I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. ~Etienne de Grellet
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post #4 of 16
It will also help your cakes to bake flatter - - less of a dome, less to level off.
post #5 of 16
Cool question, OP. And cool answers everyone else.
post #6 of 16
Not a scientific answer, but I think the results are richer. Truthfully, it's there because it is a great baking ingredient. I like the structure because it is semi-solid vs. liquid. Sometimes this can be a good recipe ingredient for a novice baker because it can be less temperamental, yeilding better odds for a good outcome.

For example, many of us have replaced the buttermilk with sour cream in the Hershey's cake recipe and along with some leavener adjustments, eliminated the failures associated with the recipe.
post #7 of 16
Sour Cream makes a richer tasting cake as well as keeping the cake moist.
post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

For example, many of us have replaced the buttermilk with sour cream in the Hershey's cake recipe and along with some leavener adjustments, eliminated the failures associated with the recipe.



scp1127~~I was going to try the Hershey recipe. Would it be possible for you to share the leavener adjustments? Is the sour cream vs buttermilk in the recipe an exact exchange?
post #9 of 16
Great question! Boy, do I have a geek answer for you!

Buttermilk is made by culturing low or non-fat milk, sour cream is made by culturing cream. The cultures are what we are after, they act as emulsifiers, making your cake come together more perfectly and adds to tenderness. Depending on what you are using it also adds flavor depending in the strain of cultures used in the fermentation process. Buttermilk has almost no fat. Sour cream has a lot of fat.

Sour cream is produced from light cream. The starter cultures contains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which is the same as buttermilk (only buttermilk is made from low fat milk). But, sour cream also has Streptococcus and Lactobacillus (which buttermilk does not have), which makes it coagulate and naturally lowers the pH.

So, buttermilk has a much higher pH then sour cream and in scratch baking you may have to alter your recipe if you are subbing it in. If it was written calling for buttermilk, it will have higher leavening from baking soda to neutralize some of the acid.

You can easily sub in sour cream in just about anything and not have to alter your leavening (i.e. baking powder- only recipes or boxes of cake mix) at all because generally speaking, the low pH shouldn't effect anything and you get the benefit of the extra emulsifiers. That's why so many doctored recipes call for it.
post #10 of 16
Apti, Linda144 gave me her changes. Just sub the sour cream for the buttermilk and change the leaveners to 1 tsp each. I always use baking strips and even though it probably doesn't need it, I use the nails in this recipe because of its more liquid batter. It now bakes perfectly every time and makes great cupcakes. I use this as my basic chocolate recipe when I am not using more expensive chocolates.

I always put at least a tsp of espresso powder in the hot water also. If I'm making the Black Magic, I use more.
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

Great question! Boy, do I have a geek answer for you!

Buttermilk is made by culturing low or non-fat milk, sour cream is made by culturing cream. The cultures are what we are after, they act as emulsifiers, making your cake come together more perfectly and adds to tenderness. Depending on what you are using it also adds flavor depending in the strain of cultures used in the fermentation process. Buttermilk has almost no fat. Sour cream has a lot of fat.

Sour cream is produced from light cream. The starter cultures contains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which is the same as buttermilk (only buttermilk is made from low fat milk). But, sour cream also has Streptococcus and Lactobacillus (which buttermilk does not have), which makes it coagulate and naturally lowers the pH.

So, buttermilk has a much higher pH then sour cream and in scratch baking you may have to alter your recipe if you are subbing it in. If it was written calling for buttermilk, it will have higher leavening from baking soda to neutralize some of the acid.

You can easily sub in sour cream in just about anything and not have to alter your leavening (i.e. baking powder- only recipes or boxes of cake mix) at all because generally speaking, the low pH shouldn't effect anything and you get the benefit of the extra emulsifiers. That's why so many doctored recipes call for it.



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Started my business legally February 2012! Commercial kitchen and all!
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Started my business legally February 2012! Commercial kitchen and all!
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post #12 of 16
scp1127 and FromScratchSF~~Thanks for sharing such terrific information!!!
post #13 of 16
This is all extremely interesting, thank you all for your educational and informed answers!

I've always subbed greek yogurt whenever a recipe calls for sour cream because A- I hate sour cream and B- I wanted to cut the fat content. Is that a safe substitution? How does it affect the finished product?
post #14 of 16
I try to add all the fat I can. I would never take it out. To me the taste is the most important aspect. I would rather have a small piece of great cake than a larger piece of mediocre cake. In fact, I don't eat but one bite of the mediocre... not worth working it off.
post #15 of 16
I don't understand how you can hate sour cream but like Greek yogurt. To me, Greek yogurt is even more sour than sour cream.

I agree with Susan. I never make low fat substitutions in cakes. It's all about flavor!
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