The next time you make a dessert that needs a sauce, but you aren’t quite sure what sauce is right, it’s this one. This is the sauce.
It is sweet and slightly salty like caramel, but without the fuss. It’s rich and elegant like an anglaise, but without cream or eggs. And it has the warm color of butterscotch, but it isn’t that either. This easy buttermilk sauce is neutral in flavor, so you can turn it any number of directions with a splash of vanilla, a sprinkle of cinnamon or pie spice—hey, even a shot of booze! You can pour it warm right over a baked dessert or ice cream sundae, or chill it to drizzle over fresh berries. It’s oozing with possibilities!
There are no complicated ingredients, and the sauce comes together in under 15 minutes, so you can even make it last minute if you discover too late that your dessert needs a little help (we’ve all been there). Most recently, I made this with vanilla bean paste and a half-shot of vanilla whiskey to accompany a batch of bread pudding, made from cardamom-scented cinnamon rolls and dried cherries. The combo of bread pudding and sauce was sooo good!
Begin with a cup of buttermilk, the good, thick kind. Put it on medium heat with 3/4 cup of cane sugar and half a stick of salted butter. Most dessert recipes call for unsalted butter, but here, the salted butter is just right to complement the sweetness of the sauce. I whisk a little bit of corn syrup into the sauce as well, as it helps to prevent the sauce from crystallizing when it cools.
After the butter has melted and the sugar is dissolved, it’s time for the magic ingredient, which is a miniscule amount of (drumroll, please) baking soda! Remember, the miraculous ingredient I posted about in September that makes grilled shrimp so juicy and delicious? The baking soda works wonders in this buttermilk dessert sauce, too, and for the same scientific reason. Watch and see.
The alkaline properties of baking soda launch a chemical reaction with the acidic buttermilk, so you want to use a saucepan that is large enough to hold three times the volume of the buttermilk. Almost immediately after you whisk in the soda, the mixture will froth and foam like crazy, and as you whisk and cook for 5 or 6 minutes, the buttermilk will transform into a semi-translucent, golden sweet syrup.
Turn off the heat, stir in vanilla and any other flavor enhancer that sounds good to you. As it cools, the buttermilk glaze will thicken slightly into a sauce consistency. It’s so delicious, you may find yourself coming up with new dessert recipes just to make another batch! What will you use it on this weekend?
Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the bread pudding, just follow my Gram’s basic recipe outline which is, in my opinion, the best bread pudding ever! Use your imagination to flavor the sauce to suit your own dessert, and let me know in the comments what you think of it!
Easy Buttermilk Dessert Sauce
The next time you have a baked dessert that needs a sauce, but you aren’t quite sure what sauce is right, it’s this one. This is the sauce.
- 1 cup real cultured buttermilk (lowfat is fine)
- 3/4 cup cane sugar
- 1/4 cup butter (4 Tbsp.)
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 Tbsp. corn syrup
- 1 Tbsp. Crown vanilla whiskey (optional, but yum)
- 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- Combine buttermilk, sugar and butter in a large saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and butter is fully melted.
- Whisk in the baking soda and get ready for some dramatic foaminess. Continue to cook and whisk the mixture for about 6 minutes after it reaches a boil. You will notice that the color of the sauce deepens to a warm, golden color.
- Turn off heat and whisk or stir until the foaminess subsides. Stir in vanilla and any other flavor enhancer you like. For ground spices such as cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon is probably about right. Add whiskey or other liquor, if desired.
- Allow the sauce to rest for a few minutes. Serve right away or refrigerate if making it ahead. This sauce warms up nicely in a saucepan or in the microwave.
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