Ever tasted banana bread that was so tender? You might have wondered which ingredient in there made it a bit different from other types of banana bread.
Chances are that you ate banana bread using sour cream as an ingredient. The sour cream is mostly the reason for such tenderness and moisture.
While sour cream is most often associated with dipping in potato chips, nachos, or baked potatoes, it also has its own special place in baking.
In this article, we’ll discuss why sour cream can make for a great ingredient in your banana bread.
Cultured sour cream is created when a colony of lactic bacteria is added to pasteurized light cream and then allowed to ferment for a period of time. The bacteria’s acid thickens the cream, coagulates protein, and creates the trademark sour taste.
A less common variant of sour cream is made by the addition of an acid to the cream, such as vinegar. Known as acidified sour cream, this foregoes the addition of cultured lactic bacteria and fermentation entirely.
The preference for sour cream in banana bread might come as a surprise to some. However, shouldn’t buttermilk, Greek yogurt, or plain milk create the same results?
They create ‘similar results, but sour cream does a few things better than other derivations of milk. These are the areas of baking where it excels:
Sour cream has a much greater level of fat than buttermilk milk. Each cup of sour cream has about five times the amount of fat that an equal amount of milk would have.
Fat, in all of its forms, breaks down or shortens gluten strands. Gluten strands are, in turn, proteins that function as the primary structural ingredient of baked goods.
The reason why some baked goods have a crumbly texture is that the gluten strands comprising them weren’t broken down. Ingredients with a lot of fat, such as sour cream, are used by bakers to make sure that this doesn’t end up being the case.
Because of this, banana bread made using sour cream will end up having a much richer texture that’s especially satisfying to savor.
Unlike plain milk, sour cream is far more viscous, with a sticky consistency. Therefore, it could be compared to syrup, despite being a milk derivative.
Because of this, sour cream also gives the batter more moisture without causing it to thin out. The main problem with milk and buttermilk is that when they’re applied to the baking mix, they’ll dilute the other ingredients.
Sour cream, by contrast, keeps the batter thick.
Because of that, the end result is tender banana bread with a lot more moisture, so much so it melts in your mouth.
Sour cream’s high acidity levels also contribute to its benefits in baking in several ways.
First, having acid in your ingredient causes it to tenderize gluten strands.
When this happens, the banana bread will have a far more tender texture than usual. Sour cream also causes the banana bread to have a more tangy flavor.
In addition, baking soda is complemented by sour cream. Baking soda’s leavening is triggered by acid content and further adds to the tenderness of the banana bread once it comes out of the oven.
For four 7×3 loaves of banana bread, the recommended amount of sour cream is about 16 oz. So that would be 4 ounces of sour cream for every loaf of banana bread.
This amount of sour cream gives you the perfect mixture of all its qualities. In addition, the loaves will freeze well. So, you can store them in the long term for later consumption or gifting.
Because the fat content of sour cream is one of its selling points as an ingredient, it’s better for you to use the standard variant with a high-fat level. Using a fat-free or low-fat type of sour cream defeats the whole purpose of why it’s used.
In addition to that, these low-fat varieties of sour cream will often have fillers and extra ingredients. These will change the consistency of the finished product while baking, which isn’t desirable when you’re aiming to reap the benefits of sour cream.
You can keep freshly bought sour cream in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It’s also possible to store it in an environment with a temperature below 40°F, or 4.4° C.
Like most other dairy products, it’s perfectly safe to freeze sour cream. However, freezing has an adverse effect on its quality, so you’re better off not doing that if you could help it.
You might be in a situation where you find yourself having an excess supply of sour cream that you can’t use all at once. But you don’t want any of it to spoil and go to waste just because there was a lot of it.
In this case, you might have to freeze it regardless of the effects it might have on the quality. To store sour cream in a freezer, all you have to do is put it inside a sealed glass or plastic container(s) and then chuck it inside.
As we mentioned earlier, freezing sour cream is safe. However, some people think otherwise because sour cream sometimes comes out bad from the freezer. This is because it had already gone bad before storing. It may have also been stored far too long.
So, before you freeze sour cream, ensure it was already safe to eat before placing it inside.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) doesn’t have any specific guidelines on how long you can keep sour cream frozen, but it does say that yogurt can be kept for up to two months.
Sour cream is quite similar to yogurt in that both of them are dairy products fermented by lactic bacteria, so it’s safe to say that you could store it for about the same amount of time.
When you bring the sour cream out of the freezer, you’ll have to keep it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw.
Once you have thawed the sour cream, it isn’t safe to freeze it again. Freezing, unfreezing, and then refreezing create favorable breeding grounds for bacterial infection.
Sour cream is one of the best ingredients that you can use for banana bread or any other baked product.
So when you’re looking for the perfect combination of moisture, tenderness, and richness of flavor, sour cream will have you covered.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.