Milk is used in many baking recipes, including custards, cookies, cakes and breads. Milk encourages the browning reactions characteristic of baked goods like pastry crusts, cookies and biscuits. Milk contributes to the keeping quality of bread and gives it a soft crust. Additional protein and sugar (lactose) in milk adds more sweetness and a browner color to baked goods than water. Whole milk adds fat, which in turn creates a richer taste and softer crumb.
Milk is produced by all mammals to nourish their newborns, and cow’s milk is also a nutritious food for humans. Most milk sold commercially in the U.S. comes from dairy cows.
- Most of the time, milk can replace cream in baking to reduce fat in recipes. Cooking with milk is an easy and flavorful way to add calcium and other nutrients to foods.
- Stirring while heating milk gently will prevent burning. If a “skin” forms during heating, simply skim it from the top.
- All milk is not created equal. Fluid milk sold in the U.S. must meet minimum standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding fat and nonfat milk solids content, but California has its own, higher, nutrition standards for milk. Milk that meets California nutrition standards contains more protein, calcium and other nutrients than milk that meets federal standards.
Most varieties of drinking milk (nonfat, low-fat or whole) may be used interchangeably in baking. If using nonfat or 1 percent milk, you sacrifice richness. If you want to cut some fat in your baking, it’s best to use 2 percent. Drinking milk generally comes in half-pint, pint, quart, half-gallon and gallon containers.
Whole Milk produced under California standards contains at least 3.5 percent milkfat and 8.7 percent nonfat milk solids.
Reduced-Fat Milk (2 percent)
Reduced-Fat Milk (2 percent) produced under California standards contains at least 2 percent milkfat and 10 percent nonfat milk solids.
Low-Fat Milk (1 percent)
Low-Fat Milk (1 percent) produced under California standards contains at least 1 percent milkfat and 11 percent nonfat milk solids.
Nonfat Milk produced under California standards contains no more than 0.2 percent milkfat and at least 9 percent nonfat milk solids.
Ultra-High-Temperature (UHT) Milk
Ultra-High-Temperature (UHT) Milk is processed for a very short time at higher pasteurization temperatures than used for regular pasteurization, which sterilizes the milk. UHT milk is packaged aseptically (in sterile boxes) and can be stored without refrigeration for up to three months. Once opened, UHT milk should be refrigerated.
Evaporated Milk is produced by removing 60 percent of the water. The concentrate is then homogenized, canned, and sterilized. Evaporated milk can be stored unrefrigerated until opened. It’s available in fat-free, low-fat (2 percent milkfat), and whole (4 percent milkfat) varieties and comes in 5- and 12-ounce cans.
Sweetened Condensed Milk
Sweetened Condensed Milk is produced by adding sugar to homogenized milk and removing about 50 percent of the water. The sweetened concentrate is canned and the final product contains about 44 percent sugar, which helps preserve the condensed milk. Cans of sweetened condensed milk can be stored unrefrigerated until opened. It comes in 14-ounce cans.
Nonfat Dry Milk
Nonfat Dry Milk is produced by removing about 97 percent of the water from pasteurized nonfat milk.
- To convert low-fat milk (1 percent) into whole milk, add 1 teaspoon cream to 1 cup of 1 percent milk.
- To make low-fat milk, mix equal proportions of whole milk and 1 percent milk.
- To make half-and-half light cream, mix equal proportions of cream and nonfat milk.
- To make 1 cup of whole milk, use 1/2 cup evaporated milk and 1/2 cup water.
- To enhance the color of a pie crust or loaf of bread, brush it with milk before baking.
- Milk Buttercream Frosting is a favorite of home bakers of years past. Whisk to blend 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour with 1 cup whole milk. Cook mixture in a 11/2-quart saucepan until thick over low heat. Remove from heat, and transfer to a large bowl; cover with plastic wrap to prevent formation of a skin.Set aside to cool completely. Using an electric mixer, beat 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter with 1 cup granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Beat in cooled "white sauce," a tablespoon at a time, and beat well to prevent separation and graininess. (You may chill in the middle of beating.) Makes enough to frost top and sides of an 8- or 9-inch two-layer cake.