Before pasteurization, people heated milk to kill harmful bacteria in a process called scalding. Although no longer needed for that purpose, scalded milk also eliminates enzymes that can affect how milk interacts with certain recipes, which is why scalded milk still is used today. Scalding milk is very easy to do and is a helpful technique to have in your cooking repertoire.
How to Scald Milk
Place the desired amount of milk in a thick-bottomed pan. Stir constantly to keep a skin from forming on the surface and to prevent proteins and sugars in the milk from sticking to the bottom. Bring milk nearly to a boil, around 185 degrees Fahrenheit, then allow the milk to cool to 110 degrees before adding it to other ingredients. To help keep the milk from burning, rinse the pan with cold water first, or you can heat the milk in a double boiler on the stove or in a heatproof glass container in a microwave oven.
Home recipes for making yogurt call for scalded milk to help proteins unfold and to kill microorganisms that compete with the beneficial culture bacteria in yogurt. Another effect scalded milk has on yogurt is to prevent the separation of whey, one of the two milk proteins. Some recipes call for milk to be scalded to only 110 degrees F, and in traditional Mediterranean yogurt recipes, milk often is heated in flat pans until reduced to about half, which accomplishes the same purpose.
Baking and Bread Making
Another common use for scalded milk is in making bread and other yeast doughs. Not all bacteria are killed during pasteurization, and scalding milk eliminates the rest. Without that added step, any microbes present could alter the flavor and texture of the finished bread product. Scalding milk also helps to better dissolve other ingredients and improves the rise of dough by deactivating whey protein that can weaken the gluten in wheat, barley and rye flours.
Scalded milk often is used in recipes to make a roux before adding to sauces like bechamel, preventing lumps. Certain egg dishes such as custard use scalded milk to cut down on cooking time. Some recipes for ice cream, pastry cream and other desserts use scalded milk to help intensify flavors from ingredients such as vanilla beans, milk or cinnamon. However, be careful when you add scalded milk to eggs; make sure the milk has cooled enough to keep from cooking the eggs.
- The Washington Post: The Purpose Behind Scalding Milk
- CookWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking; Shirley Corriher
- OChef: How to Scald and Scorch Milk
- University of Cincinnati Clermont College: Making Yogurt
- The Kitchn: Scalding Milk: Is It Really Necessary?
- KitchenSavvy: Scalding Milk
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