The basics of milk and its use in baking

Hello dear friends!

Today we will go through cow’s milk function in baking. Please don’t avoid reading it, even if you are vegan or eat dairy-free! If you are replacing animal milk for vegetable milk – like I do – you still need to know what are the characteristics cow milk has, in order to find the right replacing ingredients for your dairy free baking goods.

Cow’s milk or dairy foods in general are not “bad” for you, if consumed as part of a well-balanced diet, and a healthy way of life. Many specialists attest that milk has key nutritional advantages, such as aiding bone development and weight-loss objectives. 

But of course, for those who are animal lovers or have lactose intolerance, or casein intolerance, turning to plant-based milk substitutes such as almond, oat, hemp, soy milk is a must. 

Today, we will concentrate on cow’s milk, though for the reason I explained before.

Basics of Milk

Cow’s milk contains proteins, lactose, vitamins, minerals, milk fat and the majority of it is water. Other than a slight sweetness, the flavor of fresh milk is relatively mild. As the amount of milk fat in milk products increases, so does the flavor, because most dairy flavors are in the fat.

Although milk contains only about 3.3 percent protein, the proteins in milk are very important. These proteins fall into two main categories: casein proteins and whey proteins.

  • Casein protein is the basis for the manufacture of cheeses, yogurt, sour cream, and other cultured dairy products.
  • Whey protein is rich in lactose, calcium salts, and riboflavin. The slight greenish tinge in whey is from riboflavin, which is one of the B vitamins in milk.
    • Lactose is also called milk sugar. It’s sweetness is about one-fifth that of sucrose.

There are people who simply cannot consume large quantities of milk. The unpleasant feelings that appear after the intake of milk can be from lactose intolerance, or another (but rarer) condition called casein intolerance.

Milk in Baking

Milk and related dairy products are multi-functional ingredients in baking. Milk plays many roles in bakery products, including dough strengthening, textural softeners, filling fats, coating lipids, laminating fats, and flavor improvers. They also contribute to the organoleptic qualities of the finished product.

One or more of these functional properties may be lost if not carefully considered in formula development, production, and evaluation of the finished product. An understanding of the contributing elements, their effects on different baking processes, and their interactions with other ingredients is essential to maximizing product quality.

Increasing Crust Color

Dairy products have the ideal mixture of proteins and lactose, a fast-browning sugar, for Maillard browning. Remember that Maillard browning involves the breakdown of carbohydrates and protein, and that it gives baked products color and a fresh-baked taste. When baking using milk instead of water, baking times and temperatures may need to be reduced to avoid excessive browning.

Increasing Crust Softness

Bread and cream puffs produced with milk rather than water have softer crust. Water, for example, may be found in crusty French baguettes. Milk is present in soft crusted pullman loaf or pan bread. Softening is most likely caused by milk proteins and sugar bonding with water, delaying its evaporation from the crust.

Delaying Staling

Several dairy ingredients, including proteins, lactose, and milk fat, help to postpone staling induced by starch retrogradation in the crumb of baked goods. This is especially apparent in lean yeast breads, which are often lacking in stale-retarding elements like sugar and fat. Dairy products enhance the shelf life of baked goods by avoiding staling.

Blending and Providing Flavor Richness

The taste of baked goods is altered by milk. Milk, for example, mixes flavors and decreases saltiness in cakes and breads. Milk products, especially those high in milk fat, are crucial in baked custards, vanilla custard sauces, and pastry cream for producing a rich, full flavor.

Providing a Fine, Even Crust to Baked Goods

Some baked items, particularly yeast breads, have a finer, more even crust when made using milk or dry milk solids. Milk proteins, emulsifiers, and calcium salts are most likely involved in the stabilization of tiny air bubbles. The finer the crust, the smaller the air bubbles.

Having all this is mind, you might be wondering: so, how do I replace cow’s milk for vegetable milk without losing all these characteristics and functions in the baked goods?

There are several options and we will be going through them more throughly in other blog posts. So, please stay tunned!

I wish you a sweet and healthy week!

Your Leonor.

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