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Truc

Susan Jung

 

Although I haven't drunk a glass of milk since I was forced to by my mother as an adolescent (despite her insistence to the contrary, it didn't make me grow up to be big and strong), I actually consume a fair amount of it. While I do drink milk in coffee, most of my intake comes from savoury dishes and desserts, especially ice cream.

Cooking with milk can be a nuisance. Simmering the milk creates a thick "skin" on the surface; it scorches easily on the bottom of the pan and is difficult to scrub off; moreover, your attention only has to wander for a millisecond for the milk to boil over, creating a mess on the stovetop.

Rinsing the pan with water, then draining it just before pouring in the milk (or cream) prevents scorching to a cer-tain extent. Lately, though, I've taken to putting the milk in a tall heatproof glass container and zapping it in the microwave - tall because that means there's less surface area for the skin to form, and glass because milk doesn't stick to it. You still have to watch it carefully so it doesn't boil over.

Heating aromatics (such as vanilla bean, saffron or herbs) with milk is a good way to extract their flavours. For maximum flavour, this is best done slowly (not over high heat), then leave the ingredients in the milk for a while to cool.

When milk is used in bread recipes, it gives the finished product a finer, more tender crumb, just as any fat would, and it adds flavour. But if used "straight" (without being scalded) the bread doesn't rise as much and it affects the texture, at least if it's a large amount of milk. In her book CookWise, food scientist Shirley O. Corriher explains that researchers have isolated a protein in whey that is "responsible for this reduced volume and poor texture". This enzyme is also present in milk powder. She advises scalding milk and reconstituted milk powder so that it kills the enzyme.

Occasionally, milk or yogurt curdles when cooked. Corriher writes that "low-dairy products are not suitable for pure reduction sauce. Unlike cream, these products do not have enough fat to coat proteins and interfere with their coagulation. Acid and heat make individual proteins unwind (denature) and then join together (coagulate). Milk and yogurt have high protein content and will curdle. If you want to use milk or yogurt instead of cream, stir a little starch into the low-fat dairy product; it will give the proteins some protection from curdling."

 

Truc (tryk): noun, masculine, trick, gimmick, device. A French word for a chef's secret

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