How To Scald Milk

Tips on How to Scald Milk

One of the most confusing things for a budding cook is to learn the terminology and how to perform certain steps that are continually referred to in recipes, such as how to scald milk.  It is actually a very easy process once the proper technique is learned.

History of baking

Baking has been part of human culture since the beginning of time.  Early techniques were crude attempts at best, using the ingredients that were on hand.  These generally consisted of wild grasses that were softened by soaking in water and then mashed into a paste before being cooked on flat rocks heated in open fires.  Later, flour was developed which, when combined with honey, leavening, salt, fat and milk became the basic ingredients that formed breads and pastries.  Flour was likely to have been stone ground and milk was raw.  Raw milk, when obtained improperly, stood a risk of being contaminated with a number of bacteria.  Cleanliness standards were not as stringent in early days when milk came directly from the cow or goat to the table.  Also, refrigeration was non-existent until the early 1900’s, so storing milk safely became an issue.  As technology advanced, flour was milled, sugar became standard and milk was pasteurized to make it safer to drink and to give it longer life in refrigeration.

The role of milk in baking

Milk is considered to be one element in the “Big 3 of Baking” as it is a common ingredient frequently utilized in baked goods.  Used as enrichment along with butter and eggs, this mixture combined with flour makes basic dough.  Yeast, sugars and fat are added in some types of dough.  Before milk was commercially pasteurized, there were certain steps that cooks learned to take when using it as an ingredient in baked goods and desserts in order to ensure that any bacteria within the milk was destroyed.  Cooks learned how to scald milk for this purpose.

Scalding milk was also practiced for other reasons besides killing the bacteria, and is still done to this day in certain recipes.  The process is used as a means to kill certain enzymes within the fluid that caused it to go bad or spoil.  It is also performed to deactivate whey proteins in the milk which would serve to detrimentally affect the gluten in flour, resulting in dense qualities in breads and rolls.

Scalding milk

Certain recipes, mainly older ones, may require that milk be scalded and then cooled before being combined with other ingredients.  For beginner cooks, this term may seem foreign as it is not a typical practice in everyday cooking.  It is a simple procedure that can be performed by even the most inexperienced cooks.

Scalded milk is often called for in bread recipes, dinner roll recipes, béchamel sauce, custards and some puddings. 
New cooks are often confused over the terminology used in some recipes, especially older recipes handed down from generation to generation.  Learning how to scald milk is one process that is simple to learn when the steps are known and come in very handle when replicating those treasured family recipes.