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Food Prep 101: Delightful dairy
April 8, 2013 - Anita Hanaburgh
When we talk of dairy, we are referring to anything that is made from the milk of mammals, most often cows.
Milk is made up of only 12 percent solids and 100 different chemical components that will help a small calf (or small child) to grow and prosper. When cooking with milk. Care must be taken to keep the temperature low. The protein in milk is called casein. When cooked too hot or in the presence of acid, it coagulates.
Protein should never be boiled. Heated milk will form a protein skin on the top. Milk contains fatty acids, lactose or milk sugar. Milk sugar will scorch or caramelize if heated too high. The dominant minerals are calcium and phosphorous, and it contains many vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins will evaporate when heated too high.
Whole fresh milk contains at least 3.2 percent milk fat. Skim milk is pasteurized milk that has less than 1 percent fat. A happy medium between whole and skim milk is the 2 percent variety.
Certified milk (an old-fashioned term) means the milk was has been processed under specific sanitary conditions.
Pasteurized milk is heated to at least 145 F for 30 minutes or it is heated to 161 F for 15 minutes. Then it is cooled promptly. This destroys all pathogenic bacteria and improves milk’s keeping quality. There is some loss of flavor and nutrients from this process.
UHT (ultra-high temperature) milk has been pasteurized at 280 F for two seconds. It has a shelf-life of three months without refrigeration. Raw milk comes directly from the cow and is sold under much stricter guidelines.
Evaporated milk is pasteurized milk that has slightly more than half of its water removed by heating. It needs no refrigeration until the can is opened. Basically, it is concentrated milk.
Condensed milk is evaporated milk that has sugar added. It used to be popular in coffee but is primarily used in baking today.
Dry milk has just about all the water removed by spraying it into a chamber of hot filtered air. Nonfat dry milk has the water and the fat removed. Dry milk can be reconstituted for drinking, but there is a loss in flavor from the dehydration process. Dry milk is used a lot in baking. Homogenized milk is treated mechanically to break the fat into smaller globules and disperse them permanently, keeping the cream and the whey together. When I was a kid, milk was not homogenized. It was delivered to the back door in clear bottles with thick cream floating on the top. Most milk is homogenized today.
Fortified milk has nutrients added. Vitamins D and A are commonly added.
Cream is at least 18 percent milk fat. Light cream is 18 percent to 39 percent milk fat, and heavy cream is 36 percent milk fat.
Half-and-half is whole milk mixed with cream, between 10 and 18 percent milk fat.
To whip cream, use heavy cream. Chill the cream, the bowl and the whisk or paddle. Warmth inhibits whipping and makes it take longer. Too much whipping breaks down the foam structure, bursts fat globules and results in butter.
Yogurt is basically milk (low fat, regular) that has been fermented.
Creme fraiche is cultured cream popular in French cuisine. It is thinner and richer than sour cream.
Butter is made from agitation (churning) cream with 80 percent milk fat. It can be salted or not. Margarine is made from 80 percent fat solids and may or may not have milk products.
Buttermilk used to be a byproduct of making butter, but today it is made by adding bacterial cultures to skim milk and adding butter granules. It only has 1 percent fat.
Cheese is the oldest and most widely used processed food known to man. It starts as mammal’s milk — usually from cow, sheep or goat. The proteins are coagulated with the addition of an enzyme such as rennet, which is found in calf’s stomachs. It is separated by mixing into curds and whey. The curds are fresh cheese, as in cottage cheese.
To make the various kinds of cheese, some curds are unripened, some are ripened, some are blocked into cheddars, some have added bacteria or mold, as in blue cheese, some are aged, some are fermented. Each cheese is unique. Like milk, if overheated, cheese will burn and the proteins will coagulate into a stringy mass.
Non-dairy “milk” products — soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, etc., are the filtered juices of veggies, fruits or grains along with water, salt and flavorings.
Points to consider when cooking with dairy: Low heat is best always. The higher the fat content, the greater the tolerance to heat. Milk doesn’t tolerate freezing.
Heated milk changes flavor. Mild heating produces a pleasant vanilla-almond flavor.
Prolonged heating starts to induce a butterscotch flavor. Scalding milk, bringing it to a simmer, lowers milk’s curdling properties. To avoid a skin forming on cooking milk, beat a little froth into it, which will lie on top of the liquid, hindering evaporation, which is what causes the skin to form. If you want to make foam for your coffee, you are far better off using low-fat milk.
Answer to last week’s quiz: The key to a flaky crust is A) don’t over mix. This week’s quiz: Eggs should never be A) boiled, B) scrambled, c) fried, or d) baked.
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