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Why Scalding is Still Important

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The Overnight English Muffins recipe starts with scalding milk-bringing it to just under the boiling point-before letting it cool and adding it to the dry ingredients. I have to admit that when a recipe directs me to scald milk, I’ve been tempted to skip that step because I thought it was only a precaution left over from the days before pasteurization. So I asked Nicole Rees-author of the English muffin feature and also a food scientist-to explain the extra step. Turns out there is still good reason to scald milk, especially in yeasted doughs.

Scalding the milk denatures whey proteins. This makes the milk a better food for yeast, which means faster proofing, larger volume, and a fluffier product. It also makes for a smoother dough with better moisture retention. So the next time a recipe asks you to scald milk, just do it. It’s easy, and it can make all the difference.

Photo: Scott Phillips

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  • Curves | 05/18/2015

    I have tried this 4 times.Twice with yeast I had in the cupboard (not yet expired) and it wouldn't bloom.I bought new yeast, was very careful not to get my 2% milk too hot when I was scalding it, cooled it to (first time) 105, second time 106.It simply will not bloom.I am using King Edward whole wheat flour, in a crockery bowl. My kitchen is neither too warm, nor too cold. I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. Any suggestions?

  • ImmortalPestle | 04/15/2015

    I have to start by saying I am constantly inspired by these wonderful posts on the science of food!

    You are certainly correct that part of the reason we scald milk is a throwback to times when harmful pathogens in whole milk were destroyed by heating at high temperature. Of course, with industrial pasteurization we no longer need to worry about that so much.

    So why do we still do it? Habit? It is true that whey proteins are denatured at temperatures above 70ºC, altering their structure and the way they behave. The answer, though, does not involve yeast so much as it involves the protein structure of the dough, the gluten. Certain whey proteins break up the gluten structure, sabotaging the framework of the dough. When this happens it can no longer trap the gases that give a nice loaf of bread its airy shape, and the dough becomes dense.

    Yeast cannot process proteins, they eat carbohydrates such as sucrose, glucose and fructose. Whey protein, which does not contain any carbohydrates, is therefore not a nutrient for them.

    I have a bit more information on my post on saffron buns over here: http://immortalpestle.com/recipe-frosted-lussekatter-saffron-buns/

    Cheers,

    Alex @ImmortalPestle

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