If you've ever wondered what it means to scald milk, it's a tried and true technique that yields the fluffiest breads, rolls, and cakes you've ever tasted. This old-fashioned technique still has its place in the kitchen, and it's remarkably easy to do.
My grandma's Soft Yeast Dinner Rolls, Hot Milk Cake, and the best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls ever all use scalded milk in the recipes. It's a quick extra step that takes just minutes but gives big rewards. Scalding milk is nothing more than heating milk up to just under the boiling point, then allowing it to cool down a little before adding it to yeast, sauces, or even your morning cup of Joe.
Scalding implies that something is ruined or burned, but with milk, that's just not the case. Heating milk up can kill off enzymes that keep bread dough and batters from fully rising, but there are some other good reasons to scald milk, too. Instructions for scalding milk on the stove and in the microwave are included down below; all you have to do is grab some milk and start baking.
Why does milk need to be scalded?
Why do recipes call for scalded milk? Traditional recipes, especially older ones, may call for scalding milk in order to kill harmful bacteria, long before milk was commercially pasteurized. While most milk comes to us pasteurized already, there are some recipes that call for scalded milk. But why?
Today, heating milk can serve several useful purposes:
- Warm milk or warm cream can absorb flavors really well. Vanilla bean, cinnamon, orange zest, and herbs can all be steeped in warm milk and bring extra flavor to a recipe. This is very important for ice cream recipes, custard, and pastry creams.
- For bread making, using scalded milk helps bread rise. Heating milk deactivates the proteins in milk whey that can keep gluten from forming properly. It can also help activate yeast for sweet breads and cakes.
- Yogurt making. To make yogurt, sometimes dairy milk is scalded to kill off other bacteria that could compete with the yogurt culture.
- Melting fats. At its simplest, scalded milk helps warm ingredients up. It can help dissolve sugar in custards and other baking recipes. It can also assist in melting butter or chocolate.
- Custards and sauces. Warm milk can gently heat up eggs in recipes so they don’t curdle later in the process. It can cut down on cooking time a little bit, too.
- Scalded milk in coffee. The French breakfast pick-me-up, cafe au lait, uses scalded milk blended with hot coffee. Cappuccino foam isn’t scalded, though—it’s just slightly cooler.
At what temperature does milk scald?
Milk scalds at 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Can you scald milk in the microwave?
Yep! Here’s how to scald milk in the microwave:
Pour milk into a microwave-safe container and microwave on MEDIUM-HIGH (70%) power, stirring every 15 seconds, just until steam begins to rise from the milk.
To scald milk for custards or yogurt, heat 1 cup on HIGH (100%) power for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.
How to scald milk on the stove:
- It's one of the easiest things you'll ever do, promise!
- First, choose a sturdy stainless steel pot with a heavy bottom; this will heat the milk evenly without burning.
- Then heat the milk. Over medium heat, cook the milk, stirring frequently. This will prevent a ‘skin’ of congealed proteins from forming on the milk.
- Watch for bubbles. You don’t want the milk to fully boil, but you definitely want the milk heated through. When bubbles begin to form, just the milk’s boiling point, remove the pan from the heat and set aside. To be doubly sure, use a reliable thermometer to check the temperature. As you can see, this milk is almost there.
- Finally, allow to cool to about 110 degrees before using in a recipe.
What temperature is lukewarm for yeast?
For active dry yeast, the water temperature should be between 105 and 110 degrees for proofing. While 95 degrees is the ideal temperature for yeast to multiply, that's not quite warm enough for actually proofing active dry yeast. It needs the extra little bit of warmth to dissolve and do its magic.
How to Scald Milk
- 1 cup milk
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, add milk and heat until a skin forms on top of the milk, about 170 degrees.
- Watch carefully to make sure the milk doesn’t boil. Remove immediately from heat when the milk forms a skin on top.