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# 1033 - Cooking with Dairy Products I
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Every now and then on our show, we like to get back to basics and try to cover some of those essentials of cooking that it is important to keep in mind. Working with dairy products is just such an example, which as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Waterfront Kitchen points out, we're really talking about molecular chemistry here. Here are some tips:
- The main constituents of milk are fat globules, and micro-solids casein proteins and whey in a watery suspension. It's the way these constituents work with each other that determines how they will behave in cooking.
- The higher the fat content, the greater the tolerance to heat, so whole milk can be boiled and reduced dramatically, if you want to. But low fat milk can only tolerate up to 180, so it doesn't boil well.
- Milk doesn't tolerate freezing because the spiky casein molecules literally puncture the fat globules and affect texture.
- The casein proteins are tricky: they coagulate in the presence of acid, so beware!
- Heated milk changes flavor: mild heating produces a pleasant vanilla, almond flavor. Prolonged heating starts the Mailliard Browning Reaction, and induces a butterscotch flavor.
- With both milk and cream, never add them cold to a boiling liquid: the shock will cause curdling. Better to scald your milk and cream...that is, bring it to a steamy simmer, then add it.
- To avoid scorching milk, dip the bottom of your sauce pan into water (only if this is to be cooked over a gas flame), keep it over low heat, stir often and watch it like a hawk... and remember again, low fat milk separates easily.
- To avoid a skin forming on cooking milk, beat a little froth into it, which will lay on top of the liquid, hindering evaporation, which is what causes the skin to form.
- If you want to make a foam, you are far better off using low-fat milk, since the casein proteins will trap air very easily, and give you a good durable foam.
- This is a matter of fat content. Regular milk is 3.5 %. Half and Half is about 12%, light cream is around 18%, whipping cream at least 30% (the bare minimum for whipping), heavy cream is 36% or more and can be whipped.
- Cream does withstand heating, and sweetened condensed milk will caramelize at the drop of a hat when heated
- Cream doesn't curdle easily, even in the presence of acids, but it spoils very easily unless ultra-pasteurized. Keep it refrigerated, and sealed off from strong odors, which it will pick up quickly.
- If you want to whip cream, chill the cream, the bowl and the whisk, and keep your hands off as much as possible. Warmth inhibits whipping and makes it take longer. Too much whipping breaks down the foam structure, bursts fat globules, and results in butter.
- If you want to use milk or cream to make a pan sauce, and there is even the least bit of acidity in the other ingredients, opt for cream, because milk will curdle, cream will not.
- Again, warm your cream before adding it to hot (never boiling) liquids.