What's the best milk to use for baking? | a2 Milk® USA Blog
What's the best milk to use for baking? | a2 Milk® USA Blog

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Science of Milk in Baking

Posted on July 24, 2017

Milk vs Plant-Based Beverages: Which Makes a Better Baked Good? 

By Serena Ball, MS, RD 

Baking a batch of muffins is a simple pleasure in life. They’re quick to mix up, fill your kitchen with homey aromas, and are done in under 20 minutes. Since they have only a few simple ingredients, each ingredient makes a difference. Here, I’ll focus on which ingredients make for the best baked goods  — specifically, which ‘milks’ bake the best muffins.

I’m not a chef, but for over a decade, I have been baking muffins weekly for my family. That’s over 500 batches of muffins! And my systematic testing of almond milk beverage versus dairy milk in muffin baking has become one of my most popular blog posts.

So when a2 Milk® asked me to repeat the test with variety of the new alternative ‘milk’ beverages, I was eager to head to the test kitchen.

First, take a look at the nutritional differences between the beverages used…

Calories Protein Carbohydrates Fat Saturated Fat
Rice beverage 120 1g 23g 2.5g 0g
Coconut beverage 45 0g 1g 4.5g 4g
2% Reduced Fat 120 8g 11g 5g 3.5g
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Dairy vs. Plant-Based Nutrition Facts

These beverage nutritional differences will affect the outcome of muffins. But they may not affect all baked goods. For example, cake, scone and waffle recipes were not used in my testing because milk is not a defining ingredient in these recipes.

Instead, ingredients such as leaveners, sugar, fat and flour — along with other elements like mixing technique — will alter your baking results.

These beverage nutritional differences will affect the outcome of muffins. But they may not affect all baked goods. For example, cake, scone and waffle recipes were not used in my testing because milk is not a defining ingredient in these recipes.  Ingredients such as leaveners, sugar, fat and flour — along with other elements like mixing technique — will alter your baking results.

Food scientist Harold McGee, author of the reference book, On Food and Cooking explains how these baked goods are defined:

Cakes

The mixing step has the critical purpose of incorporating air into the batter therefore strongly influencing the final texture of the cake.

Scones or biscuits

Without eggs, like most baked goods, scones/biscuits are kneaded briefly to minimize gluten development of flour for tender texture.

Waffles

Signature crispness from the griddle depends on high proportions of fat and sugar.

a2 Milk® muffin recipe

Whole Grain Muffins

Whole Grain Muffins

However, McGee notes that muffins are meant to be moist and tender; this moisture comes from liquids (and sometimes fruits.) Thus because liquid matters to muffins, they are the perfect vehicle to test the differences found in alternative milks.

Results:

Texture Appearance Taste
Rice milk beverage • Slightly gritty, more crumbly; especially day old
• Spongy
• Staled sooner
Did not rise as high – possibly due to lower protein content, which provides structure Sweeter – due to higher carb content
Refrigerated coconut milk beverage • Moist • Dense • Slightly darker – likely due to higher saturated fat content leading to more browning • Denser interior • Less sweet
• Less overall flavor
• Surprisingly, no detection of coconut milk
2% Reduced Fat • Moist
• Tender crumb
• Still fresh-tasting day old
• Pleasant light golden color
• Even, open interior
• Sweet and eggy
• Rich

The winner in my book was dairy milk in terms of texture, appearance and taste. What do you think?

Notes:

  • The recipe used is below, I changed only the type of ‘milk.’ All amounts and timing stayed identical.
  • Each bowl of batter was stirred 20 strokes to avoid over-stirring as this is a main contributor to tough muffins.
  • Scientist McGee notes that, “Muffins stale quickly because the small proportion of fat is dispersed unevenly by the minimal mixing and can’t protect much of the starch.” I found this to be true when using the zero-fat rice beverage.

 

About the Author


 

Serena Ball, MS, RD | Teaspoon of Spice

Serena Ball, MS, RD is a registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing recipes, tips and tricks to help families find healthy living shortcuts. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Snapchat.

Serena Ball
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