Baking perfect, fluffy bread involves various factors, including the ingredients used. Milk powder is a commonly used dough conditioning ingredient in bread recipes.
The question arises: does milk powder contribute to the rise of bread? In this article, we will explore the role of milk powder in bread baking and its impact on achieving a well-risen loaf.
Milk powder does not directly help bread rise, but it can improve texture, flavor, and shelf life. While milk powder does contain natural sugar, yeast cannot utilize it in the dough fermentation process. The primary factors responsible for the rise of bread are yeast activity, proper gluten development, and adequate proofing conditions.
Lactose is a complex sugar. When consumed by organisms that possess the lactase enzyme, such as humans and certain fungi, it is broken down into simpler sugars, glucose, and galactose. This process, known as lactose hydrolysis, enables these organisms to metabolize lactose and derive energy from it. However, yeast lacks the lactase enzyme and therefore cannot ferment lactose.
Key Factors That Affect Bread Rising
Yeast activity: Yeast is a microorganism that feeds on sugars in the dough and produces carbon dioxide gas as a byproduct through fermentation. This gas gets trapped in the gluten network, causing the dough to rise.
While we’re on the topic of yeast activity, you may find my article regarding the necessity of sugar in fermentation quite interesting.
Gluten development: Gluten is a protein formed when wheat flour comes into contact with water. Kneading or mixing the dough develops gluten, which provides structure and elasticity to the dough. It forms a strand network that traps the carbon dioxide gas produced by yeast, allowing the dough to rise.
Hydration: Proper hydration of the dough is crucial for gluten development and yeast activity. Water or milk activates the yeast, dissolves the ingredients, and helps in gluten formation.
Fermentation time and conditions: Fermentation is the process in which yeast converts sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas, creating air pockets and causing the dough to rise. Appropriate fermentation time and temperature are essential for yeast activity, flavor development, and the formation of a desirable dough structure.
Dough handling: How the dough is handled during shaping and handling can affect bread rising. Gentle handling helps preserve the carbon dioxide gas and the structure developed during fermentation. Overworking or punching down the dough can deflate it and hinder proper rising.
Milk Powder in Bread Baking
Derived from regular milk, milk powder is obtained by removing the liquid content from milk through a drying process. This results in a concentrated powder form that can be stored for a longer period and used conveniently in various culinary applications, including bread baking.
When it comes to bread baking, the choice between full-fat and skimmed milk powder can have subtle differences in the final product. Full-fat milk powder typically contains around 26% to 40% fat, whereas skimmed milk powder has had the majority of its fat removed, leaving it with less than 1% fat. The fat in full-fat milk powder contributes to the richness and tenderness of the bread, while skimmed milk powder offers a lighter texture.
When using milk powder in bread recipes, follow the instructions provided by the recipe. It is typically added to the dry ingredients. For optimal results, the ideal proportion of milk powder in the bread dough is 2-10% of the total flour content.
Milk powder can be substituted with fresh milk, buttermilk, liquid or powdered whey, or other dairy/non-dairy alternatives depending on your dietary preferences or restrictions. However, keep in mind that the liquid in the recipe needs to be adjusted accordingly.
The Benefits of Milk Powder in Bread Baking
Although milk powder does not directly help bread dough to rise, it offers a range of advantages for the texture and nutrient profile of bakery products, such as:
Nutritional value: Milk powder adds valuable nutrients to bread, including proteins, vitamins (such as vitamin D and B vitamins), and minerals such as calcium. Milk proteins, including casein, albumins, and globulins, have a high biological value. Milk peptides, derived from the breakdown of milk protein, play an important role in the absorption of various nutrients such as vitamin A, calcium, and iron in our bodies.
Convenience and Shelf Stability: Milk powder eliminates the need for fresh milk in bread recipes, offering greater convenience. Milk powder has a significantly longer shelf life compared to fresh milk. When stored properly in an airtight container in a cool and dry place, milk powder can remain stable for several months or even years, depending on the brand. This makes it a convenient option for bakers, as they can keep it on hand without worrying about spoilage.
Texture Enhancement: The proteins present in milk powder, mainly casein, contribute to the structure and texture of bread, resulting in a better crumb structure, a softer, more tender, and uniform texture. The addition of milk increases the elasticity of the dough and helps in retaining the shape and firmness of the loaf.
Flavor Improvement: Milk powder brings a unique and pleasant flavor to the bread. It adds a subtle dairy note and a touch of sweetness, enhancing the overall taste profile of the baked bread. In regard to flavor, you may wish to read my article on the reasons behind bread’s lack of taste.
Crust Browning: Lactose, which is present in milk powder, is a non-fermentable sugar that remains in the dough after fermentation. During the baking process, lactose participates in Maillard reactions, contributing to crust browning.
Prolonged Shelf Life: The proteins and sugars in milk powder act as natural preservatives, extending the shelf life of bread. This helps keep the bread fresh and moist for a longer period. Milk proteins help create a softer and more tender crumb, which tends to retain its texture and freshness for a longer time compared to bread made without milk powder.
In conclusion, while milk powder does not directly contribute to the rise of bread, it offers numerous benefits in bread baking. It enhances the texture, flavor, and shelf life of the final product.
The key factors responsible for bread rising are yeast activity, proper gluten development, hydration, fermentation time and conditions, and careful dough handling.
Milk powder enriches the bread with essential nutrients, provides convenience and shelf stability, improves texture and flavor, aids in crust browning, and prolongs shelf life. Whether you choose full-fat or skimmed milk powder, its addition to bread recipes can elevate the quality of baked goods.