The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why the skimmed milk powder?

marc_holmes's picture

Why the skimmed milk powder?

My son has been diagnosed as lactose intolerant, yet all the recipes I can find recommend using dry skimmed milk powder.

 Yet shop-bought bread doesn't list milk as an ingredient.

 Can anybody explain why?

(sorry if this is obvious but I'm new to this breadmaking game).

sphealey's picture

Milk powder gives a softer, more even crumb. I would estimate the vast majority of bread machine users prefer softer crumb so the bread machine makers put it in their recipes to help ensure their customers get the results they want.

You can just leave it out. If you want a softer crumb and the recipe doesn't already call for oil you can add 1-2 tbs of vegetable oil (canola for flavorless; olive oil if you like the resulting flavor).

I would suggest just trying the recipe with no milk powder and seeing what happens. In my experience with 2 tsp of yeast a bread machine will produce an edible result out of anything up to concrete mix ;-)


marc_holmes's picture


 Concrete mix, eh? Now I know what to use when I want to build that garage extension...

mareofearth's picture

Beware Canola Oil. To a percentage of the population, Canola Oil has no smell, but tastes like rotten fish. (genetic variation in humans)

Thought I would warn you. I baked a lovely yellow cake with chocolate frosting - smelled great! Then I took a bite....... :$ EEwwwwwwwwwww!



raisdbywolvz's picture

Marc, I don't know if I'm typical or not, but I'll offer this anyway. I have problems with lactose in the form of milk and ice cream, but when I cook with milk I have no reaction. Since I can't drink milk, I don't keep it in the fridge because I can't cook with it fast enough to use it up. Instead, I keep dry milk in the pantry and use it in recipes that call for milk. I'm no scientist so I can't tell you what's going on, but cooking with milk seems to destroy whatever it is that reacts badly in my system.

Having said that, I have friends who can't take milk in any form.

I understand that some people outgrow the intolerance, especially if they have the intolerance when young. I became lactose intolerant when I was pregnant with my daughter. Twenty-six years later, I'm slowly becoming less intolerant.

Good luck to you and your son!


marc_holmes's picture

Thanks, I think I'll try and follow that up via some scientific googling.

 Or I may even just try it out on him.

Thankfully the only bad effect that the milk/lactose has on him at this stage is that it makes changing his nappy a very messy job!


Ramona's picture

I would suggest using potato water for the liquid.  This will help with the texture that the milk is used for.  

raisdbywolvz's picture

Hey Marc, just saw a YouTube video on making naan, and the recipe called for yogurt. You might want to try that, too. The bacteria in it can help with digestion. I've never had trouble keeping yogurt down, even during my most lactose-intolerant years. And I remember that we gave it to the girl-child when she was a baby with colic and it stopped the colic.

Another thing that helps is chocolate. It contains something (lactase? I think that's it) that helps with the digestion of lactose.

And while the milk police might hunt me down for saying this, milk that went straight from the cow to the fridge then to the table (I spent some time on a dairy farm) never came back up on me like homogenized milk always did, leading me to believe that homogenization is the main culprit in lactose intolerance.


jaykay's picture

Although this is two years late, I thought I would add some information, since I found this page via the top of a google search "milk powder in bread".

It is not so much the homogenisation process that interferes with milk too much, it's the pasteurisation process (heat treating) which damages the cultures and enzymes. Raw unpasteurised milk has a lot of good bacteria in it (unless it has been contaminated somehow). If kept past it's usefulness, unpasteurised milk goes sour rather than going bad, and it can be used to make pancakes and other things. It's the bacteria that consumes the lactose and turns it into lactic acid, making it sour. There are also enzymes that are destroyed by the heat of pasteurisation which are beneficial for humans (and calves incidentally) to break down lactose in the stomach.

From my own personal research I have read accounts that many lactose intolerant individuals are able to consume raw, unpasteurised milk. So, raisdbywolvz, this is probably why the good, fresh, unpasteurised milk you consumed didn't affect you. Unpasteurised milk is illegal to sell in many western nations though because of our irrational fear of "food poisoning". For more information do a search of "benefits of unpasteurised milk" in your favourite search engine.

Tuppence's picture

Thanks for this thread.
I am trying to feed an elderly Vegan who very nearly died of malnutrition when mobility issues reduced him to foraging at his local corner shop. I now take him regular food parcels of trusted Vegan brands from Sainsbury.

I have a breadmaker and with this advice at least I can get him decent Vegan bread.

Unpasteurised milk is legal in England subject, but to strict conditions. This page sets out both the rules and the science in plain language:

Fear of food poisoning can indeed be irrational both because it stops us building up natural immunity, and because it helps bacteria outsmart our treatments. However once one gets frail and elderly (which I fully intend to do myself) the balance of risks alters and it becomes well worth avoiding anything that could have disease bacteria in it.

tabasco's picture

Slightly off the original topic question, but I wanted to add that there is such a thing as 'Baker's Special Dry Milk' (sold by KA, Prepared Pantry and other places online) that is slightly different from the regular dry skim milk sold at the grocery.  Although I don't know anything about how it would affect lactose intolerant individuals.

This milk (often used by professional bakers) will produce a very nice high-rising loaf of bread, a loaf said to be higher and lighter than that using normal dry milk.  Prepared Pantry's description says: 

"High-heat treated dry milk is a nonfat milk product but it has been produced at higher temperatures to destroy certain enzymes naturally found in milk. These enzymes in milk will degrade the gluten structure in bread dough. Because of this, commercial bakeries nearly always use high-heat treated dry milk in their yeasted products.

And here is KA's take on it:

At first I thought this was just marketing hype, but after our family tried it we all agreed it improved  our 'ordinary white bread' in looks and in taste.  It's expensive though so we are careful about when we use it.  And I can't find it locally at all (not even at the Amish stores) and have to buy it online.




thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

It's almost twice the price of Bob's Redmill Nonfat Dried Milk, which is $5.54/lb, which itself is more expensive than most other milk powders.

I note that they say nothing about what makes it "special", so call me suspicious at this point, particularly because the only ingredient listed is Nonfat Dry Milk.

I suppose there are special ways of processing non-fat milk (heat-treating, etc.), but I can't think of anything that would justify the price of that product.

tabasco's picture


Intereseting point, Thomas.  But I don't think Bob's Red Mill Nonfat Dried Milk is quite the same product as high heat treated 'Baker's Dried Milk' about which I was speaking, so it's hard to compare pricing. (Perhaps you could call BDM a 'boutique' ingredient~~smaller production and scarcity for the home baker result in higher prices?).  Anyway, in my experience, Baker's DM makes a slightly different loaf of bread and we can actually tell the difference (which is pretty unusual for the palates of most members of my family!)

Bob's is like Sanalac and other grocery store dried milk which can be reconstituted for drinking, etc., as far as I can see on the label. And I think the high heat treament of the Bakers' Dried Milk makes it basically undrinkable.  At least they say it's not for dissolving/drinking.

And I agree. Bob's will work very nicely in bread baking and is of course, money saving in comparison to Bakers' DM. 

Chuck's picture

"Scalding" fresh milk before putting it in bread does the same thing as making milk powder with the "high-heat" process (denature the enzymes that would otherwise interfere with gluten). Bread books frequently mention this. Some bakers swear by the special dried milk, even to the point of never ever using "regular" dried milk in their doughs; others have decided that although it's better, it's not enough better to be worth the added cost. (After all, it's not as though "regular" dried milk dough won't rise at all clearly will.)

If a supermarket carries bakers dried milk at all, it will be shelved with the baking ingredients, not with the beverages next to the dried milk for drinking. Because it's an uncommon item, prices vary a whole lot, so "smart shopping" is a good idea.

(Dried milk produced by the "high-heat" process is noticeably harder to dissolve. Although this is not an issue for baking, it's sometimes the most obvious clue as to what's what: if the package says "instant", it's not high-heat process dried milk for baking.)


(BTW, so far as I know bakers dried milk has nothing to do with lactose intolerance. The relevant enzyme -lactase- is [or isn't:-] in your body, not the milk. Anyway, the amount of lactose you'd get from eating a slice of bread is small enough it's often [not always] well under the tolerance level of even someone who is "lactose intolerant".)

tabasco's picture

After I posted about BDM and its expense, I googled around and did see that it was available in bulk.  Priced at about $127 to $140 for a fifty pound bag.  We go thru it pretty quickly although I don't think I can justify 50 pounds of it.

I should buy the big bag though and then divide it up into small portions to sell.  I could make a mint!

The one big advantage of the BDM aside from the flavor is convenience for those of us who don't keep bottled milk around and like to bake with yeast.