If you’ve hung around here or my Instagram much, you’ll know I have a thing for toasted milk powder. It’s magical stuff, my secret weapon for injecting extra brown buttery, caramelly, hazelnutty flavor into baked goods.
If the concept is new to you, here’s a crash course. Milk powder is essentially a concentrated powder of milk solids, made by preheating, evaporating, and reheating milk. It’s a staple in my baking kit; I use it most often in my enriched sourdoughs to make extra tall and soft loaves (by increasing the protein and lactose without adding extra liquid).
I first came across the idea of toasting milk powder on Francisco Migoya’s old blog (sadly it’s no longer online), though have since read about it in older articles on other sites such as Ideas in Food. The concept is brilliant — by toasting milk powder, you’re able to add more of the tasty brown bits that give brown butter its flavor and aroma without adding additional fat or liquid! I do think toasted milk has its own unique taste, with hints of caramel and toasted nuts. It’s a special flavor that I’ve come to love, and am always thinking of new ways to include it in my bakes.
My latest obsession is this toasted milk ice cream. It truly is like no other ice cream flavor I’ve had, deceptively plain-looking but with an intriguingly rich flavor. I did tests with an added ripple of fudge and toyed with the idea of adding a milk jam or butterscotch swirl, but in the end I like it best on its own.
How to toast milk powder
I prefer to toast nonfat milk powder in either instant pot (pressure cooker) or the microwave for the most even and controlled results. (Please see my toasted milk banana cream pie post for instructions on those methods.) You can also toast milk powder as you would nuts, either in a dry saucepan on the stove, or in a single layer on a sheet pan in the oven at 325F, stirring often. Milk solids burn very easily, so either way make sure you stir often and keep an eye on it.
Note that I always use nonfat or skim milk powder as I only want to add the milk solids and not any additional fat to my recipes. While I have had readers say they’ve used toasted whole milk powder with success I personally have not tried it.
I went through quite a few tests chasing the perfect texture for this ice cream. I knew from previous recipes that toasted milk powder doesn’t always dissolve easily in milk products. I suspect this is because it’s not fat-soluble; but TBH I’m still fuzzy on the exact reasons because I have had some cases where it dissolved easily. (Unfortunately I can’t remember the exact brand of milk powder I was using.) Depending on the application, this might not be a big deal. For example, in my banana cream pie I didn’t have a problem with it because of all the other textures involved in that dessert.
However, for this ice cream, I really wanted something silky smooth. I thought just grinding down the milk powder really finely and straining out any big bits would work, but unfortunately it wasn’t that simple. I tried an immersion blender, a regular blender, blending cold, blending hot, double straining, etc. While blending helped some, in the end I could still detect some little granules and it was bumming me out.
Milk powder as an infusion
What finally worked for me was to treat milk powder like an infusion: I first heated the dairy with the toasted milk powder, let it infuse in the fridge overnight, then strained and made sure it was grit-free before mixing up my ice cream base. A regular sieve was not effective in straining out all the particles, but a double layer of cheesecloth does the trick perfectly!
Other ingredients for custard ice cream
I opted for a custard ice cream because I wanted that rich, slightly chewy texture from an egg yolk base. Most of the ingredients are common and self-explanatory, but a couple warrant a little explanation:
- Glucose or light corn syrup: Using an inverted sugar such as glucose or light corn syrup gives frozen desserts a more viscous, less icy texture. I almost always use it for a portion of the sweetener in my ice creams. Many people shy away from these products because they associate it with high fructose corn syrup. They are NOT the same thing; high fructose corn syrup is corn syrup that has been further treated to contain more fructose and is sweeter than regular corn syrup (or glucose). Check your local baking supply store or online for glucose; in my area corn syrup is available in most grocery stores. In a pinch you can replace the inverted sugar with the same weight of granulated sugar, though the ice cream will be more sweet and icy.
- Xanthan gum: Don’t let the name scare you — xanthan gum is just a natural gum that in this case works as a stabilizer, inhibiting the growth of ice crystals. Just a tiny bit drastically improves the texture and shelf life of homemade ice cream. I found mine at the local grocery store and online. If you can’t find xanthan gum, you can replace it with 5g of tapioca starch whisked with 20g cold milk. Stir this slurry into the custard base after it reaches temperature, before straining.
For the infused dairy:
- 440g whole milk
- 330g heavy cream (35%), plus more as needed
- 50g deeply toasted nonfat milk powder
For the toasted milk custard base
- 150g granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (optional but recommended for best texture)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 50g glucose or corn syrup
- 100g egg yolks (about 5 large)
- 700g infused dairy
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Infuse the dairy: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the milk, cream, and toasted milk powder. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently to prevent scorching, until steaming. Remove from heat, cover, and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate and allow to infuse for at least 12 but preferably 24 hours. (You can transfer to a smaller container, if needed.)
- Strain the dairy: When ready to cook the custard, strain and measure the infused dairy. Weigh the container or large measuring cup into which you will be straining the dairy. Place a fine mesh strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth over the container. Strain the dairy, then carefully gather up the sides of the cheesecloth and gently squeeze the saturated milk powder solids to eke out as much of the infused dairy as you can without letting any solids pass through. Discard the milk powder solids.
- Weigh the dairy: Now weigh the container with the infused dairy. Subtract the weight of the empty container, which will tell you how much dairy you now have. Add additional cream if needed to total 700g.
- Make the custard base: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, xanthan gum, and salt. Add the glucose and egg yolks and whisk until well combined. Stream in the infused dairy and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat, frequently stirring and scraping the pot with a flexible heat-resistant spatula, until the custard is hot to the touch and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (170-180F). Strain the custard into a heat-safe container and stir in the vanilla extract.
- Chill the custard base: Cover the container and refrigerate the custard until well-chilled. at least 4 hours. (If you're in a hurry, you can chill the custard over an ice bath.)
- Churn the custard base: Before churning, place a freezer-friendly container in your freezer (a loaf pan works well). Churn the chilled base according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve (for my machine this is about 20-25 minutes).
- Freeze the ice cream: Transfer ice cream to the chilled container. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it against the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm and scoopable. Ice cream will keep for up to 3 months, but good luck with that.
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Cuisinart ICE-21P1 1.5-Quart Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker
Cotton Farm Cheesecloth, Grade 100-9 Square Feet (36x36 inch), 100% Natural Unbleached Cotton, Food Grade
Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop
Wilton 707-2601 Glucose Syrup, 8.5 ounce, Package may vary
Bob's Red Mill, Xanthan Gum Powder, 8 oz
Augason Farms 100% Real Instant Nonfat Dry Milk