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I have a recipe for rolls where 1/4 cup cubed butter is added to 2 cups of warm milk. The butter / milk mixture is added to proofed active dry yeast, and then a cup or so of flour is added to get the yeast started.

My problem is that preparing the milk and butter mixture always seems to take too long. My kitchen seems to be too cold for room temperature milk to take in the butter without clumping. Then it's a huge hassle to put the milk/butter mixture on the stovetop and heat it until it's warm but not curdled.

What are some easy techniques to help the milk come to room temperature (or a little above) faster? Can I melt the butter in the microwave, and then put that in the milk?

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3 Answers 3

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I would put the milk in a glass, and then put that glass in a large pot filled with warm water, this should help get the milk up to temp quickly with out haveing to worry about going over. When ever I use yeast i always shoot for around 100 F. Since body temp is 98.6, just stick your finger (clean finger) in the liquid and if it feels slightly warm you should be good to go.

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I usually warm milk in the microwave to the top of the approved temperature for yeast (about 110 degrees F). I tell by the finger test, which is where I stick a clean finger in the milk and if I get too hot after a few seconds, the milk is too hot as well. If it's just comfortable, it's the right temperature. You can cross-check with a thermometer. I then add butter that has been cubed quite small from the fridge. The warm milk will warm it. Another friend always warms her butter with the milk in the microwave, flipping steps.

With my bread I usually add my yeast to the milk/butter mixture, although it sounds like you are proofing it in warm water already.

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Normally milk is scalded before being used in bread. So if you did that, your milk would be plenty warm to melt the butter. You'd be waiting for it to cool instead, though. Trick here would be that part of your water content can be ice, to cool the milk. Alternatively, submerge the cup in ice-water (~32°F), ice-brine (~0°F) if you're really in a hurry. Polypropylene, for example, will not mind this temperature shock.

Alternatively, if you aren't going to scald it, just heat it in the microwave. Heat part of the milk and then bring it back down under 115°F by adding cold milk. Ideally, you'll hit the 110±5°F window when you have the right amount of milk, but if you wind up with too much milk, you can just drink the extra.

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I don't scald the milk. Isn't the purpose of scalding the milk only for killing bad microbes? –  KatieK Dec 21 '10 at 22:01
    
@KatieK: No, its also for inactivating enzymes & proteins. –  derobert Dec 22 '10 at 21:45

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