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In a bread machine bread recipe, why is milk powder included? And is milk powder needed?

I have baked several loaves without milk powder. When the bread is baking sometimes the loaf collapses with a 'crater' depression of about 3 cm.

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2 Answers 2

Milk or milk powder are not strictly needed in bread recipes. There are many formulas that omit it: the minimal ingredients for a loaf are water, flour and yeast; salt is probably essential for a loaf that is tasty.

Milk (or milk powder) is a way of enhancing the dough to:

  • Make a softer loaf (due to the milkfat acting as a tenderizer by interfering with gluten production)
  • Add flavor to the loaf
  • Enhance browning of the crust due to the potential carmelization of the milk sugars

The use of milk powder as opposed to liquid milk may be just for convenience, or because there is sufficient hydration in the loaf from other reasons, so it avoids adding additional water as part of the milk.

You may choose to omit the milk powder, but you will lose its benefits. Instead, I suggest you find one of the myriad bread recipes designed for bread machines that doesn't include it if you don't want to use it.

The cratering issue is likely to be unrelated to milk or milk powder.

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Enzymes, like glutathione, in unscalded milk or low-heat powdered milk can lead to weakened gluten structure and could be related to the OPs collapse issue. High-heat dry milk (aka Baker's dry milk) is used by pros to get the benefits elaborated by @SAJ14SAJ, without weakening the gluten structure. –  Didgeridrew Sep 26 '13 at 16:51
So is the effect ameliorated by scalding the milk? I ask specifically because I'm making bread tomorrow and I'd really rather use scalded milk than milk powder. –  Jolenealaska Sep 27 '13 at 5:17
Yes, scalding the milk (bringing it to at least 180˚F) denatures the enzymes. –  Didgeridrew Sep 30 '13 at 3:02

In the manual for my bread machine, the use of milk powder was said to be because the machine might be set to cook hours later via the timer and having the milk sitting on the counter for hours might lead to spoilage.

If you decide to use milk when making bread right away, you probably should reduce the water added an equivalent amount.

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Almost equivalent. Don't forget that the milk contains solids too. The difference for a single loaf between milk, and milk solids (powder) plus water would be almost impossible to measure by weight (which is the only way to measure that makes sense)...but I'll try tomorrow! –  Jolenealaska Sep 27 '13 at 5:53

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