What is a consistent method to froth milk if I do not have a steam wand? I have tried things like a whisk and an Aerolatte with mixed success.
Even with a steam wand, I prefer to use a French press looking device to froth my milk, and now that I broke it, a whisk. The idea is to inject small bubbles into cold milk and then microwave it to grow the bubbles. In the French press glass (or some other heat resistant and microwave proof container) fill a quarter high with cold milk, place the whisk handle between your palms and twirl it back in forth, frothing the milk. Place the milk in the microwave and heat on high. Watch it carefully as it will expand rapidly. As soon as it does, remove your frothed milk
I've used a french press with good success when a steam wand was not available. Pour some warm milk in and froth away. You're not going to get the same shimmery-silky texture that a steam wand will do, but it'll be pretty decent.
The combination of a wide surface area and lots of small holes is excellent for introducing lots of air into the milk and keeping the bubbles really fine.
Harold McGee outlines a suitably geeky way in On Food And Cooking:
- Put milk (the creamier the better) in a microwave-safe jar with a screw-top lid. (I use the plastic containers that attach to my food processor.) You need a decent amount -- more than a tablespoon -- but don't fill the jar more than half way.
- Put the lid on the jar and shake it vigorously for about half a minute, until it doubles in volume. This adds air bubbles to the milk (hence the increase in volume).
- Remove the lid and microwave on high for about 30 seconds. This stabilises the foam.
- Scoop the foam out of the jar with a spoon. There'll be some warm milk at the bottom, which you could add to the drink.
If you want an emergency tool (I used it to make cappuccinos when camping ), try to use a small plastic bottle: just put in 1/3 of milk and shake hard for 1-2 minutes. After all, the real problem to solve is to make small air bubbles in the milk. I noticed it works best with semi skimmed milk, maybe the higher proteins/lipids ratio is helping here. No difference whatsoever using cold (from fridge) or warm milk.