If you’ve ever made a hot drink and then added a plant ‘milk’ to it, you will know that there is an instant ‘curdle’ that forms. When cooking with plant ‘milks’ it’s very easy to run into this problem. Here is how to solve it.
1) Make the two liquids a similar temperature
Adding two fluids that are the same temperature will stop the plant ‘milk’ from curdling.
2) Whisk the mixture
If you are adding a plant ‘milk’ to a hot mix, heat your plant ‘milk’ as much as possible (remembering that different plant ‘milks’ will have different cooking-points) and whisk the mixture the whole way through. This will ensure that your plant ‘milk’ matches the temperature of the receiving mixture at a reasonable pace.
3) Add the warmer element to the cooler mixture (instead of vice versa)
When making a tea, it is common to add cold plant ‘milk’ to hot water or fluid. In cooking, a way around the curdling effect is to add the hotter mixture very slowly (while stirring or whisking) to the cooler mixture.
Mixing the two substances in this way will help them reach a similar temperature in a similar time scale and reduce the chances of the curdling effect.
4) Know how plant ‘milks’ respond to temperature
Different plant ‘milks’ will respond differently to heat.
This reaction to heat is known as the ‘smoke point’, and often refers to the point at which the fat in the milk will de-nature.
The smoke point is dictated by the composition and volume in the fat within the milk.
You may have already noticed that Oat ‘Milk’ is more tolerant of heat than a nut-based counterpart like Almond, for example.
The reason for this difference in heat response is that there is more fat in Almond ‘Milk’ than Oat ‘Milk’. Because fat and oil react to heat extremely quickly (compared to water), the more fat available in the milk the more sensitive it becomes to heat.
There are also other properties that plant ‘milks’ have which also react to heat.
For the purpose of cooking with plant ‘milks’, controlling the curdling effect is very much about understanding the temperature your milk can tolerate. The protein content of the milk on the other hand, will dictate how foamy your milk is able to get.
As a rough guide, here are the temperatures the three most popular plant ‘milks’ will tolerate, before they lose their milk-like qualities (and a whole load of nutritional value, too).
Almond ‘Milk’: under 65°C
Oat ‘Milk’: keep under 65° C
Coconut Milk: keep under 60° C