Last year a myriad of articles debating the benefits and risks of drinking unpastuerised milk coincided with my discovery of a raw milk stall, Hook & Sons, at Brockley Market. A couple of years before that, I had come across some recipes that used solidified milk skin as a substitute for butter in baking and was instantly intrigued. Now that I had a supply of unpasteurised milk so close to my flat, I started experimenting and wrote a recipe for the Hook & Sons website:
Raw milk is a hot topic at the moment. The Guardian has even hailed it as a revolution, and despite the hordes of foodies clamouring for it at farmers markets, the debate rages on about whether the claimed health benefits and superior taste are worth the risk of drinking something that has a health warning on the side of the bottle. It seems that whilst many of us are keen to experiment with this newly-available product, the rest are sticking firmly to the blue, green and red-topped bottles available in the supermarket.
After reading the Guardian article, I confess that I was intrigued. A couple of years ago I came across a blog post about baking with milk skin and was keen to try it out. The author claimed that unpasteurised milk was the best product to use due to its purer state and higher fat content. I tried to find unpasteurised milk but was told by my countryside-dwelling friends that it was only really available direct from the farms and, even then, the farmers were reluctant to sell it. So my search hit a dead end, until now. On Saturday I met with the seller from Hook & Sons at Brockley Market who told me that more and more people were buying unpastuerised dairy products for use in baking. The most popular was the unpasteurised buttermilk, which was actual buttermilk, unlike what you buy in the supermarket, which is simply a slightly soured and thickened milk. Many London restaurants have been using it to make their pancakes. He had, however, never heard of anybody baking with milk skin.
The idea behind this is that the milk skin recplaces the butter. The milk is boiled in a pan, the skin gently skimmed off and placed in a bowl to chill in the fridge for a couple of days until it takes on a butter-like consistency and slightly sour taste. The result is that the milk skin adds a certain amount of acidity to the cake, in the same way that a sourdough starter does to a loaf of bread.
Chocolate, Stem Ginger and Milk Skin Mini Loaves
- 1 litre of unpastuerised, full-fat milk
- 250ml double cream
- 100g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 160g plain flour
- 40g cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Pinch salt
- 30g stem ginger, finely chopped
- 30g chocolate chips
48 hours before you wish to bake, prepare the milk skin. Put the unpasteurised milk and the cream in a large, wide-bottomed pan and heat gently until it comes to a simmer. Whilst simmering, gently skim off the skin that forms on the top and collect in a clean bowl. Once you have collected the skin, cover the bowl with clingfilm and chill in the fridge until needed. The skin will be quite loose at this point, but will come together when chilled. You will need approximately 180g of chilled milk skin for this recipe. If you do not quite have this amount, you can make the rest up with softened unsalted butter.
Preheat the oven to 180ºc / 350ºf / gas 4. In the bowl of a free-standing mixer using the whisk attachment, cream together the milk skin and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated. If the mixture seems to separate at this point, keep whisking at it will come together. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and fold into the wet ingredients until just combined. Gently fold in the stem ginger and chocolate chips.
Spoon the mixture into mini-loaf cases, filling them three-quarters full. Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Makes eight mini loaves. More recipes with Hook & Sons unpasteurised dairy products can be found on their website here.