Once universally hailed as wholesome and healthy, the jury is out on milk as nutritionists advocate non-dairy substitutes.
Text by Philippa Ho, photos by Samantha Sin
Special thanks to Allure Living, Great, Little Giant, Just Green, Mushroom, Pantry Magic and Pan-handler
1. Goat’s milk
The chemical make-up of goat’s milk is closer to human milk than cow’s milk, which makes it easier to digest and assimilate. Sweet and salty, the milk is an acquired taste and undeniably tangy when heated, making it suited for recipes with an acidic finish such as citrus, berry and chocolate flavour profiles.
2. Rice milk
Fortified rice milk ensures you’re getting the right nutrients since naturally, it is lacking in calcium and protein. Thin, low in fat and the most hypoallergenic of all milks, its sweeter taste is best with cereal or in coffee, and it’s a fine dairy-free substitute for muffins, cookies and bread – so don’t fret over consistency, and get baking.
3. Almond milk
Lusciously creamy, almond milk has a deeply satisfying texture suitable for purées, puddings and smoothies. It has a rich taste, is cholesterol free, low in saturated fat and packed with nutrients. Choose fortified almond milk for sufficient calcium, vitamins D and B12, and avoid brands with additives and sweeteners.
4. Strawberry milk
Like liquid candy, sweet flavoured milks come in a rainbow of colours. As well as classic chocolate, there’s lime, strawberry, banana or papaya. However, the flavour comes from added sugar and mostly artificial additives, which is why Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is fighting for unadulterated white milk to be brought back to school lunches.
5. Hokkaido milk
From the dairy heartland of Japan, Hokkaido milk is adored worldwide for its fresh, creamy but light natural flavour that sets it apart. Those who have tried it know how tricky it is to describe, but there’s something about Hokkaido milk that brings a special element to bread, butter, tofu, desserts and even beer.
6. Malted soy milk
Controversy rages over soy’s hormonal effects and the abundance of genetically modified soybeans. But it’s not all bad: its phytoestrogens balance hormone levels in menopausal women and reduces the risks of prostate cancer in men. Soymilk curdles when boiled so heat carefully. Don’t try to whip it as there’s not enough fat content to fluff up. This version contains malt for added flavour.
7. Oat milk
Resembling skimmed cow’s milk in flavour and consistency, milk made from oats promotes skin health and lowers cholesterol levels. It’s a pleasing alternative for those who dislike nut milks. Little bits of oat fibre give a lovely subtle fragrance of warm oats cooking on the stove – good for the heart and digestion.
Buttermilk is a fermented drink made by adding lactic acid to regular milk, which gives a slightly sour taste. Its acidity is a baker’s dream, lifting, lightening and leavening baked goods. Buttermilk also helps tenderise meat. It is used to treat gallstones because of its low fat content.
9. Hemp milk
Made from the seeds of the same plant as marijuana, hemp is rich in omega-3 and -6 fats and all 10 essential amino acids, minus the psychoactive component of cannabis. So while you cannot get high on hemp milk, its nutty flavour in a stack of fluffy pancakes is sure to make you feel merry. A chocolate version is extra tempting.
10. Coconut milk
As coconuts age, the water solidifies into its flesh, which is pressed for milk. A staple in Thai and Indian curries and soups, creamy coconut milk also makes great pancakes and can bring back the decadence to banana bread and other vegan bakes. The carton versions of coconut milk are typically more watered down than the dense, canned varieties.
11. Condensed milk
Not to be confused with evaporated milk, condensed milk undergoes a similar process but is sweetened with 45 per cent sugar. Sticky-sweet in candies, puddings and pies, condensed milk takes Hong Kong-style French toast to a whole new level. Dip, drizzle or stir into coffee to enjoy its thick syrupy goodness.
12. Milk powder
Fluid milk lasts days, but powdered milk lasts months. For a quick calcium kick, add a couple of spoonfuls to a smoothie, soup, gravy or hot cocoa. Milk powder is a hero in baking when liquid milk renders too thin, giving us delightfully sweet Indian treats like rasgulla milk balls and chum chum.