KP+: Milk and Cookies
Cold milk > Hot tea: A simple pleasure backed by science (really!)
Considering how much I harp on about loving biscuits, I’m not a big hot drink dunker.
For me, cups of tea and biscuits should be seen as entirely individual drink / snack entities. Though I do enjoy biscuits and tea at the same time, dunking just doesn’t appeal to me. Sure, a melted chocolate hobnob can be satisfying, but it’s definitely rare for me.
But this isn’t to say that dunking is completely out of my wheelhouse. I am a dunker. But I’m a cold milk dunker. Maybe that’s rare for a British person (and maybe it’s revealing that I’ve ended up dating an American for the last six years - the US surely is the home of the milk and cookie dunkers) but it’s always been the way. When I had a hard day at school - and when I was 14 that was *most days* - I’d always come home and Carole, our nanny, would make me plate of ice cold milk and biscuits. Though you might think the shiny red packeted Maryland Cookies would be the obvious choice here, it was usually a mixture of chocolate digestives and hobnobs.
Maybe it’s something about the better absorption control, maybe it’s the fact there’s less risk of losing the biscuit to the depth of the mug, but I love the gently wet tenderness of a biscuit dunked in cold milk, compared to the soggy wetness of a biscuit dunked in hot tea. I’m not here to yuck your yum, but it just ain’t for me.
Before you get your boxing gloves out, and because this is the Kitchen Projects newsletter, OF COURSE there is some science to back this up.
The science of the dunk
Let me introduce you to Dr Len Fisher, a decorated scientist / author and blogger based in the UK and Australia. I stumbled across his blog when I started googling things like “Am I weird to dunk digestives in milk?”
In what I can only imagine was the greatest experiment of all time (and yes, I will be reaching out to Len and asking him to involve me should he ever repeat this study), Dr Len lead a team of scientists at Nottingham University to undercover the science of biscuit dunking. This research, which earned him an ‘IG Nobel prize’, a satiric prize established in 1991 to celebrate ‘trivial or usual’ scientific studies, revealed that the ultimate dunking drink was not, to the surprise and outrage of many, a cup tea. It’s cold milk.
In fact, it was cold chocolate milk that produced the best results.
If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you’ll know that I’m all about fat = flavour. And though fat does have it’s own inherent flavour, it’s important to remember that fat also carries flavour and helps prolong our experience of it. Who doesn’t want flavours to last longer, especially when there’s biscuits involved?! With the help of a milky drink, the flavour of a biscuit is amplified some ten times compared to if you were to eat it dry.
Dr Len explains it well: “Milk is essentially fat droplets suspended in water and those fat droplets stay around in your mouth and they hang on to the flavour in the biscuit so that the aroma can be released up to the back of your nose. That’s what you detect as flavour with your brain.”
With the addition of cocoa fats in chocolate milk, the experience is even further enhanced. As a Nesquick chocolate milk kid, I can happily agree. You might be interested to know that Dr Len and his team tested over 200 biscuit and drink combinations to find the optimal dunking conditions.
The dunking 4-1-1
After two months of research and the testing of more than 200 biscuit and drink combinations, using “high-tech” technology (bearing in mind this was pre millenium, people!) like the so-called “NoseSpace machine” and lots and lots of blotting paper to chart the result, the study found that:
Digestives (chocolate and original) release 11 times more flavour with chocolate milk.
Hobnobs release eight times more flavour with hot milk.
Jaffa Cakes release seven times more flavour with orange juice or squash.
Ginger Nuts release four times more flavour with cold milk.
Caramels release three times more flavour with hot chocolate.
In a revelation that you may find upsetting, Dr Len’s research also revealed that tea and coffee are incredibly poor dunking companions. The hot drink has the effect of washing the flavour away completely, rather than enhancing it. But don’t worry, here’s something you might find a bit more reassuring: It’s actually lemonade that scored rock bottom for biscuit dunking. So, if that was on your list of things to try, you probably don’t need to make it a priority.
Until writing this piece, almost 20 years post my peak cold milk and biscuits dunking era, I had no idea that there was science to back me up all along! Dr Len Fisher has climbed straight to the top of my heroes list. Don’t you worry, I’ll definitely be exploring his archive to see what other gems await me.
This all leads me to today’s recipe: Milk and cookie combos. In a different life, I’d open up a cookie / biscuit shop with piles and piles of buttery golden discs that I’d match with a variety of milks to dip. But for now, these recipes will have to do. Of course, unflavoured classic milk - dairy or otherwise works perfectly, but it’s quite fun to mix it up a bit.
I’m excited about the biscuit base for today’s recipe. It’s pretty simple, sable style biscuit (buttery, enriched with yolk) with a little raising agent to encourage a lighter texture than standard shortbread. The result is a rich biscuit with a good combination of crunch and crumble that withstands good dunk into milk. The base of each biscuit is the same but I’ve switched up the mix-in to suit the flavoured milk. The biscuits spread when they bake, creating a gloriously irregular batch of golden biscuits.
First up is a salted chocolate chip butter biscuit and paired with a rich chocolate milk. I first served this brown sugar chocolate milk at a pop-up last year - it has a stable combination of cocoa powder and actual chocolate in the syrup which makes it a well-rounded combo. The exact proportion of chocolate syrup to milk I’ll leave up to you.
Second up is a strawberry milk with a white chocolate and fennel biscuit. I’ve always held a soft spot for strawberry milk and this oven roasted/stove top syrup combo makes good use of less flavourful but early season strawberries. If you ever pick up a punnet and find yourself a bit disappointed, look no further than a batch of this syrup. It can be used, as we do here, to make strawberry milk, but it could also be used in cocktails or served over ice cream. We are an equal opportunities syrup fan club here at KP!
Ok, let’s make them!