Recipe: Carnation Milk Bread

The Story of Carnation Milk, Booklet, 1915. Things Made with Carnation Milk .

As mentioned in the last post on a 1915 Carnation Milk booklet, the recipes included are adaptations of conventional contemporary favorites such as Perfection Salad, Welsh Rarebit, and Macaroni and Cheese. The bread recipe below includes detailed instruction but omits information about oven temperature and baking time, suggesting that such information would have been understood. The adapted version produces only one loaf and omits the boiling water, using the milk as the only liquid. The resulting loaf is very soft and tasty- delicious plain or toasted, with butter and rhubarb jam.

Carnation Milk Bread, from "The Story of Carnation Milk"
Makes 3 small loaves and a dozen small rolls

1 cup Carnation Milk
2 Tbs shortening
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
3 cups boiling water
1 yeast cake
1/2 cup lukewarm water
11 to 12 cups (even) flour

Measure Carnation Milk, shortening, sugar, and salt into bowl; pour on the boiling water; stand until lukewarm.
Add the yeast which has been dissolved in the lukewarm water; stir in as much flour as dough will take up, and turn upon bread board.
Knead 15 to 25 minutes, adding additional flour as needed. Put in mixing bowl and cover; set to rise; when risen to double original size, turn on floured board, cut into loaves, kneading only to give shape. Let rise in pans to double size and bake.

5 o'clock teaspoon Adapted Milk Bread
Makes 1 standard loaf

1 cup evaporated milk, plus more for brushing
1 tsp yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbs butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 to 3 cups all purpose flour

Grease a standard-size metal loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 1"-2" border. Pour 1/4 cup warm (almost hot) water in a large, non-reactive bowl and sprinkle yeast over surface of the water. Give it a little swirl so that the yeast dissolves. Gently heat evaporated milk and butter in a saucepan until lukewarm and the butter has dissolved. Pour into bowl, and stir in sugar, salt and 2 cups of flour. Continue to add flour about 1/2 cup at a time until the dough will not take more. Turn on a floured surface and knead 5-7 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth, soft, and no longer sticky. Place in a large bowl covered by a damp cloth and set in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Once dough has risen, gently form into a loaf shape, place in greased loaf tin, cover, and set to rise, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375°F. Once loaf has more or less doubled, brush with a little evaporated milk or butter and place in center of oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown.
*To be sure the bread is done, lift from pan by pulling on the parchment border. Insert a bamboo grilling skewer through the middle at an inconspicuous spot. If it comes out clean, the loaf is ready.

A reader submitted the following wonderful adaptation of the recipe for use with bread machines:

Carnation Milk Bread Adapted For Bread Machines
Prep Time: 15 | Cook Time: 3 hours | Servings: 1 1-1/2 pound loaf | Difficulty: Easy


3/8 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 package)
1 1/2 cup evaporated milk (1 can)
1 1/2 Tbs butter
3 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour


Sprinkle yeast on top of warm water and then swirl
Heat milk to 100° (30 seconds in microwave, then stir)
Stir in sugar, salt, yeast mixture
Pour into bread machine
Measure flour into bread machine
Set machine to light crust setting if it has one

Notes: Warm means 98°–105°

See also, Selling Milk Between the Wars" Two Pre-WWII U.S. Milk Industry Booklets, Part 1

Selling Milk Between the Wars: Two Pre-WWII U.S. Milk Industry Booklets
Part I

Carnation Milk

Pacific Coast Condensed Milk Company. 1915. "The Story of Carnation Milk" (promotional booklet). 32pp. Illustrated, with some color illustrations. Printed by the American Lithographic Co., NY.

Although first available in the mid-19th century, it took almost a century before canned milk became a trusted product. Booklets such as this one, published in 1915 by Carnation Milk, attempted to gain the public's interest and trust by offering scientific evidence in support of the product and providing favorite recipes adapted to work with evaporated milk. Printed just two years before the inauguration of the American Dairy Science Association, this booklet represents a moment when commodities such as milk became part of an agro-industry structure with a much larger distribution facilitated by improvements to the nation's infrastructure. Elbridge Amos Stuart launched the Carnation brand with a sterilized cream product in 1899. Using a controlled source of milk from the cows on his Seattle dairy farm, Stuart developed the slogan "Carnation Milk, From Contented Cows," creating an image that combines modern, exacting production methods with time-tested knowledge.

The booklet's cover shows a young woman and child looking over a bucolic landscape dotted with grazing cows framed by a backdrop of trees and mountains, fusing the majesty of natural monuments with agricultural industry. The vista is not simply eye-catching, however. It encapsulates the central theme presented in the booklet-- an ideal American way of life challenged by a changing post-World War I environment.

The Story of Carnation Milk, Booklet, 1915. Front Cover.

The "story" opens by describing the product as an essential part of life, and situating it within an idyllic, all but lost, simpler time:
Milk is a necessity. It is a universal food from infancy to old age. It forms part of the sustenance of human beings. In the good old days, practically every family "kept a cow." Towns and cities were not crowding people out of their own pastures and gardens. With the growth of the country industrially, the milk problem became different. People began buying milk from their neighbors, or of some one who had a farm and kept several cows. Life became more complex, cities were built more closely. It became impossible to know where the milk came from, and often it was just as impossible to know what kind of milk it was."

The text thus recalls the past to legitimize a new corporate product that is championed as a scientific advancement, brought about as an answer to the ills of modern urban life.

It is clear that the booklet is aimed at female consumers, most likely housewives in charge of purchasing and preparing family meals. It is their domestic knowledge that the booklet attempts to impress itself upon and yet, the way the milk production process is described is distinctly undomestic-- a mechanized, scientific application overseen by "careful, experienced men." The booklet is aimed at convincing housewives that evaporated milk is not only comparable to regular milk, but superior because of its unique, creamy taste and long shelf life:

Milk is a fundamental in cooking. Flour, eggs, butter, milk, and sugar--these are among the articles consumed in the greatest volume in the home. Naturally, the milk supply has the most opportunity to deteriorate in quality or become contaminated. Raw milk, as every housewife knows, seems to absorb odor and contaminating influences from everything about it, hence it is a delicate article of commerce, and the greatest care and caution often fails to protect it while in the raw state.

In this way, the information promotes evaporated milk by characterizing the housewife as incapable of anticipating the hazards of raw milk, much like the PET Milk powder pamphlet, mentioned in an earlier post.

The Story of Carnation Milk, Booklet, 1915. Back Cover.

Carnation used the idea that its products were available in grocery stores across the country, proffering the slogan "Your grocer is the Carnation milkman." In this modern industrialized setting, such products were conflated with, and became emblematic of, the United States as a whole. Milk companies were no longer tied to any one region. A 1920 advertisement for Carnation Milk in Montana's Times-Optimist suggests the convenience offered by evaporated milk over milking a cow: "Three times a day is not too often for it [milk] to feature on the menu (July 9, 1920). Despite, or perhaps because of efforts to portray evaporated milk as a technological advancement, the booklet's recipes are very conventional, with an emphasis on economy and the habits of the day. As noted on page 8, "Carnation may be poured into an earthen pitcher and used in the same manner as cream and milk..." Yet the booklet is careful to prepare consumers for the differences found in evaporated milk, "Do not expect Carnation Milk to taste like ordinary raw milk. It is better milk, and it will taste differently to you. Most people like the taste at once; others find that they must acquire the liking for it by using three or four cans."

The Story of Carnation Milk, Booklet, 1915. Recipes.

Carnation was eventually bought by Nestle in 1985 but the brand name is still in use today. While evaporated milk fell out of favor in the United States, as expanded infrastructure, improved pasteurization methods, refrigeration, and large scale dairy farming made fresh milk safe and easily accessible, it remains a popular choice in baking and as a creamer in coffee and tea, and continues to be an important milk source overseas, particularly in warm climates.

Coming next: A Recipe for Carnation Milk Bread from the Carnation Milk booklet and,
in Part II a 1937 booklet by milk conglomerate Borden-Wieland, "Delicious Dairy Dishes," presented by Crowley's Milk Company, Inc.

See also: "My Pet Cup": PET Milk and the Business of Feeding Babies