Can you substitute soy milk for regular milk in recipes?
Originally seen as a fringe hippie drink, soy milk has sales that have more than quadrupled in the past decade. In 1997, total sales were $156 million; in 2003, $652 million, according to the Soyfoods Association of America.
Nancy Chapman, SAA's executive director, said sales have been driven at least partly by consumers' growing awareness of soy milk's health benefits. "It provides a high-quality protein without the saturated fat and cholesterol of cow's milk," she said.
Unlike cow's milk, however, soy milk does not have a government-sanctioned "standard of identity." The SAA's definition of soy milk pertains mostly to the process by which soy milk is obtained, and the amounts of soy protein, soybean fat and soybean solids it may contain. The definition does not specify calories or the levels of fat, sugars, sodium or protein - or even what the ingredients beyond soybeans and water may be.
A recipe calling for whole milk is expecting a liquid with 146 calories per 8-ounce cup, with 8 grams of fat and 13 grams of sugar. A survey of seven unflavored soy milks, none of which were labeled low-fat or nonfat, turned up a calorie range of 90 to 140, grams of fat ranging from 2 to 6, and total sugars of anywhere from 1 to 9 grams.
So-called unsweetened soy milk usually contains only soybeans and water, but "plain" or "original" soy milks might contain sweeteners such as cane juice (i.e. sugar), brown-rice sweetener or malted wheat and/or barley extract. Plus carrageen as a thickener.
I would advise against substituting soy milk for cow's milk in a recipe where the chemistry is crucial - cakes, cookies, pies, custards, souffles, breads, etc. - unless you're willing to do some experimenting.
Rice pudding is a good application for soy milk. It's a very forgiving dish, and soy and rice have a long history together.
Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.