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Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken
This myth has some basis in fact. Raw milk (milk that has not been pasteurized) contains enzymes that can interfere with the thickening action of milk and the rising of bread. The scalding destroys these enzymes. Today, almost all the milk that is sold has been pasteurized, a process of heating the milk to destroy bacteria. This has the same effect as scalding the milk, so by the time you buy the milk those nasty enzymes are already gone. Unless you milk your own cow, you can skip the scalding.
Scalding can however be beneficial if you are making yogurt or other cultured milk products. Even pasteurized milk contains some bacteria, and they can compete with the yogurt culture and affect the result. By heating milk to 180 degrees you eliminate most of these other organisms and give the desirable culture bacterial a clean slate to work with.