This is an update to making baked milk from my original post on Ryazhenka.
As I've mentioned here before, we recently obtained a slow cooker. We've been happily slow-cooking our way through a couple of cookbooks, trying this or that recipe on a whim and generally being pleased with the results. There've been a few duds, like the French Onion Soup That Wasn't, but by and large, the slow cooker has turned out to be an excellent decision.
Now that we're more experienced with it, we've been looking at some of our own recipes and considering whether or not it would be easier to accomplish in the slow cooker. Šķovēti kāposti, for example, does really well in the slow cooker with much less interaction, as does my father-in-law's original plovs recipe.
The great thing about a slow cooker is that it provides even, low heat for long periods of time and ideally, without you fussing about with it. Baked milk can be a real pain with an oven - if you move too fast, the milk will slosh and you'll have an awful mess on your hands.
Last night, we poured in most of a gallon of milk into the slow cooker. (Slow cookers work best if they're between half- and two-thirds-full. Ours is 5.5qt so we put in about 3qt.) We set it for 12 hours on LOW and went to bed.
In the morning, the milk wasn't quite ready. What takes about three to four hours in the oven takes much longer in the slow cooker. Then again, I don't have to worry about boiling over or high power costs. So we set it for another 2 hours for a total of 14 hours.
The plusses to using a slow cooker are that it is completely unattended, no hard skin forms on top of the milk and less burning happens. The downside is that it takes forever.
Still, after 14 hours, we had very good baked milk. We aren't trying for ryazhenka today, just wanted some sweet, caramelized milk to drink as a treat. It's not as sweet as oven-baked, mainly due to the lower evaporation rate achieved in slow cooking, but it certainly still works.
And considering that I don't run the risk of spending several hours of "quality time" scrubbing the oven, I'll take the lower evaporation rate happily.