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Baking with Sweetened Condensed milk... do you need to refrigerate?

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Do you need to refrigerate bar cookies that were already baked.. but contain sweetened condensed milk?

Thanks for your help. Online I found both 'yes' answers and 'no' answers...

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  1. It would depend on what kind of recipe you're talking about. What are you thinking of making? Something like seven-layer/magic bars doesn't need refrigeration, but something with a custardy layer made with eggs or cream cheese and SCM would, for example.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

      yes, I wouldn't be too nervous, but it would depend on the amount (and types) of dairy used. I usually respond with a devil-may-care approach, but ehh refrigerate for now until a more definitive response is gained. a short period of un-needed refrigeration won't hurt and I doubt 12 hours sealed on the counter would either (unless, as C McG considered, custard is involved).

      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

        I was thinking about making these bars to ship... so they might be in a box for 2-4 (or even 5?) days...

        (For some reason Sweetened Condensed Milk disgusts me like NO OTHER, so I have never used it and know nothing about it...)

        1. re: GraceW

          Hmmm, because it seems like a pretty moist recipe, I would probably ship it priority (2 days), almost more so because of the butter (melted butter goes bad more quickly than unmelted, which I assume has something to do with breaking down the fatty components).

          I wish I knew more about food science, but I don't think any of it is terribly risky per se. I just know that I wouldn't leave them unrefrigerated in warmer climates for more than two days. If you were shipping up north during winter months, I think you'd be fine.

          1. re: GraceW

            I'd be more concerned about bars like this holding up to the rigors of being shipped, than I would the safety of SCM.

            1. re: GraceW

              Oh, those are very like the seven-layer bars, except with fewer ingredients. Absolutely don't need refrigeration. Neither the SCM or the butter are a problem once they're baked.

              But you'd want to pack them carefully in a stiff box, tin, or plastic container with wax paper between the layers. On the other hand, I don't think they'd be great to eat after 5 days, so you might want to consider either making something long-keeping or choosing a faster shipping method.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                Thanks for the help and suggestions!

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  Agree. I would choose something else to ship, like some very good shortbread.

            2. I would definitely not refrigerate based on the condensed milk alone. There's so much sugar in it it acts as a sort of preservative--similar the way you don't have to refrigerate fruit jams with lots of sugar. The store-bought stuff unfortunately also has several other odd additives that probably help prevent against spoilage (which is why I make my own!). By itself, it should be refrigerated once opened, but don't worry if you've baked it into something.

              1. I would wrap them tightly and freeze them solid before shipping. It will help both preservation and holding up to being shipped.