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Before it became a staple of fallout shelters and refugee camps – before it became just another gaggy memory of mid-century childhood – milk powder was the future of dairy.

"Powder Could Wipe Out Daily Milk Deliveries," a Globe and Mail headline predicted in January, 1955. Twenty years later, another story reported that sales of powdered milk were booming: They had grown by more than 30 per cent in just a year.

What all this ignored, of course, is how filmy and watery and powdery powdered milk tastes.

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But it has been popping up in the unlikeliest places lately – specifically, in two of the hottest restaurants on Earth. It turns out that the stuff tastes brilliant when you treat it right.

At New York's three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park, chef Daniel Humm adds powdered milk to browning butter to make a simple but gloriously rich and nutty-tasting garnish for dessert and fish. (It's almost worth buying the cookbook just for the recipe.)

And at Momofuku Milk Bar, also in New York, pastry chef Christina Tosi turns powdered milk into inspired white-trash eating: She tosses it with sugar, kosher salt, melted butter and Corn Flakes, then bakes the mixture at low temperature until it's crunchy and exquisitely creamy, with a "terrific baseline flavour," as Ms. Tosi calls it, that takes a couple of seconds to peg. (She serves the Corn Flake Crunch with her cereal milk panna cotta; I just ate it by the handful out of a bag.)

Ms. Tosi uses milk powder throughout her new cookbook, in fact: to add chew to cookies, to thicken ice cream, to give depth to graham-cracker crusts, to sweeten white chocolate.

But she won't touch it in its liquid form. "Do not use milk powder to make milk," Ms. Tosi writes. "I repeat: Do not add water and stir; it's gross."

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