Friday, April 30, 2010

The beginning of my journey

Let’s step back to the beginning. No, NOT “In the Beginning. . . rather, the beginning of my journey into the world of cheese making.

As I mentioned before, I have always liked to cook. In recent years, the number of TV cooking shows has exploded and there is even a cooking channel devoted to, what else, cooking. (Go figure) In one episode of “Kitchen Nightmares”, Chef Ramsey taught a kitchen crew how to make mozzarella cheese for their Italian restaurant. While they didn’t show the actual process, I figured that if they were going to make fresh mozzarella everyday, it couldn’t be that hard or take very long. SOOOO, Geek George did what most geeks do and went to the Internet and started looking for recipes/instructions for making Mozz. I quickly learned that almost all roads to home cheese making leads to one place. The Cheese Queen, Rikki Carroll. (More later) It seemed that no matter where I went to find a cheese making kit for Mozzarella on the Internet, Rikki Carroll’s name was there and her “30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit” was the recommended path for beginning cheese makers.

It didn’t take long to part with the $24.95 plus shipping and anxiously await its arrival on my doorstep. I continued to read about cheese making and paid particular attention to milk selection. I don’t have a source (yet) for farm fresh milk so I am forced to use store bought. So far I have used whole milk from Winn Dixie, Publix and Wal-Mart. Due to the volume they sell; I have found the freshest is usually at Wal-Mart. Although Public is a close second and has one of their dairy plants nearby. (update: Friday Publix milk was dated for May 12, Saturday morning at Wal-Mart the milk was dated May 19)

This was my first attempt at making any type of cheese. I have made 10 batches since I started and have gotten mixed results. The first batch was so soft that when I cut it the sides bulged out and whey formed droplets on the cheese (I didn’t drain it long enough). The second batch was more like tasteless plastic, (I drained it too long and worked it too much.). I poured two batches down the drain because the curds didn’t look like the pictures (I later learned that they would have still worked if I had put them in some cheese cloth and let them drain until they stopped dripping.)

I ordered some lipase powder and tried that for extra flavor. It works. (Just remember to use ½ tablet of rennet instead of ¼ the recipe calls for). I have been using 1/8 tsp per gal mixed into ¼ cup of unclorinated water 20 minutes before adding it to the milk just before adding the rennet.

Liquid smoke works if you like the smoky flavor in your Mozzarella. I used 1tsp per gallon of milk, stirred in just before adding the rennet. Try to find a liquid smoke without molasses or vinegar. I found one with just two ingredients: water, natural hickory smoke concentrate.

This kit does have everything you need to make Mozzarella and Ricotta except for the milk and a pot to heat the milk in. or the microwave safe bowl and microwave. Or the knife to cut the curds. Or a spoon to stir the milk. Or plastic wrap for the finished product. Or measuring cups and spoons. Or the gloves it suggests you use to stretch the mozzarella so you don’t burn your hands on the 135degree curds. Or the ice for the ice water bath at the end. I think it assumes you have a range and refrigerator because they aren’t in the box either.

The instructions included in the kit are simple and illustrated and include some recipes for using the cheese once you make it. (Unless you eat it all before it even has a chance to cool). Although it says it is a “30 Minute” recipe, using store bought milk the 5 minute curd set up time after adding the rennet has been at least 10 minutes and as long as 30 minutes using ¼ tablet of rennet. Adding the Lipase and ½ tablet of rennet, setup has been fairly consistent for me at 10 minutes. On average, it has been taking about 45-50 minutes from start to in the mouth.

Hope you have enjoyed this post. I do enjoy and am encouraged by comments if you are so inclined to do so. Also, if you would like to be notified when I update this blog, click the “follow” button and add you email to the list.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What to do with Mascarpone cheese?

You may have noticed the desserts at the top and bottom of the last post. If you are wondering what they are and how they are made, read on. If not, then skip this post and read something else. (-:
Mascarpone is used in some tiramasu recipes. Due to the cost and limited availability of Mascarpone, ricotta is often used instead. Cannolis are usually made from ricotta impasata or mascarpone. Fresh berries mixed into mascarpone is a real treat with any meal.

The Blackberry Mascarpone dessert was an attempt at combining the fresh berry and mascarpone with a "finger food" dessert.Blackberry Mascarpone on shortbread cookie

I made the Mascarpone the night before and set it in the colander to drain over night. In the morning I put it in a bowl and added 3 Tbs of blackberry mash. (fork smashed blackberries and two tsp of sugar) I then put it in a quart plastic container lined with paper towels and a coffee filter and let it drain another 6 hours in the fridge.

Put the mascarpone on a shortbread cookie and top with a whole berry.
Dust with powered sugar and serve.

This may be made substituting any in season berry you have available.

Yield: 24 cookies

Key Lime mascarpone fillo cups

This dessert was born out of a "mistake". While making the mascarpone, I added too much lemon juice and it had a slightly sour taste. Instead of throwing it out, I added a Tbs of powered sugar and 2 Tbs of Key Lime juice and mixed well. I purchased the frozen mini fillo cups (15 for $2 at Winn Dixie) and filled them with the mascarpone. Topped with some lime zest for color, this dessert was a hit at work. (Did I hear: "May I have another?" more than once?)

Yield: 30 with some left over.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mascarpone Cheese

There seems to be a lot of recipes/methods for making Mascarpone Cheese on the internet. I have made a few batches over the last few weeks and am getting good results using the following method:

1 pint heavy whipping cream (I used the Wal-Mart brand ultra pasteurized at $1.62)
1 large lemon (from Winn Dixie for $.79)

You will also need the following equipment

A double boiler
A colander
Some cheese cloth (enough to line the colander with four layers)
2 8-12 cup paper coffee filters. (Larger would be even better)
A spoon to stir the cream (I use a wooden spoon for this)
A cooking thermometer (I use an “instant read” thermometer)
A bowl big enough to put colander into

Squeeze 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and put aside.
Put the cream into the double boiler and heat cream to 190 degrees stirring slowly but steady after the water comes to a boil. (This is one time it is ok for the top pan to sit in the water in the bottom pan).
While gently stirring add the lemon juice and continue stirring for 5 minutes. (You should notice the cream starting to coat the spoon with a thicker layer of the cream)
Remove from heat and take the top pan out of the boiler and let it cool for 20 minutes. (or until the temperature cools to below 120)
Line your colander with 4 layers of cheese cloth and place one coffee filter on top of the cheese cloth.Put the colander into the larger bowl.
Pour the cooled cream into the coffee filter and let sit for 30 minutes until it is close to room temperature.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator for 6-12 hours.
(The longer it sits, the thicker it becomes)

(Optional)If you need a really stiff product, take the some paper towels and put them in the bottom of a one quart plastic container and put the second coffer filter in on top of them.
Spoon out the center of the Mascarpone from the colander and place it in the fresh filter then put the remainder on top of that. Cover and place back into the refrigerator for another 6-8 hours until it is the desired consistency.

Remove the cheese from the filter and put into the container of your choice, stir well then cover and store until ready to use. The sooner you use it the better the flavor.

Yield: ??? I haven't measured the yield yet but my guess it is close to 14 oz as there is very little water draining off. I'll update this when I figure it out. (Update May 1. My last batch had a yield of 11 oz.)

Average shelf life 1 week.

Who is the Cheesy Geek?

I am a computer geek who likes to cook and recently began making cheese. In the past few months I have successfully made: Mozzarella, Goat milk Mozzarella, Gouda, smoked Gouda, Farmhouse cheddar, Feta, Goat Milk Ricotta, and Mascarpone. (not in this order, it just the order it came out of my head this time) My oldest sister called me the cheesy geek on Facebook and I like it so that is what I'll use for this blog.

TBH I'm not a big fan of eating cheese. The techie geek in me enjoys the learning and making of the cheese. I really enjoy seeing the positive reactions people have when they taste both my cheese and my cooking. I have given away most of the cheese that I've made so far and all I have to say is: Compliments will get you. . . More Cheese.

I have been cooking since high school and have a few dishes "perfected". I'll probably share some of these at some point. Our children are grown and out of the house but when they do come home I know that I will be asked to cook up one of their favorites.

But for now, I'm going to see how this blogging thing works and if it holds my interest for a while.