Sunday, August 21, 2011

Inadvertent Ricotta or otherwise called The Great Mozzarella Disaster

Last Monday was my mother-in-law's birthday. She had not been able to taste any of the previous batches of Mozzarella so I thought it would be the perfect gift. What a wonderful accompaniment a fresh caprese salad would be to the short-ribs I was cooking for dinner! In my mind's eye it was going to be amazing, rave reviews would flow and my ego would be satiated. Ah, pride comes before a fall!

That day I woke up exhausted. My daughter has been teething for what seems like forever. Every once in a while, when the mouth pain is particularly bad, she will decide to wake up in the middle of the night to play... and play... and play... So I hadn't had much sleep, nor did I have the option to take a nap as there was so much to do - grocery shopping, dinner to make for twelve people, the baby to take care of and a batch of Mozzarella. An ambitious day, but I knew I could pull it off - if I could wake up! Enter the Vietnamese iced espresso from the restaurant next to the fish market and I felt wonderful, for a little while at least.

So once Bea was down for her nap and the short ribs were seared and in the oven to braise I began the batch of Mozzarella. With the milk in the pot and everything set up and ready to go, I had high hopes that this would be the best batch yet! (Still using the phone camera with the scratched lens, so there is that annoying dot in each of the pictures, next time I'll switch to a better camera).

At 55 degrees I added the citric acid, checking with my spoon to make sure that I had stirred quickly enough to keep the acid from curdling the milk. Beautiful, still clean and fluid!

The milk came up to 90 degrees and I added the rennet. Put a lid on it and waited the prescribed five minutes. Afterwards I checked for a clean break with the spoon handle.

 With the clear separation of curds and whey I proceeded to cut my curds into half inch cubes. The camera isn't so great so it is hard to see the cut lines.

Turned the heat back on and brought it to 110 degrees, stirring gently. At this point my phone camera began to steam up (my daughter had spilled a glass of water on it earlier at the Vietnamese restaurant so there was moisture between the lenses) so that is why the picture below is so fuzzy.

Once the curds and whey came to temp I turned the stove off and stirred gently for three more minutes. Best looking curds yet!

I then ladled the curds into a separate bowl and salted them.

 This, I believe, is where my problems began. In all my previous batches I have taken small, palm sized chunks of curds and dipped them in hot (175 degree) whey till they would mold together and stretch. While effective this is very time consuming. After reading a blog about adding hot water to curds to bring them to temp and the stretching them with a paddle I decided to try this using hot whey and a separate bowl hoping that I would be able to stretch the entire batch at once. My first problem was that I was running out of time, so against my better judgement I tried to rush and did not heat my whey up hot enough to meld the curds together. At 165 degrees I ladled hot whey onto my curds.

At first it seemed like it might work, the curds started to stretch. When the whey got too cold I drained it off and added more hot whey, repeating a couple times till it seemed to become a soupy milky mess. It was obvious that the whey wasn't hot enough. The curds were no longer coming together and looked much more like Ricotta than anything else. I was at a loss, annoyed, frustrated and ready to give up. I poured everything back into the pot, put a cover on it and stuck it on the back of the stove vowing to check on it in the morning after it had settled. Luckily I had some Mozzarella left over from a batch I had made a few days earlier so there was still caprese salad and dinner was still thoroughly enjoyed.

The next morning I strained my curds from my whey and let them drain for about an hour. This is what I ended up with:

While not a traditional Ricotta it was still quite delicious and I was happy that at least I didn't completely waste my milk. It was also a very good lesson in NOT RUSHING!

Now this week I will get back up, dust myself off and try my hand at Burrata!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dulce de Leche

Living in southern California and having a fondness for Mexican food... oh who am I kidding... having a fondness for FOOD, I am quite familiar with Dulce de Leche - a sweet and thick reduction of milk and sugar to a sticky, syrupy, carmally goodness. So when I saw Monica Morris' recipe in the July New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. Moosletter I knew - I can make that!

By the way, there is a scratch of the camera lens of my phone so that dark spot in each photo is a shadow from that, not some weird thing floating in my whey! 

First I added whey to my pot. I wasn't very precise in the measurement, just added what I had left after making ice cream. Turned it on high heat to bring to a boil then turned it to medium so that it would maintain a boil. Left it for about four hours, stirring periodically.

After it had reduced to about a 1/4 its original volume I turned off the heat.

Stirred in 2 cups of sugar.

Put it in batched through the food processor to smooth it out.

Put it back in the pot to reduce some more.

Finally, after another couple of hours it was reduced down to a carmally syrup. I was distracted by the baby at the end and didn't stir it as much as I should have so there was some browned syrup at the bottom that I inadvertently scraped up when I did go to stir. Luckily they didn't taste bad or burnt, just very sweet.

The froth in the pic below did eventually subside as it cooled.

Final Verdict:
While the syrup was delicious it was also VERY tart. Out of curiosity I went on a search and found that pretty much all dulce de leche recipes have baking soda. I know that baking soda is a PH neutralizer and works well to take down acidity in foods (or stomachs if you have a sour stomach by the way - mix 1 tsp in a cup of cool water and drink, it really works!). So if the acidity in regular milk is high then I know my whey which had citric acid added to it will be that much more acidic. My next batch I will add 1 tsp baking soda per gallon of whey, then I'll let you know how it turned out! 

Next up - Inadvertent Ricotta or otherwise called The Great Mozzarella Disaster

Monday, August 15, 2011

Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean Whey Based Ice Cream!

The baby is asleep, time to blog!! While I know that I should be cleaning the kitchen as it DESPERATELY needs it from my adventures yesterday I have decided to sit back, relax and write a blog. I can always clean when Bea wakes up but as my keyboard can attest (I am missing most of my directional arrows as well as a few other random keys) being on the computer while she is awake isn't always a wise idea.

This past week I made a LOT of "30 Minute" mozzarella cheese (recipe found in Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making). However I choose to fore go the microwave and stretch my cheese with a soak in hot whey, so it takes a bit longer than 30 minutes! This flurry of cheese making has left me with quite a bit of whey. One batch went on my eggplant plants, hope they enjoy the treat!However I wanted to try my hand at making ice cream with whey.

A few weeks ago I needed chocolate, and ice cream, together. Lots of it. My husband was in class so I texted him with the request. Later that evening he came home with Dryer's Fun Flavors (I think the flavor was brownie blast). It was so delicious. Creamy, smooth and rich. So I perused the carton and found that it wasn't considered ice cream at all but a "frozen dairy dessert". What? What does that even mean? What is in this stuff?! I quickly turned the carton over to look at the list of ingredients. What do you imagine was the first one? Why, whey of course! Weird.... but AWESOME! "I can make this myself!" was the first thought to cross my mind. There were quite a few other ingredients, but I figured I could play with it. Here is the documentation of the second batch I made. The first, to be quite honest, I didn't think would work out so I didn't take pictures.

I began with a custard ice cream base as I figured it would produce a smoother, creamier texture. I simply replaced the why for the regular milk. The first batch I made I used half whey and half cream, the second batch (pictured below) was made with half whey and half 1/2&1/2, more on that later.

So I started by measuring out 4 cups of whey and heating it up. When I make my cheese I rinse out the milk cartons and use them to store the whey when I'm done.

Split a vanilla bean and add it to the whey. Don't let the whey boil or you might end up with some ricotta in your ice cream! Leave the bean in the whey over low heat for about 20 minutes to infuse the flavor.

While waiting I put a cup of regular sugar and a cup of brown sugar with 16 egg yolks into my stand mixer. When I try this flavor again I think I will use all brown sugar as I don't feel the flavor came through as much as it could.

Beat these together.

When it was silky and falling on itself in ribbons I stopped the mixer.

I always save my egg whites, freezing them in an ice cube tray - the perfect size for each egg. Would have gotten that last one filled if I hadn't spilled one on the counter - opps!

Once the vanilla beans had softened up a bit in the whey I scraped the seeds out with the back of a knife.

Slowly, so that I would temper and not cook my eggs, I added the hot whey to the egg and sugar mixture.

When both were combined together it was a bit frothy. 

Back in the pot and on the heat it goes. Stirred the entire time and made sure it didn't boil. Just wanted to heat the eggs for long enough to kill any little nasties. Wish I had some home raised fresh eggs to work with. Sigh... some day, some day.

Oh! Look! Gratuitous cuteness. Awww look at her pulling on the cushion strings. 

The base mixture started to thicken like it should with a clean swipe on the back of the spoon.

Time to add the half & half. Stirred in with little fanfare.

Poured the mixture into a container to cool. I choose a container that gave a lot of surface area so that it would cool faster. I left it out for about an hour on a rack (to circulate air underneath the container) and then put it in the fridge for a few hours mixing a couple times to facilitate cooling.

While in the fridge some of the whey settled on the bottom. I just mixed it up before adding it to the ice cream maker.

In the ice cream maker it goes!
I didn't add as much ice as I had the first time. I was hoping that it would whip more while cooling more slowly. Didn't quite work the way I wanted. After a looonnnggg time it looked like below. It was late, I was tired, so I stuck it in the freezer. for the night.
Just took this picture of the finished product:

As comparison this is the small bit of the first batch that was left:

Final Analysis:

While quite tasty it did not turn out the way I would have liked. The final product is very icy. For next time there are a few things I will change, first is to use a higher amount of cream. Second is to allow it to freeze the way the first one did, it came out much smoother. I think I'll also go down to the Asian market and see if I can find some Agar Agar and play around with adding that. I'd also like to try a non-custard based ice cream recipe. It seems (from both batches) that the custard give is a tapioca flavor. I'd like to have a purer brown sugar and vanilla bean flavor. Luckily for me whey is plentiful as long as I keep making cheese! Which will be a future post hopefully some time soon!

Suggested Recipe for Ice Cream Base:
(batch above was a double recipe)

2 cups whey
1 vanilla bean, cut in half
4 egg yolks
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups heavy cream

Note: If you don't salt your whey to stretch your mozzarella then add a 1/4 tsp of salt to bring out flavors.

In medium pot heat whey with vanilla bean on medium- low to a simmer for 20 minutes, do not boil. While waiting for the whey to heat beat egg yolks and brown sugar in mixer till silky smooth and falling on itself in ribbons, about 5 to 10 minutes, scrape sides and bottom of bowl to insure all is combined. Strain whey to remove any bits of curd and vanilla bean. With the back of a knife scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them back to the whey. With mixer on low slowly, so as to temper and not scramble the eggs, add the hot whey into the egg and sugar mixture. Once fully combined pour the mixture back into the pot and heat till mixture starts to thicken. Turn off heat and stir in cream. Cool mixture and freeze in your favorite ice cream maker!

Stay tuned for Dulce De Leche!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

And Here We Go...

Lately I have had a major foodie/DIY crush, cheese. I'm not entirely sure how it came up. Probably like all of my "projects"- a random thought leads to "wait, I can do that myself?!", give or take the question mark. In this case there was a definite question mark. While I harbor secret grandiose hopes of turning it into a business... just like all my other "projects"... I know that this one can't be fudged by, whether for my family and friends or in the unlikely event dreams come true, it has to be GOOD.

With all this and numerous other swirling thoughts I have decided to document my adventures into dairy related products. "Products?" you ask, "but you just said cheese!" Well, yes... cheese and all its accompanied goodness. Little Miss Muffet knew what was going on with her curds and whey. Cheese, as we typically know it, are curds produced from coagulated milk which are pressed into a mold or stretched out into scrumptious decadence. When the curds are formed they express whey, the liquid part of the milk.

Whey, at first glance is not appetizing. With a yellowish hue, and consistency that for some reason reminds me of plasma, it doesn't seem like something one would want to consume. But with a little coaxing, and flavoring, it can transform into something delicious and nutritious!

While this blog seems focused around dairy I'll probably post other "projects", perhaps some concepts and most definitely some gratuitous cuteness in the form of pictures of my beautiful daughter :)