Ever have the urge to try your hand at making artisan cheese at home? Have you even thought of it as a possibility. I sure didn’t! Then this book came across my desk. “Artisan Cheese Making at Home”. It reminded me of some of the artisan bread making books of the past few years, showing readers how to transform basic curds into amazing works of cheesy goodness. Here are a few of the recipes from the book to try out:
Whole Milk Ricotta
Makes 1 pound Milks Pasteurized or raw whole cow’s milk, heavy cream Alternative Milk Pasteurized or raw goat’s milk Start to Finish About 1½ hours: 1 hour to make the cheese; 20 to 30 minutes to drain
1 gallon pasteurized or raw whole cow’s milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon citric acid powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt (preferably Diamond Crystal brand)
1. Read through the recipe and review any terms and techniques you aren’t familiar with (see chapter 1). Assemble your equipment, supplies, and ingredients, including a dairy or kitchen thermometer; clean and sterilize your equipment as needed and lay it out on clean kitchen towels.
2. In a nonreactive, heavy 4-quart stockpot, combine the milk, cream, citric acid, and 1 teaspoon of the salt and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Place over medium-low heat and slowly heat the milk to 185°F to 195°F. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir frequently with a rubber spatula to prevent scorching.
3. As the milk reaches the desired temperature, you will see the curds start to form. When the curds and whey separate and the whey is yellowish green and just slightly cloudy, remove from the heat. Gently run a thin rubber spatula around the edge of the curds to rotate the mass. Cover the pan and let the curds set without disturbing for 10 minutes.
4. Place a nonreactive strainer over a nonreactive bowl or bucket large enough to capture the whey. Line it with clean, damp butter muslin and gently ladle the curds into it. Use a long-handled mesh skimmer to capture the last of the curds. If any curds are stuck to the bottom of the pan, leave them there. You don’t want scorched curds flavoring your cheese.
5. Distribute the remaining 1 teaspoon salt over the curds and gently toss the curds with your hands to incorporate. Be careful not to break up the curds in the process.
6. Make a draining sack: Tie two opposite corners of the butter muslin into a knot and repeat with the other two corners. Slip a dowel or wooden spoon under the knots to suspend the bag over the whey-catching receptacle, or suspend it over the kitchen sink using kitchen twine tied around the faucet. Let the curds drain for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the desired consistency has been reached. If you like moist ricotta, stop draining just as the whey stops dripping. If you like it drier or are using it to make ricotta salata, let the curds drain for a longer period of time. Discard the whey or keep it for another use.
7. Transfer the cheese to a lidded container. Cover and store, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.
Variations To make goat ricotta, substitute goat’s milk and use 1½ teaspoons of citric acid, adding an additional ½ teaspoon of citric acid if needed to cause coagulation. The curds will be softer and more delicate than the cow’s milk curds and the whey will be slightly cloudy.
To make smoky ricotta affumicata, place the curds in a plastic Italian draining basket lined with butter muslin or cheesecloth and let drain on a rack for 24 hours (see page 20). Remove the cheese from the cloth, then dry salt it with 2 teaspoons sea salt (see page 23), wrap it in a dry cheesecloth sack, and cold smoke it in a cool wood-fired oven or smoker for 3 days (see page 27). Remove the cheese from the smoker and allow to air-dry for at least 1 week and up to 1 month. Use it right away, or vacuum-seal and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
Ricotta-Filled Chocolate Crepes with Nutella and Sour Cherry Preserves
Makes 12 dessert crepes
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
21/4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Filling and Topping
2 cups fresh ricotta (page 39), drained for 1 hour
1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
11⁄2 cups Nutella hazelnut-cocoa spread
11⁄2 cups sour cherry or red raspberry preserves, warmed
3/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
To make the crepes, in a medium bowl sift together the flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl or in a blender, whisk together 2 cups of the milk, the eggs, 2 tablespoons of the butter, and the vanilla. Add one-third of the dry ingredients to the blended liquid and blend until smooth. Repeat twice to blend in the rest of the dry ingredients. Cover and refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes or overnight. When ready to use, whisk the batter thoroughly and add up to ¼ cup more milk if the batter is thicker than runny pancake batter.
Preheat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the bottom with melted butter. Ladle enough batter (about ¼ to ⅓ cup) into the pan to just cover the bottom. Immediately lift the pan off the heat and swirl the batter around to cover the bottom of the pan as though you were making an omelette. Cook for about 1 minute, until the edges start to look dry but not crispy and a few steam holes appear in the center. This tells you that there’s enough structure to the crepe to be able to flip it over. Using an offset spatula, turn the crepe over and cook for about 30 seconds. Slide the crepe from the pan onto a plate. Continue the process, brushing the pan with melted butter each time and stacking the crepes until all the batter is used.
To make the filling, put the ricotta and sugar in a bowl and stir until well combined. Spread half of each open crepe with 2 tablespoons of Nutella. Crumble or spread the ricotta over the Nutella. Fold the plain half over the filled half and then fold again into a wedge. Place on a serving plate, top each with 2 tablespoons of preserves and 1 tablespoon of chopped hazelnuts, and serve.
Reprinted with permission from Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-Class Cheeses by Mary Karlin, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.” Photo credit: Ed Anderson © 2011