The March Daring Cooks challenge was one I had a lot of fun with. We made cheese! We were given a few recipes varying in difficulty, so I started off with a couple of easy ones. The first challenge for me was finding vegetarian rennet. I checked amazon in the UK and they have it (like many hard-to-find grocery items – I often end up buying things from there) but they wouldn’t ship to Switzerland! I eventually clicked on a link provided by our challenge host to a great cheese-making supply place in the US and they came through with flying colours. And their catalogue may just have stirred up an interest in turning this cheese-making thing into a serious hobby… I’ve even bought a book…
Over the course of the month, I attempted a number of different cheeses with varying degrees of success, some from the challenge recipes and some not included in the challenge – we were given free reign to try other things. In the interests of keeping this post a reasonable length, and as a couple of the cheeses are included in the .pdf (link below) and I made no adaptations to those recipes, I won’t reproduce them here.
First up was mascarpone. We go through a lot of mascarpone and it’s not particularly expensive here, but I wanted to try my hand at it anyway. I used a recipe from the amazing fankhouser cheese-making site. Dr Fankhouser uses Tartaric Acid in his recipe but the first time I made it, I had yet to order any so I used lemon juice (a widely used substitute). The second time, I used tartaric acid and the difference was quite discernible, with the second batch having a smoother and creamier texture.
Makes about 500g
900ml light (25% fat) cream
1/4 teaspoon tartaric acid dissolved in 2 tbsp non-chlorinated water OR 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pour the cream into a stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan that has about an inch of water in the bottom. Bring the water to a boil and heat the cream to 85°C, stirring occasionally.
When the cream reaches 85°C, whisk in the tartaric acid/lemon juice – it should start to thicken immediately. Keep the cream at 85°C for five minutes, stirring occasionally, by which time it should thicken to the consistency of runny yoghurt.
Take it off the heat and set the bowl aside, covered, to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.
Line a strainer with sterile cheesecloth or cotton cloth over a bowl and pour the cream into it. Bring the corners of the cloth together and secure tightly with a rubber band. Suspend over the bowl for about 6 hours to thoroughly drain off the whey.
Remove mascarpone from the cloth and refrigerate until ready to use. It should keep for about a week in a sealed container in the fridge.
Next, I made labneh, a.k.a. strained yoghurt, from the challenge recipe (see the .pdf). Beautifully creamy and wonderfully tangy, it was perfect with falafel balls, tabouleh and pita, and also fantastic dolloped onto mini rösti.
Third cab off the rank was my first foray into rennet cheese in the form of cream cheese made with organic sheep’s milk. It was originally destined to become feta (hence the sheep’s milk), but the curd didn’t set sufficiently and I didn’t want to just throw it away so I winged it. It’s not exactly what Dr Fankhouser describes here, but I think it’s a reasonable approximation. It went on to become an absolutely luscious baked cheesecake. 🙂
Next up, I made soft chèvre, according to the challenge recipe (“soft cheese” in the .pdf). I was trying out different brands of goat’s milk, so I only made a small batch. It was so creamy! Perfect on bread with a few grinds of pepper.
I have yet to master feta – still searching for the best milk and the perfect balance of ingredients… but I promise I won’t give up!
Daring Cooks blog-checking lines: Sawsan from chef in disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our own homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!
Download the printable .pdf file here.