I have to admit that home cheese mak­ing feels a bit like con­duct­ing a chem­istry exper­i­ment in my kitchen.

I mean, with bread bak­ing, I can FEEL the dough. There is some effort behind the whole affair of mix­ing flour, water, yeast and other ingre­di­ents, watch­ing it rise, knead­ing and watch­ing it rise again before shap­ing it with your hands into a final, glo­ri­ous loaf.

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With home cheese mak­ing, you do quite a lot of wait­ing about. You mix in spe­cial ingre­di­ents that you must spe­cial order. Every­thing must be kept immac­u­lately clean and san­i­tary. The guru of cheese mak­ing, Ricki Car­roll, even rec­om­mends keep­ing metic­u­lous notes in a cheese mak­ing journal.

Nev­er­the­less, the results of home cheese mak­ing can’t be denied.

Take a look at this 30 Minute Moz­zarella that I made last night with some of the last toma­toes and basil of the year. (In our Zone 7 gar­den we picked about 10 lovely toma­toes just yesterday!)

This salad LOOKS like art, doesn’t it?

The recipe is from, of course, Home Cheese Mak­ing, by Ricki Car­roll. I have been slowly work­ing my way through the book, start­ing with the soft, spread­able cheeses. Now that my fancy cheese press has arrived, I am ven­tur­ing into the hard cheeses.

You can’t really count this 30 Minute Moz­zarella as a hard cheese. And frankly, it’s a lot less work than even the soft cheeses. In fact, it’s ridicu­lously easy.

If you are even a lit­tle bit inter­ested in cheese mak­ing, then place an order with the New Eng­land Cheese­mak­ing Sup­ply Com­pany and give this recipe a whirl. I highly rec­om­mend that you buy the book because the intro­duc­tory infor­ma­tion is quite impor­tant, par­tic­u­larly infor­ma­tion about san­i­ta­tion, ingre­di­ents and heat­ing of the milk.

Look how easy the whole process was. I used the recipe from Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Mak­ing.

Ingre­di­ents I Used:

1 ½ level tea­spoon cit­ric acid dis­solved in ¼ cup cool water

1 gal­lon pas­teur­ized whole milk

¼ tea­spoon liq­uid ren­net diluted in ¼ cup cool, unchlo­ri­nated water

1 tea­spoon cheese salt

How I Did It:

I added the cit­ric acid/water solu­tion to the milk when it was at 55 degrees and mixed it thor­oughly but gen­tly. I slowly heated the milk on the stove to 88 degrees. (It helps that I have a gas stove, I think, because it gives me a great deal of imme­di­ate con­trol over heat.) I gen­tly added the diluted ren­net and mixed again and then heated the milk to 100 degrees.

I scooped the curds from the pot into a microwave­able bowl and pressed to remove the extra whey. (If you are very clever, appar­ently you can reserve the whey for other cheese mak­ing purposes.)

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I microwaved the curds on high for 1 minute and again drained off all the excess whey. To dis­trib­ute the heat evenly, I gen­tly folded the cheese over and over like I was knead­ing bread. I microwaved the cheese twice again for 35 sec­onds each, knead­ing after each turn. Then I added the salt, knead­ing it to incor­po­rate it into the cheese.

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The recipe says cheese won’t stretch prop­erly until it’s almost too hot to han­dle. I found it very hot, but if I moved quickly, it didn’t feel like it was burn­ing at all. I kneaded until the cheese was smooth and elas­tic. It became nice and stretchy.

stretching-30-minute-mozzarella.jpg

(Unfor­tu­nately, I can’t knead and take pho­tos at the same time and the two men in my house were busy read­ing. It was dif­fi­cult to entice one of them into the kitchen to play photographer.)

I rolled the cheese into small balls and placed them into the frig to cool.

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The direc­tions say to put them into a bowl of cold/ice water to bring down the heat if you don’t plan to eat them warm, but I for­got that part. Nev­er­the­less, they were just dandy about 30 min­utes later when I made the salad.

What do you think? Does this look like art? Craft? Chem­istry exper­i­ment? Would you give it a try?

Robin
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Filed in: Cheese Making

Thanks to the happy twist of fate that I finally have some breath­ing room on my work cal­en­dar I was able to spend most of yes­ter­day prepar­ing for Harry’s birth­day din­ner. It’s yet another step toward my slow lifestyle.

And, as my friend Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”

For his birth­day cake, I made one of our fam­ily favorites, Ital­ian Cream Cake. I first found this recipe years ago in Bon Appetite mag­a­zine. Since then, the recipe has mor­phed some­what, but it essen­tially remains the magazine’s ver­sion. I tried valiantly to find the orig­i­nal in the Bon Appetite repos­i­tory that is now at one of my favorite web­site, Epi­cu­ri­ous, but I sup­pose this recipe was pub­lished before the inven­tion of the Inter­net. (Don’t laugh. It’s entirely pos­si­ble that I have recipes from the Stone Age.)

Italian%20Cream%20Cake.jpg

As an added bonus to being a super­hero wife and all-around star party-maker for my hub­bie, my house smells fabulous—better than those wanky can­dles you buy at the mall. And if you need to know what “wanky” is, visit Urban Dic­tio­nary where you can learn all sorts use­ful expres­sions such as “jack­ass o’clock” (time to be a jack­ass) or “e 40” (a Bay Area rapper).

This week­end, why not slow down and make a fab­u­lous dessert—or how about make THIS fab­u­lous dessert?

Ital­ian Cream Cake

Ingre­di­ents:

¾ cup but­ter, softened

1 ¾ cups sugar

4 egg yolks

1 tea­spoon vanilla

1 ¾ cups cake flower

1 ½ tea­spoon bak­ing powder

¼ tea­spoon bak­ing soda

¾ cup half and half

4 ounces flaked coconut

4 egg whites

1 recipe for cream cheese frost­ing (see below)

Addi­tional coconut, as desired

Direc­tions:

In a large mixer bowl beat but­ter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and vanilla and beat well. In another bowl, com­bine flour, bak­ing pow­der and bak­ing soda. Grad­u­ally add this mix­ture to the egg/butter mix­ture, alter­nat­ing with the half and half. Stir in coconut.

In a small mixer bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir in about a third of the whites into the cake bat­ter. Then gen­tly fold in the remain­ing whites.

Pour the bat­ter evenly into three but­tered and floured 8” cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 min­utes or until a tooth­pick or knife inserted near the cen­ter comes out clean. Do not overcook!

Cool for 10 min­utes and then turn onto wire racks to fin­ish cool­ing. When cooled, place the first layer on a cake plate and frost with the cream cheese frost­ing. Sprin­kle on coconut and add the sec­ond layer and repeat, fin­ish­ing the frost­ing all around. Pat coconut onto the crème cheese frost­ing for a dec­o­ra­tive finish.

Store any left­over cake cov­ered in the refrig­er­a­tor for up to 3 or 4 days (if it lasts that long).

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingre­di­ents:

12 ounces cream cheese

6 Table­spoons butter

1 ½ tea­spoons vanilla

6 cups sifted pow­dered sugar (maybe a bit less)

Direc­tions:

In a mixer bowl beat cream cheese, but­ter and vanilla until smooth. Grad­u­ally add pow­dered sugar, beat­ing until smooth.

Enjoy!

Robin
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Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.

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