Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Delicious Ricotta and Peach Tart May 29, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Cheese making,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 1:51 pm
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Now that my goat is back in milk, I am back to my cheese making rituals. The girl I have in milk at the moment is giving me nearly a gallon a day already, and will probably give me more in the next month or so. One of my favorite cheeses to have on hand is ricotta. Ricotta is really a by-product of other cheese making, as it is made by reheating the whey left over from the drained curds of any other cheese. The actual ricotta itself is the small pieces of protein, known as albumin, and when the whey is recooked the proteins denature and if you have fine cheesecloth on hand you can strain it and get ricotta!

There are many uses for this cheese, but my favorite use is in baking. Ricotta can be used to make cheesecake like tarts, adds great flavor and texture to baked goods such as cakes and muffins, and of course is used frequently in baked pasta dishes such as lasagne. I like to experiment with it as it is very forgiving and last night in an effort to make some room in my fridge, I came up with this fabulous recipe.

Ricotta and Peach Tart

3-4 medium peaches
2 c ricotta cheese
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c cane sugar
1/2 c hazelnut flour

For the pastry

1 1/4 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk

Begin by making the pastry. You can use a food processor to speed this up. If you are going to mix it by hand, it is helpful to have the butter softened. Whisk the flour, sugar and salt together. Add the butter and combine, with the processor or a hand held pastry blender, until you have the appearance of coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk and mix until it just comes together. Pour into a 9 inch tart pan and shape with your hands. Prick holes in the tart shell with a fork (or use pie weights to keep it from bubbling) and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until it just starts to brown.

While the pastry is blind baking, make the filling. Mix the ricotta with the egg white, whole egg, vanilla, sugar and hazelnut flour. Whisk until well mixed. Remove the tart shell from the oven and add the mixture. Return the filled shell to the oven, lower the oven temperature to 375 and bake until the tart sets, This should take about 35-45 minutes depending on the texture of the ricotta. Home-made ricotta tends to have more liquid in it than store bought and will take longer to set.

While the tart is baking, slice the peaches in half and remove the pits. Thinly slice the peaches, keeping the skin on, and place in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of sugar. When the tart is set, remove it from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Arrange the peaches on top in whatever pattern you want, being sure to include any juices that have accumulated while the peaches were macerating. Let cool and serve.

Enjoy and Happy Eating!

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Cheese Wax! October 1, 2010

Filed under: Cheese making,Raw Goat Milk — realfoodmama @ 8:36 pm
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Cheese before waxing

I finally got a chance to wax the cheddar that I made this week and thought it would be a good opportunity to show pictures of the finished project. While I do not have an actual cheese press or molds, I have managed to rig something up involving some camp bowls made from stainless steel and a large brick from my garden path. It is rather precarious, to be honest, but it works!

Cheese making, like baking, is really all about mastering the art of reading and following a recipe. If you mess up or get sloppy along the way you end up with either an inferior product or a complete failure. Cheddar is one of the more complicated hard cheeses I’ve tried to make because it requires a) the addition of a specific culture and b) slow curd cooking combined with a special process known as cheddaring. This is the act of stacking the curds until the texture changes to that of cooked chicken. Weird, right?

The process of making cheddar can be broken down into a few steps. You allow the milk to culture (I use raw milk even though the recipe says to pasteurize it), bring to 86 degrees, add your rennet and let it set a curd for about 45 minutes. Then you cut them and slowly cook the curds to about 110 degrees over the course of an hour. At which point you strain them for a few minutes, then cut them again into four pieces, stack them until they achieve the chicken consistency mentioned above, cut them again then press them for about 24 hours. At this point you let your cheese wheels form a rind, then you wax them.

This is a huge over-simplification of cheddar making and I urge readers NOT to attempt to make cheddar from the above instructions. The web site I had been using is currently offline, however here is the link and hopefully it will come back up so anyone interested in doing this themselves can follow more detailed instructions.

The real bummer about making cheddar is that once you have it waxed you have to let it age for about three months before you can eat it. So even though I have these lovely cheese wheels, I cannot eat them until January of next year. So I have no idea what it tastes like or if it is even edible. Luckily cheese wax is fairly inexpensive and I can buy it locally at Santa Fe Homebrew Supply where they also reassure me that it can be reused.

Waxed Cheese

So, I will try to get back to you all about this in January and let you know how the cheddar worked out! Hopefully it will be worth the wait! Until then, Happy Eating.

 

Cheese, glorious cheese. June 25, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Home Made,Raw Goat Milk,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 4:01 pm
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Making the cheeseThe summer milking routine is in full swing here and my first time goat mommy is providing an over-abundance of milk. Giving us nearly a gallon a day, she has successfully added a new chore to my list: cheese making.

Home cheese making is a combination of rewarding and tiresome, at least at this point in the process. The basic problem I face is the size of the batches. I am forced to make cheese one gallon at a time, primarily because I lack a pot large enough to hold more than one gallon of milk. And while I would love to invest in a huge pot reserved solely for making cheese, I have yet to do so.

In fact, generally speaking cheese-making is instrument heavy. There are all sorts of things you need – the right cheesecloth (especially for ricotta), slotted spoons, large pots, thermometers, multiple bowls and strainers for catching whey, somewhere to hang your cheese while they dry, cultures, rennet…the list could go on but I don’t want to alarm you.

In truth cheese making is not difficult, it is simply procedure intensive. It is like chemistry…if you skip a step or get sloppy, your cheese could potentially explode. (Okay not REALLY, but it could get moldy and smell funny…which is nearly as bad).

There are a variety of recipes out there on the internet for making your own cheese. One of my favorite sites is Fias Co Farm, a web site dedicated to all things goat, including cheese making. Some of the recipes are very simply and it is a great introduction to making your own cheese at home, regardless of whether you are using fresh goat milk from your own animals or not.

In general, cheese making follows some basic steps, with modifications to temperature, time and cultures making up the bulk of the differences in the end result. Basically you bring the milk to temperature, add a culture if necessary (for things like cheddar and feta cultures or even yogurt are added to allow the ripening to occur properly) then left to ripen for about an hour. At this point the rennet is added and the curd is allowed to form – again, the time allowed for this depends on the cheese. The curd is then cut, rested and brought up to the appropriate temperature during the “cooking” phase. The temperature affects the firmness of the curd and thus the firmness of the final cheese.

The curds are then strained, salted, hung, pulled, or pressed and you end up with your final result.

So, like many things culinary, cheese making isn’t necessarily difficult, however it is time consuming and it does require basic direction following. Cheese making is not an area where experimentation is an asset – at least not at the beginning.

All this being said I have successfully made mozzarella, farmers cheese, fromage blanc, cheddar (I think…I won’t know for about 3 months how successful it was…), and feta. All in all, I enjoy the process and really enjoy eating the results.

So here is a very basic recipe for a paneer like cheese (for those of you not familiar with Saag Paneer, a favorite Indian dish of mine, paneer is a firm cheese with a consistency similar to tofu. It does not melt and can be used in pretty much any way tofu can).

Paneer or Farmer’s Cheese

1 gallon milk – I use raw goat’s milk but any will do
1/4 c white vinegar
cheesecloth
milk thermometer

Bring one gallon of milk up to 160 degrees over direct heat, stirring regularly to ensure the milk is heated evenly. Once at temperature, remove from heat and add 1/4 white vinegar, stirring until well mixed.

You will notice that the milk will start to separate right away. Let cool for a few minutes so as to allow for the curds to separate fully as well as to avoid burning yourself during straining.

Straining the curdStrain the curds through a colander lined with cheesecloth that you have resting over a large bowl or another pot. Catch and keep your whey so you can make ricotta.

Let the curds drain overnight. The end result should be a firm cheese that resembles tofu in texture.

One of my favorite ways to serve this cheese is to cut it into cubes, dredge it in flour and fry until it is golden brown. Then I sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper and voila! A perfect snack!