Creating fromage blanc or chèvre requires purchasing a direct-set culture (see Cheesemaking Supplies, following the recipe), and both cheeses will need about 2 days lead time before they will be ready to eat. If you use goat’s milk, you’ll have chèvre; cow’s milk will make fromage blanc. The texture of either ranges from creamy to crumbly; draining longer makes a more crumbly cheese. Yield: about 1 1/2 pounds.
Fromage Blanc Recipe
1 gallon goat’s milk or cow’s milk
1 packet direct-set fromage blanc or chèvre culture (or 1/4 tsp mesophilic culture plus 1 drop liquid rennet diluted in 1 tbsp cool water)
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste (optional)
1. Heat milk. Bring milk to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat.
2. Acidify milk. Add starter culture and stir. Let sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, or until a uniform mass of curd has pulled away from the side of the pot and there is a clear layer of whey over the top.
3. Drain curds. Let curds stand about 30 minutes, then sprinkle salt (if desired) over the surface and stir to distribute. Hang and drain the cheese for 6 to 12 hours at room temperature, or shape the cheese (see next step).
4. Optional: Shape cheese. Spoon the curd into perforated cheese forms after it has drained in a colander for 30 minutes. Allow forms to drain on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet for 6 to 12 hours. Shaped cheeses may then be rolled in spices or herbs before serving.
5. Store cheese. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 weeks. Because you added a bacterial culture, the cheese’s flavor will develop over the first few days of refrigerator aging. You can freeze the cheese for up to 6 months. If freezing, do not salt in step 3; rather, season the thawed cheese before serving.
Interested in other homemade cheese recipes? Read How to Make Fresh Cheese: The Basic Steps.
You’ll find cultures, cheesecloth, thermometers and other cheese-crafting necessities at the following mail-order companies.
Glengarry Cheesemaking and Dairy Supply
New England Cheesemaking Supply
Photo by Tim Nauman: Roll logs of chevre (made from goat's milk) and fromage blanc (made from cow's milk) in herbs to serve with bread and fruit.
Simple and requiring no cultures, mascarpone starts with cream rather than milk, and needs a full day’s or night’s draining to be ready to eat. Similar to cream cheese, mascarpone’s richness lends itself to sweet preparations, such as the Italian pick-me-up tiramisu. It’s also good in savory preparations and with fruit. The finished cheese can be soft and creamy or crumbly, depending on how long you let it drain. Tartaric acid is not the same as cream of tartar and the two are not interchangeable; tartaric acid is available from winemaking and brewing stores. Yield: about 1 pound.
1 quart cream (light or heavy); see note later in this article
1/8 to 1/4 tsp tartaric acid dissolved in 1 tsp cool water (or use 1 to 2 tbsp lemon juice)
1. Heat cream. Bring cream to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove cream from heat and stir for a couple of minutes to cool (to about 190 degrees).
2. Acidify milk. Add the acid and stir. When curds have separated from mostly clear whey, leave the pot alone for 10 to 20 minutes.
3. Drain curds. Drain about 12 hours or until the cheese reaches the desired texture and moisture level.
4. Store cheese. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week.
Note: To make a quart of light cream (25 percent butterfat), combine 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream with 2 cups half-and-half.
Interested in other homemade cheese recipes? Read How to Make Fresh Cheese: The Basic Steps.
Photo by Tim Nauman: Mascarpone, the rich and creamy Italian fresh cheese, is superb with fruit.
Ready to eat in less than 2 hours, paneer is the quickest curd you can concoct. Mild-flavored paneer is typically added to highly seasoned Indian dishes, but it can shine in a multitude of recipes. It does not melt when heated. Don’t use colored vinegar unless you want colored cheese. Yield: about 1 3⁄4 pounds.
1 gallon milk (cow’s milk is traditional)
1/4 to 1/2 cup lemon juice or distilled white vinegar
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1. Heat milk. Bring milk to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. (If you don’t have a thermometer, heat until it foams but before it boils.) Remove from heat and stir to cool for a couple of minutes (to about 190 degrees).
2. Acidify milk. Add acid and stir. When curds have separated, leave the pot alone for 10 to 20 minutes.
3. Drain curds. After draining 30 minutes, sprinkle salt over curds and stir. (Note: If you refrigerate the cheese at this point, you’ll have queso blanco — break out the taco shells!)
4. Press cheese. Press between 2 upside-down plates. After an hour, check to see whether whey still runs out when you push the cheese with your fingertips. If so, press it longer. If not, get out your cheese knife!
5. Store cheese. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week. The pressed cheese may also be frozen for up to 3 months.
Interested in other homemade cheese recipes? Read How to Make Fresh Cheese: The Basic Steps.
Photo by Tim Nauman: Paneer doesn't melt when heated, so it's a great candidate to fry and serve with a dip.
A while back my husband and I bought a mammoth, 25-pound bag of pinto beans — a decision which has had its ups and its downs. On the plus side, beans are cheap, healthy, and filling, and buying in bulk cuts down on wasteful packaging. On the other side, we’ve had to store a bag of beans that weighs almost as much as our two-year old and takes up just about as much space.
Difficulties of storing and lifting aside, we’ve had fun finding new ways to enjoy our seemingly never-ending bean supply. Bean soups, southwestern bean salads, and beans as a side for Texas barbecue have been plentiful. However, I think my favorite bean dish to date is this Indian-inspired curry, with hearty pinto beans as the star and delicate baby kale in a supporting role.
The spice (heat) level can be kicked up or down according to your preferences, and the intensely flavored beans make a great vegetarian main dish either on their own or served with rice or bread.
A note on curry powder: Your results will vary slightly based on the curry powder blend that you use. I used an organic, salt-free, store-brand containing a mix of coriander, turmeric, mustard, cumin, fenugreek, paprika, cayenne, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Yield: 4 to 6 hearty servings on its own, or 6 to 8 served over rice.
Curried Pinto Beans with Kale Recipe
2 cups dried pinto beans
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced organic tomatoes, with the juice (substitute 14.5 oz fresh tomatoes if desired)
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root (or about a 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger root, peeled)
3 medium-sized cloves garlic, peeled
2 medium-sized shallots, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeno, stem removed (cored and seeded for less heat)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnishing
2 tbsp curry powder
2 cups chopped baby kale (substitute baby spinach if desired)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Place the beans in a large pot and completely cover with water. Cover and let the beans soak at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours.
Strain off the soaking water and cover the beans with fresh water so that the water level extends two-to-three inches above the beans. Add the salt and pepper and bring the beans to a vigorous boil, stirring once or twice. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat if necessary.
Place the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, shallots, jalapeno, cilantro, and curry powder in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Stir the curry mixture into the beans, place the lid on the pot ajar (to allow steam to escape but prevent splatters), and cook over med-low heat, stirring occasionally, for one more hour or until the beans are tender and the sauce is fairly thick. Add the baby kale and cinnamon, stirring until the greens are softened, and finish by stirring in the vinegar.
Typically this sort of dish would be served with basmati rice, but I like to serve it with wedges of warm, whole-grain naan (or even toasted sandwich bread) for dipping or sopping up any extra sauce. My husband likes to dress his beans up with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a drizzle of Sriracha. I like mine simply garnished with a sprinkle of finely chopped cilantro.
My second day of work, I was handed a Classic Sourdoughs revised A Home Baker's Handbook by Ed and Jean Wood and a Sourdoughs International Original San Francisco Culture. I was so excited to head home and start my baking with mouth watering bread. I was told by Ed that I would need to proof the culture first. Now, you really have to understand that I don't bake. I don't really cook even. If I get the milk and cereal in the bowl at the same time, I think that I am tearing it up in the kitchen. So proofing meant to me, that I would be making sure that it was OK. I related it to proof reading a book. All I could think is great! I will get to taste all of these breads to make sure they are OK. Wow, I was completely off!
Proofing, as I learned when I opened my new cookbook, was keeping the culture at a certain temperature for a given amount of time. This is when I closed the cookbook and wondered what was the best sourdough bread available at the grocery store. Proofing was an overwhelming concept to me. I think this is for many first time bakers. After about five times of reading and re-reading the chapter on proofing, I bit the bullet and charged ahead to build the proofing box.
I was excited to build the box. Now this was up my alley. Ed has developed a simple way though to build a proofing box. He takes a Styrofoam cooler, mounts a light bulb (low watts) on the bottom so that it is on the inside, attaches a dimmer switch and you have a proofing box. The cooler is placed with the top on the floor. I have added a thermometer through the side so I can see the temperature from the outside of the box. Some put a thermometer on the floor under the proofing box. Either way works.
Proofing Box Tips
Here are some tips that I figured out through trial and error. One, I put a towel under the proofing box. This helps if you have an uneven surface. Then I put a bowl with some water in the proofing box and turned on the dimmer switch. I played with the different temperatures until I found the two temperatures that I needed. I put black marks on my dimmer switch with the temperatures so that it would be easy to find where to put the dimmer switch. Now I was ready to try it with my sourdough culture.
I recommend to proof one culture at a time, especially when you are first starting out. Having a thermometer on the outside of the proofing box allowed me to see the temperature during the proofing process without having to lift up the proofing box.
The proofing box is very important to maintaining consistent temperatures. You can use the proofing box with your dough also. We have heard of people placing ice in the proofing box to bring temperatures lower when they are unable to lower temperatures in their home.
The proofing box scared me, almost to the point of throwing my hands in the air and saying no way to sourdough. But once I accepted that I really wanted to make this amazing bread, I jumped in and it was extremely easy.
I have conquered the proofing box! Now on to baking with sourdough! Next week I will tackle pizza crust ... please check back and see how it goes.
I love to bake and eat homemade bread; however I always was disappointed in the texture of sandwich bread. Most recipes are a little too heavy or crummy to accompany sandwich fillings. A few years ago I discovered the secret to wonderfully textured sandwich bread quite by accident.
I was milking goats and making cheese nearly every day. I was also making something that I called yogurt cheese which is basically the equivalent of Greek yogurt. In making cheeses and yogurt a byproduct is produced called whey. I had a lot of whey and I hated to see it go to waste every day.
I was baking bread one morning and had a giant pot of warm whey it was the perfect temperature so I decided to experiment and use whey to replace the milk and water in my recipe. I was happy to discover that using whey resulted in flavorful evenly textured bread neither too heavy or to light.
After a little research I learned that the reason that whey works to improve breads texture is that it is an acid. Commercial bakeries usually use acid in some form (vinegar, vitamin c, or even whey) to improve crumb and shelf life of bread. Now I almost never bake yeast bread without whey or sourdough starter.
The Best Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
10 cups whole wheat flour (my favorite is King Arthur white wheat)
4 cups warm whey plus 1 additional cup of water or whey
(If you don’t have whey on hand use half water and half yogurt)
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons yeast
¼ cup honey
¼ cup melted butter
Electric mixer instructions: In a large electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment add the flour, salt, and yeast incorporate them well. Next melt the butter and honey together on low and allow it to cool to the touch. Turn on the mixer and in a slow stream add the warm whey and melted butter and honey. Allow the mixer to incorporate the ingredients for about a minute.
At this point there may be a bit of flour on the bottom of the mixer bowl. Stop the mixer and use a silicon spatula to scrape all of the flour and unincorporated dough together. Then turn the mixer on and slowly add as much of the extra liquid to make a soft, slightly sticky dough.
Resist the urge to add additional flour. I have found that kneading more water into whole wheat bread dough and having a wetter dough results in a much better textured loaf.
Allow the mixer to knead the dough for at least 5 minutes and no more than 10 minutes.
When the bread is well kneaded coat your hands in vegetable oil, using your hands and a silicon spatula remove the dough from the mixer bowl. Coat the mixer bowl with a little vegetable oil or butter and put the dough back in the bowl. Turn it a few times to coat the outside with oil.
Cover with a dish cloth and place it in a warm place and allow it to rise until it doubles in size - about 2 hours.
After the dough rises it should lose some of its stickiness. Punch the dough down with well-greased hands.
For sandwich loaves place the dough in 3 standard loaf pans lined with parchment paper or well-greased.
For rolls, form them into fist shaped balls and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Allow to rise once again for about 1 hour.
Fifteen minutes before you are ready to bake them preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and place a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.
You can also bake the bread at 550 degrees for the first 5 to 10 minutes and add the water to the pan right after you insert the bread. The shock of the heat will cause the air pockets in bread to expand and the bread to increase up to 20 percent in size. The steam will prevent the exterior from becoming crispy. (My husband, Shaun’s, 2 cents)
In a bowl, scramble an egg with 2 tablespoons of water, brush the tops of the loaves with the egg mixture, and slash each loaf with a sharp knife. When the oven is pre-heated, quickly place the loaves in and bake them for 45 minutes.
Remove the loaves from the oven and allow them at least 30 minutes to cool before slicing to allow the loaves to firm up and finish cooking internally. Of course, if you want hot fresh bread and aren’t concerned about the shape of the slices you can eat it straight out of the oven. Yield 3 loaves.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! Please feel free send me any suggestions, tips, or experiences that might help to make this blog more informative and interesting. Thanks.
Many people mistake the distilling process as the “alcohol creation” process. Rather is it the process in which a chemical, in this case ethanol alcohol, is removed from another chemical. The process is centuries old, and is used in a myriad of applications from alcohol distillation to essential oil extraction.
Luckily, our blog is primarily focused on alcohol distillation. Why luckily? Because who doesn’t like a stiff drink every now and again?
The overall process of alcohol distillation can be summed up into 3 parts: Fermentation, Distillation, and Finishing. The next 3 installments of this blog will hit each of these topics in some depth. However, this episode will give us a brief overview of each segment.
Any of you who have ever made beer or wine will see this process as old hat, but in the effort for maximum clarity we will cover it for everyone. The basics of the fermentation process are thus:
- Introduce sugar to liquid and yeast
- Over time the yeast process the sugar into alcohol
- After a certain time the yeast stop producing alcohol as the sugar has been fully consumed.
What most people don’t understand is, alcohol is really just the excrement of yeast. Yes, alcohol is yeast pee. (Makes you look at your gin and tonic a bit differently doesn’t it?!?!?)
In the case of most, not all, alcohols, grains are used as the sugar source. In their raw form they are offered as starches, but after a boiling process, and the addition of malt or certain enzymes, the starches are converted into sugar, which are then processed by the yeast, resulting in a number of chemicals including ethanol alcohol.
Once a liquid fermentation is finished, the liquid is then heated in a still.
The still has seen many forms and adaptions. For our current example, we will stick with the basics. All stills consist of 3 things; a boiler, a column, and a condenser. As the liquid is increased slowly from room temperature to approximately 190 degrees (F), the liquid vaporizes and rises through the column. Once it reaches the condenser it comes in contact with a cold surface and condenses back into a liquid state. It then exits the still in the form of a number of different chemicals.
During the fermentation process a few very specific chemicals are excreted by the yeast. Acetone, Methanol, Ethanol, and Isopropyl are just a few of the major ones. Each of these chemicals have different boiling points. As we know from high school chemistry water boils at 212 degrees (F). These other chemicals have distinct boiling points as well.
As we increase the temperature of the liquid in the still these chemicals vaporize and go through the distillation process. However, all the alcohol distiller wants is the ethanol. (What do I do with the other chemicals you ask? Keep an eye out for a future post on distillation waste, and their uses.) Through the process known as “cutting” the distiller is able to segregate the different chemicals leaving the ethanol in a pure state.
The finishing process is the final process before bottling. This process has a few different steps, and depending on the alcohol type desired will depend on which of these steps you would use.
Filtering – Filtering alcohol primarily does 2 things. It removes off flavors and it smoothes out the overall taste and flavor.
Flavoring – Whether you make the decision to add a commercial type of flavor such as an essence (a cross between an essential oil and a extract), or if you soak fruit in the spirit, or use some type of spice to influence the taste, flavor options are almost endless.
Oaking/Aging – Whiskey doesn’t get its color from the grains used in the fermentation process. Instead it gets its color from the oak in which it is stored. Although it gets much of its flavor from the grains, another layer of flavor is also added through the oak, or other hardwood, used in the aging process. Same goes with bourbon, scotch, tequila, and other brown spirits.
The finishing process is a step that is kept in mind from the beginning of fermentation. Often you will choose certain grains based on the type of finishing you plan. If you plan on making bourbon, then grain selection is of upmost importance, as bourbon is made of at least 51% corn.
Obviously, the alcohol distillation process is in depth, but this process helps break it down into a few steps that are rather easy to manage. With just a little practice each of these steps get easier. I mean c’mon, if Tickle can do it….
Our next blog will go into depth on the fermentation process specifically. CHEERS!!!