Monday, February 14, 2011

February's Au Lait du Mois: Fromage Blanc

Last month we kicked off our Au Lait du Mois with the oft made, oft consumed, oft written about yogurt. This month, its opposite: Fromage Blanc. I looked in all my usual culinary resources and there is NOTHING on fromage blanc. I could write a thesis on yogurt, but barely a haiku on fromage blanc.

Fromage blanc, soft cheese,
separate your curds and whey,
avoid orange bloom.

In my search for a little more information on Fromage Blanc I found this interview from The Splendid Table with Ricki Carrol about cheese making on a page with a slightly different recipe for Fromage Blanc. I think the difference is that in the radio program Ricki mentions that if you're working with unpasteurized milk, you need to heat it to 180 degrees to pasteurize it before continuing, whereas the booklet assumes you're working with pasteurized milk.

I thought I'd double check the instructions by going to Ricki Carroll's website. Glad I did. There are much more detailed instructions with pictures. So before
you make your Fromage Blanc be sure to check out Jim Wallace's instructions:

Another heads up, the directions in the booklet that comes with the Gourmet Home Dairy Kit say to use a gallon of milk and to then pour it into the Yogotherm. The Yogotherm does not hold a gallon of milk. According to the box, it's capacity is 2 L which is is a little more than half a gallon. I ended up putting the rest of my gallon in a bowl. I split the culture roughly between the two. Not very scientific. I don't know if the ratio of culture to milk was the determining factor or the cooler fermentation temperature, but the the milk that fermented in the bowl wrapped in a quilt fermented into much more firm curds with much clearer whey than the milk in the Yogotherm. As I describe in the instructions that follow, when I make Fromage Blanc again, I will follow the advice from the website and just leave the milk in the pot and wrap it up in a blanket.

I was initially somewhat dubious about my cheese. In both the Yogotherm and the bowl, I got an orange bloom as pictured above. Bridget reassures me that this is harmless native/heirloom/indigenous bacteria that is what makes home cheese making great. The cheese tastes good and it doesn't look orange. My taste tester and I haven't died from food poisoning due to the orange bloom of native/heirloom/indigenous bacteria. So it's all good.

It took two different strainers to drain because the volume was so large. I drained the curds for 8 hours, and got a kind of inconsistent texture. The edges were like super dry cream cheese while the middle was more watery than my yogurt. I separated out the watery middle from one strainer and tied it up to drain into the sink overnight. But then I just sorta gave up and mixed the watery middle from the second strainer into the cheese. The next day I mixed the now-drier cheese that had hung over the sink into the rest. It turned into a very smooth whipped cream cheese consistency. It yielded probably three cups of cheese, maybe more.

Fromage Blanc adapted from Ricki Carroll's Gourmet Home Dairy Kit and Fromage Blanc . . . the details! by Jim Wallace
  • 1 gal. raw milk
  • 1 packet Fromage Blanc Direct Set Culture

  • sieve
  • 1 gal. pot with lid
  • Dairy Thermometer
  • Slotted spoon
  • butter muslin

  • Strain milk through sieve into a 1 gal. pot and affix the thermometer in a readable position.
  • If you want to pasteurize your raw milk, put the pot on medium heat and stir occasionally until it reaches 162 degrees. Remove from heat and allow to cool to 86 degrees. If you're using pasteurized milk or you're looking forward to the exciting world of true raw milk fromage blanc, put the pot on medium heat and stir occasionally until it reaches 86 degrees.
  • Once milk reaches 86 degrees, sprinkle the Fromage Direct Set Culture on the surface of the milk. Wait one minute. Stir the culture into the milk for a couple of minutes.
  • Put the top on the pot and move the pot somewhere it can hang out undisturbed. Wrap the pot in a quilt or blanket to insulate it a tad. You'd like it to stay above 68 degrees.

  • After 12 to 24 hours (I waited 24 hours), you can start checking for doneness. The curd should have pulled away from the edge of the pot so you can see the clearer whey in which it is floating, as pictured above.

  • Line the sieve (or sieves) with butter muslin. Ladle the curd into the muslin-lined sieve and allow to drain for 4 to 12 hours depending on the desired consistency.
  • Store under refrigeration up to 10 days. This cheese may be frozen for several months (though I haven't tried it so who knows that the consistency would be like).

Like Jim Wallace discusses in Fromage Blanc . . . the details!, I was amazed at the versatility of fromage blanc. I made a quick apple galette one night, and when my taste tester lamented the lack of ice cream, I just mixed some sugar and vanilla into some fromage blanc and it worked as a very nice alternative. As suggested in the booklet accompanying the Gourmet Home Dairy Kit, I made an herb cheese spread with some of the fromage blanc. I just mixed in some Penzeys Parisien Bonnes Herbes an hour or so before serving.

It was AWESOME on Wheat Thins.

But here's the real reason why I chose Fromage Blanc for February's Au Lait du Mois: Coeur a la Creme.

Coeur a la Creme adapted from Ricki Carroll's Gourmet Home Dairy Kit
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 C Fromage Blanc
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T heavy cream

  • Beat two egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients until smooth.
  • Fold the egg whites into the mixture.
  • On a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat, or other non-permeable, non-taste transferring medium, set your heart-shaped cookie cutters. Cover the cookie cutters with a layer of butter muslin. Fill each muslin-lined cookie cutter with the mixture. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least six hours (I waited about 25 hours).
  • Unmold your coeur a la creme and garnish as you please. Ricki suggests fresh fruit, syrup, or melted chocolate. I used strawberry preserves and heart-shaped biscuits.

Next Valentine's Day, I think I'll add a aplit vanilla bean to the milk at the beginning of the cheese making process and add an extra tablespoon of sugar to the Coeur a la Creme recipe.

Previous Au Lait du Mois:

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Rebecca said...

Awesome Haiku!

I started my fromage blanc today. I only used a 1/2 gallon of milk, so we'll see how it turns out.