Monday, October 31, 2011

October's Au Lait du Mois: Cream Cheese

I have learned that there are a whole bunch of ways to make cream cheese: the uncooked-curd method, the cooked-curd method, Swiss-style, Creole, French-style, and probably a few more I'm missing. I opted for the easiest way: the uncooked-curd method. The results were absolutely amazing. Of all the Au Lait du Mois I've done so far, this is the one that I'm definitely doing again, and probably soon.

I only let it drain for something like six hours and I didn't chill it at all. Before chilling, it was very light and spreadable, but still rich and creamy. We brought it along with some organic whole wheat artisanal bread to a dinner party. It was a huge success.
This is the bowl after two days in the refrigerator. You can notice two things. First, it's almost empty because it's so awesome. Second, it's very thick and almost crumbly without any whey draining out of it. I don't think you need to let it drain for the whole 12 hours recommended in the recipe. If it's not as thick as you'd like it, just pop it in the fridge. It will harden up to the consistency of a cold brick of Philadelphia cream cheese. But this tastes so much better.

The original recipe called for 2 quarts pasteurized light cream or pasteurized half-and half. Being a glutton, I opted for 2 quarts raw heavy cream from Mother's Market that recently opened in Brea. Yup, you can buy raw milk in grocery stores here. Unfortunately, there are still 11 states where raw milk is illegal and Maryland is one of them. Check out this post from New England Cheesemaking about the Maryland Raw Milk Freedom Riders event.

Cream Cheese: Uncooked-Curd Method adapted from Ricki Carroll's Gourmet Home Dairy Kit
  • 2 quarts heavy cream
  • 1 packet direct-set mesophilic starter or 4 ounces prepared mesophilic starter (I used the buttermilk starter that came with the Gourmet Home Dairy kit)
  • Cheese salt (optional)
  • 2 qt. jar
  • Sieve
  • Bowl
  • Butter Muslin
  • Pour the cream into the jar and bring it to room temperature (72°F). Add the starter and mix thoroughly.
  • Put the cap on the jar and let set at 72°F for 12 hours. A solid curd will form.
  • When 12 hour is just about up, set a sieve over a bowl and line the sieve with butter muslin.
  • Pour the curd into the muslin-lined sieve. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and hang the bag to drain for up to 12 hours, or until the bag stops dripping and the cheese has reached the desired consistency. Changing the bag once or twice will speed the draining process.
  • Place the cheese in a bowl. Add the salt to taste if desired.
  • Place the cheese into small molds and cool in the refrigerator. Once the cheeses are firm, take them out of the molds and wrap individually in cheese wrap.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Previous Au Lait du Mois:

Click here to see the rest of this post...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Soda is Evil: And Makes You Evil, Too

Previously, I'd raised the specter of the health effects of soda. Now, I humbly share the results of a study about to be published in Injury Prevention:

Adolescents who drank more than five cans of soft drinks per week (nearly 30% of the sample) were significantly more likely to have carried a weapon and to have been violent with peers, family members and dates.
FYI, I found this via Prof. Berman's Sentencing Law and Policy blog.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cool produce

I meant to post this ages ago and then forgot.

We tried some new to us produce this summer:
dried fava beans, purslane, burgundy okra, slip skin melon.



I soaked the fava beans and then I was able to easily remove the outer layer to reveal the edible bean inside. When they cooked, they basically disolved into a mush that, when seasoned and mixed with olive oil, made a delicious sauce for pasta.


The purslane is somewhat lemoney and was great in a salad with feta and tomatoes. Purslane is the land plant with the most omega-3.


I miss these tomatoes already.


The okra tasted like regular okra, but was pretty. We mostly eat it raw.


The melon was good. Not quite as good as really good honeydew, but we certainly had no problems finishing it.

Posted by Picasa

Click here to see the rest of this post...

September's Pizza del Mese: White Clam Pizza

September's Pizza del Mese would be a great follow up to an overly generous summer clam bake. Chop up some of those leftover bivalves and make this delectable pizza. For those of us not so lucky, frozen chopped clams or even, gasp, canned clams will suffice. The fantastic garlic white wine sauce and the Pecorino cheese will more than make up for any shellfish shortcomings.

The recipe calls for fresh, not dried, parsley. I substituted cilantro as I have so much it's staging an Occupy Sarah's Refrigerator demonstration. It is, in fact, 99% of the produce in my house. I can see how fresh parsley would be good, but the cilantro worked well.
White Clam Pizza adapted from Pizza: Grill It, Bake It, Love It! by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough
  • Vegetable oil to apply to the cooking surface of Lodge Pro Logic Cast-Iron 14-Inch Pizza Pan
  • One recipe Semolina Pizza Dough (see recipe below)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 12 oz. frozen chopped clams, thawed; or two 6- or 7-oz. cans clams, drained
  • 2 T dry white wine
  • 2 T chopped parsley leaves (or cilantro, in my case)
  • l 1/2 oz. Pecorino, finely grated
  • Position the rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450.
  • Apply a thin coating of vegetable oil to the surface of the cast iron pizza pan. Lay the dough at its center and dimple the dough with your fingertips. Then pull and press the dough until it forms a 14-inch circle on the pizza pan.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl in the olive oil, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the clams, wine, and the parsley; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the liquid has reduced to a glaze, about 2 minutes. Don't let this go too long or there won't be enough liquid to counter the dryness of the Pecorino.
  • Spread the clam mixture evenly over the prepared crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with the grated Pecorino.
  • Place the pie on its pizza pan in the oven on the middle rack. Check it about every three minutes for the first nine minutes to pop any air bubbles that may blow up at its edge or across its surface. Bake until until the crust is somewhat firm and lightly browned, 14 to 16 minutes.
  • Transfer the pizza pan to a wire rack to cool for 3 minutes. Remove the pie from the pan, transferring it directly to the wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.
This Semolina Pizza Dough turned out really well. I substituted bread flour for the all-purpose flour due to my irrational fear of low gluten content. The crust really puffed up around the perimeter and the texture was relatively light and airy. I'm definitely going to use this one again. Semolina Pizza Dough adapted from Pizza: Grill It, Bake It, Love It! by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough Ingredients
  • 3/4 C lukewarm water (between 105 F and 115 F)
  • 1 1/2 t active dry yeast
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/2 C bread flour
  • 1/2 C semolina flour
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with warm tap water, drain it, and dry it thoroughly. Stir the water, yeast, sugar, and salt together in the bowl just until everything is dissolved. Set aside so the yeast can begin to bubble and foam, about 5 minutes. If it doesn't, throw the mixture out and start again. The water may not have been the right temperature or the yeast expired.
  • Add the flours and olive oil, attach the dough hook, and beat at medium speed until combined. Continue kneading at medium speed, adding more bread flour in 1 T increments if the dough gets sticky, until the mixture is soft and elastic, about 7 minutes.
  • Wipe a clean, large bowl with a bit of olive oil on a paper towel. Place the dough in the prepared bowl, turning the dough so all sides are coated with oil, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
Previous Pizza del Mese:

Click here to see the rest of this post...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Take It Outside

October 16th through 22nd is Take It Outside Week according to Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play (HSBS). Much in the same spirit as the Children & Nature Network's Let's G.O. (Get Outside)! month, which we participated in back in April, the goal of Take It Outside Week is "to encourage educators, families and caregivers to make time outdoors an important part of young children's daily lives."

We haven't found any formal activities in our area yet, but we're definitely contemplating an October Bonus Biome Tour on Friday. What are you going to do to get outside this week?