Saturday, August 04, 2012

Homemade Cottage Cheese


After an unsuccessful attempt at making homemade cottage cheese, I achieved delicious curds. The difference? I used the suggested calcium chloride. The results was a nice break in the curd. You can see how well the curds stayed together once they were cut and being reheated. I didn't stir the curds, but I did swirl the pot to help distribute the heat. I followed the directions in Ricki's Basic Cheese Making Kit from the New England Cheese Making Supply Company. The only thing I also wasn't too concerned about was only raising the cheese 2 degrees every 5 minutes to get to the required 110 degrees.


After draining the whey from the curd, I had a big solid mass. Once crumbled, it looked more like cottage cheese, but didn't have the smooth curds like store bought cottage cheese. I also did mix some cream into the cottage cheese at the end to moisten it.


I feel ready to tackle feta next!

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012



I saw this bug on my tire this morning. It was about the size of my thumb, so around 2 1/2 inches long by 1 inch wide. That's what I call a big bug.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Homemade Sand/Water Table

To keep the Wee Bairn entertained this summer in our Wee Backyard, I cobbled together a sand and water table out of an old planter and some bins from IKEA.
Now I've got a space between the two bins that won't fit another bin, but looks a little sad.
Any thoughts on what should go there? The gap is about 14 1/2 inches deep and 10 7/8 inches wide.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Awesome Shortcake

I have no pictures to share because we ate these up so fast, but if you have strawberries, they are worth making. Recipe for Shortcake Biscuits 2 cups AP flour 2 T sugar 1 T baking powder 1/2 t salt 8 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 1 cup heavy cream Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture until butter is pea sized. Add cream and mix until moist. Kneed gently. Roll out until about 1 inch thick. Cut into biscuits. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Serve with strawberries and whipped cream. Delicious.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Back in September of 2008 I read an article in the New York Times Magazine's Recipe Redux column about challah. Four years later, I finally made it. Not the 2008 version, which, much like the article, is offensive on a lot of levels. I made the 1976 version. Well, I made my food processor version of it. In fact, I've made it about seven times in the past three months, and I think I've perfected it.

The original recipe from Sarah Schecht of Brooklyn appeared in an article by Craig Claiborne in 1976. I’ve divided it in half, given food processor directions, and braided like a sane person instead of in an eight-strand braid. However, the pictures you see in this post are actually of a double batch following the instructions below (literally, I made it once, then made it again . . . otherwise it doesn't fit in the food processor, or in any bowl I own to rise) and then following Ms. Schecht's instructions for braiding, which even I could follow.
I highly recommend using Penzeys Ceylon cinnamon, which has a heavenly, ethereal taste, unlike the heavy ground bark you get from your average grocery store cinnamon. I used Penzeys cinnamon blend this last time, and while it is leaps and bounds better than grocery store cinnamon (which is probably stale China cinnamon), it might have resulted in challah too breakfast-y to use for lunch sandwiches.

If you are planning to use your challah for sandwiches, allow the second rise (the one after you braid it) to continue a little longer. On cold days, I let it rise more than an hour. The challah pictured here rose for two hours and 15 minutes in a kitchen with an ambient temperature around 71 degrees. The reason traditional challah might fall apart when you cut it for sandwiches is because it is supposed to be easy to pull apart to share on Shabbat, like a loaf of dinner rolls.
2012: Challah
  • 4 1/2 C unbleached flour, plus additional flour for kneading
  • 1 t dry active yeast
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 C plus 2 T plus 1/8 t sugar (save the 1/8 for the egg wash)
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs (save one for the egg wash)
  • 1/4 C plus 2 T canola oil
  • 3/4 C lukewarm water
  • Place the flour, yeast, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and sugar in the food processor bowl. Pulse to combine.
  • Add the vanilla, 2 of the eggs, and the oil and run on bread setting for 20 seconds. Add 3/4 c lukewarm water and run again for 20 seconds. The dough is ready when it doesn’t stick to your hands. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then lay a clean towel over that, and let rise for at least an hour.
  • Turn the dough onto a flat surface and knead briefly. Cut off 1/3 of the dough, knead quickly, shape into a ball, flour lightly and let rest for 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining 2 pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece into a 12-to-15-inch-long rope. Continue with remaining balls.
  • On a baking sheet lined with a Silpat non-stick baking sheet liner (or analog), align the ropes, side by side. Gather the tops together, one at a time, pinching down to seal. Braid them. When braided, gather the bottom ends of the ropes and pinch them together.
  • Cover the loaf with a towel and place in a warm spot until the loaf is doubled in size, about an hour. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Beat the remaining egg with the remaining 1/8 t sugar. Brush the loaf with the egg wash. Bake until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes.
Makes 1 loaf.

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Monday, April 02, 2012

April's Mozzarella del Mese: Nodini

Last month I made my first batch of mozzarella using New England Cheesemaking Supply's 30 Minute Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit. It was pretty firm. Definitely sliceable. Well nigh shreddable. This month I wanted to go for a more delicate consistency, like the light and airy fresh mozzarella I've had at fancy restaurants. The best example of this locally is available at the Cheese Cave in Claremont. On one of my many cheese buying binges there, the owner saw my we bairn and suggested she might like some nodini, which means "knots" in Italian. Nodini are just little knots of fresh mozzarella.

I owed four quarter-pound batches of mozzarella to some colleagues who helped me out with a little class project (in case you're wondering, according to Fullerton's zoning ordinances, the incoming CSUF president could keep chickens at her official residence). When asked what form they would like, the only one with an opinion requested nodini. The recipe in the booklet that comes with the kit yields approximately 3/4 lbs mozzarella. So instead of using one gallon of milk I increased it to 1 1/2 gallons of milk and increased all of the other ingredients proportionally, except for the salt. I also modified the original instructions to maximize moisture retention and tenderness. They turned out light as air and delicious, so I'll be returning to this interpretation of the recipe again.

For those of you playing along at home, I used Straus Family Creamery's whole, organic, non-GMO, creamtop, pasteurized milk which I purchased from Mother's Market in Brea.

Nodini adapted from Ricki's 30-Minute Mozzarella recipe in the booklet accompanying the 30 Minute Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit.
Yield: Approximately 1 1/8 lb. cheese

  • 1 1/2 gal whole, non-ultrapasteurized milk (I used pasteurized milk. The directions vary slightly in terms of times and temperatures for raw milk.)
  • 1/2 C cool, chlorine-free water
  • 1/2 tablet (or 1/2 t if you're using liquid) rennet
  • 1 1/2 C cool, chlorine-free water
  • 1 1/2 t citric acid
  • 1/2 t cheese salt
  • 2 gal stainless steel pot or any non-aluminum or non-cast iron pot.
  • slotted spoon
  • thermometer
  • long knife
  • large microwave-safe bowl
  • powderless nitrile gloves
  • Put a large bowl of chlorine-free water in the refrigerator. Put another large bowl of chlorine-free water in the freezer.
  • Dissolve rennet (tablet or liquid) in 1/2 C water. Stir and set aside.
  • Affix the thermometer in a readable position on the pot.
  • Dissolve citric acid in 1 1/2 C water. Pour into the pot.
  • Pour all of the milk into the pot and stir vigorously.
  • Heat the milk to 90 degrees Fahrenheit while stirring.
  • Remove the pot from the burner and slowly stir in the rennet solution with an up and down motion for approximately 30 seconds.
  • Cover the pot and leave it undisturbed for 7 minutes.
  • Check the curd. It should look like custard, with a clear separation between the curd and the whey. If the curd is too soft or the whey is milky, let set for a few more minutes.
  • Cut the curd with a knife that reaches to the bottom of your pot. Cut cubes no smaller than 1 inch square.
  • Place the pot back on the stove and heat to 100°F while slowly moving the curds around with your spoon.
  • Take off the burner and continue slowly stirring for 2 minutes.
  • Pour off the floating whey.
  • Ladle your curds into a large microwaveable bowl and drain off as much of the whey as you can without pressing the curds too much. Put on your gloves.
  • Place the bowl in the microwave for 1 minute. Meanwhile, take the large bowl of water out of the refrigerator and set it next to where you'll be tying your nodini.
  • Remove and drain off the whey as you gently fold the curds into one piece. Add 1/2 t salt.
  • If it's not warm enough to stretch, microwave for another 30 seconds. But if it's already starting to stretch, try to keep the microwaving to a minimum.
  • Stretch the cheese by pulling it into one long rope. Try to work it as little as possible to maintain the delicate texture.
  • Tie a knot at the end of the rope and pull it off from the rest of the rope. Immediately drop the knot into the large bowl of cold water. If the rope cools off too much to work with, pop it back in the microwave for a few seconds. Continue to do this until you've run out rope and have a bowl full of cold water and little knots of cheese.
  • Put your bowl full of cold water and nodini into the refrigerator for five minutes.
  • After five minutes, use the slotted spoon to transfer your nodini from the bowl of refrigerated water to the bowl of water in the freezer. Put your bowl full of really cold water and nodini in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  • You can wrap these in waxed paper and store them in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, you can float them in brine (just salt and water) in an airtight container for a similar length of time. Really, you'll end up eating them WAY before two weeks is up.
Previous Mozzarella del Mese:

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Monday, March 05, 2012

December's Pizza del Mese: Pizza Margherita with Homemade Mozzarella

Back in January 2011 while introducing the Pizza del Mese, I mentioned Mark Bittman's admonishment that pizza dough is too simple not to make yourself. This pizza honors that inspiration by using Mark Bittman's pizza dough recipe. It takes it a step further and provides a nice segue to one of our 2013 blogects by using homemade fresh mozzarella.

Arrivederci, Pizza del Mese! Buon giorno, Mozzarella del Mese!
I used Mark Bittman's Pizza Dough from How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food. Super simple. I let it rise, transferred it to a ziploc bag and refrigerated it overnight, then let it get to room temperature before shaping it on the Lodge Pro Logic Cast-Iron 14-Inch Pizza Pan. Then, I let it hang out for about 30 minutes before proceeding. All of this contributed to this turning out to be the most awesome pizza crust EVER. How did I gain all of this rising wisdom? Well . . . that has to do with another 2012 blogect to be revealed shortly.
I followed Ricki Carroll's 30-minute Mozzarella recipe and used her 30 Minute Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit. Super easy and the transformation from milk to cheese is really satisfying. Much more satisfying than many of the Au Lait du Mois which were like, "Look, after two days I can make milk turn into . . . slightly thicker milk." This is like, "In less time than it takes my pizza dough to rise, I can make milk into stretchy, melty, fantabulously cheesey cheese!"
For those of you playing along at home, I used Clover Organic Farms whole milk with a sell by date eight days after I made the cheese. I bought it from Mother's Market in Brea. Also, there's some sort of something about not making cheese while you make bread or where you make bread or something like that. I ignored it and it all worked out fine. Then again, I made my mozzarella and ate it within 24 hours. So whatever "yeast contamination" took place, didn't have time to rear its ugly head. Right? I don't know. I'll try to find out more about this whole "yeast contamination" thing and get back to you.
Once I had Mr. Bittman's dough and Ms. Carroll's mozzarella, I followed the recipe in January's Pizza del Mese: Pizza Margherita adapted from Pizza: Grill It, Bake It, Love It! by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. Between the four of them, they're like the Justice League of Pizza.
Previous Pizza del Mese:

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It Wasn't Just a Dream

Check out my guest blog appearance on the New England Cheesemaking Supplies blog. Wow, I'm so shiny and talking in that picture. It's so huge. You can totally see my pores. Eek. And this is why I avoid posting pictures of myself on this blog.

And is our blog named for something involving computer games? Bob, did you trick us into being geeky cool? Well, Jeri at New England Cheesemaking Supplies thinks so. That's cool with me.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Adventures in Dairyland

Yes, it's February 2012. I know. But no matter how well we plan, sometimes busy parents have to let some things slide, and in our case, the blog, and along with it, Au Lait Du Mois slid most easily. So it took us 14 months to complete all twelve fresh cheese and dairy treats from the Gourmet Home Dairy Kit and post about our experiences, but we finally did it. Guess why we suddenly finished at the end of February 2012 instead of, say, the beginning of March or 2013?

Check out the last comment on my Panir post. Yup. Being asked to be a guest blogger by the New England Cheesemaking Supplies folks is to amateur cheesemakers, as an Oscar is to an actor. Ooo . . . now I want to carve a statuette out of cheese.
Unlike an Oscar winner, who gets a dust collector which technically, they can't even sell to the highest bidder when things go south, I won a 30 Minute Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit with which I can make up to 30 batches of mozzarella. Take that Meryl Streep.

Now, to be honest, prior to receiving this award, co-blogger Rebecca and I had planned to focus on mozzarella this year, as evidenced by my Hanukkah/Christmas/Solstice/Kwanzaa/New Year 2011 gifts to Rebecca: 10 Tablets of Vegetable Rennet, Cheese Salt, and Citric Acid. If you already have the butter muslin and dairy thermometer from following along on our Au Lait Du Mois adventure, those three ingredients are all you need to embark on our mozzarella journey.

For your consideration, here is a list of all of our Au Lait Du Mois posts:

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

December's Au Lait du Mois: Kefir Cheese

So you've made kefir smoothies for the whole family and you still have a quart of kefir leftover? Make Kefir Cheese!

I drained the cheese overnight (about 8 hours) and it looks nice and creamy. I seasoned it with a little salt.

Buttermilk Cheese adapted from Ricki Carroll's Gourmet Home Dairy Kit
  • 1 qt. fresh kefir
  • Cheese salt (optional)
  • Sieve
  • Bowl
  • Butter Muslin
  • Set the sieve over the bowl and line the sieve with butter muslin.
  • Pour the kefir into the muslin-lined sieve. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and hang the bag to drain for 12-24 hours, or until the cheese has reached the desired consistency.
  • Place the cheese in a bowl. Add the salt to taste if desired.

Previous Au Lait du Mois:

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

November's Au Lait du Mois: Kefir

We had a power outage a while back and my freezer contents suffered. I wasn't sure how my cultures did, but it seems like they weathered the heat. I made the kefir with a half gallon of whole milk and I let it sit for 24 hours. It turned out nice and thick.

I used half of the kefir in smoothies and I used the other half to make kefir cheese. The smoothies contained pineapple, strawberries and bananas along with the kefir. They were a hit.

There are two different ways to make kefir. One uses a kefir culture, as described below. The other, more authentic, method uses live kefir grains. The Gourmet Home Dairy Kit recommends contacting Marilyn, the Kefir Lady, to buy live kefir grains.

You can reculture the kefir culture at least once before it loses its kick. But the live kefir grains can be kept alive, at least in theory, in perpetuity. To re-culture the kefir culture, use 2 T of the prepared kefir in 1 qt of milk and follow the same directions set out below.

Kefir adapted from Ricki Carroll's Gourmet Home Dairy Kit
  • 2 quarts pasteurized whole milk
  • 1 packet kefir culture
  • 2 qt. pot
  • Dairy Thermometer
  • Yogotherm yogurt incubator
  • Pour the milk into the pot and affix the thermometer in a readable position.
  • Put the pot on medium heat and stir occasionally until it reaches between 76 and 86 degrees.
  • Pour milk into the Yogotherm yogurt incubator
  • Add the packet of Kefir Culture and stir thoroughly.
  • After between 12 and 15 hours - or 24 hours is your a busy mom, check for a thick consistency.
  • When it is at the correct consistency, put the Yogotherm insert in the fridge
Previous Au Lait du Mois:

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