Yogurt

Finally after having made a few successful batches of yogurt, I figured it was time to write a post about it. It turns out it really isn’t that difficult, just a bit time-consuming, and the most important thing is just that you get your culture mixed in very well, so that the milk cultures evenly. The nice thing about this, is once you get a batch you like, you can then use the end of it as a starter for the next batch, and on and on. Here we go.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon (about 2 liters) non-ultra-pasteurized milk (preferably not pasteurized or homogenized at all)
  • 2-3 tablespoons yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon powdered milk

Directions

  1. Take a medium-sized enameled or tinned pot (as heavy-bottomed as possible) and scald it with boiling water to more-or-less sterilize it. Do the same with a half-gallon (or 2 liter) canning jar.
  2. Pour your milk into the pot and, over medium to medium-high heat, bring the milk to 180 F (82 C), stirring often to keep the milk from burning on the bottom.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat, and let the milk cool to 120 F (49 C), stirring often.
  4. While you are waiting for the milk to cool, mix the yogurt and the milk powder together so the mixture is smooth.
  5. Once the milk reaches 120 F (49 C), stir in the yogurt/milk powder mixture, and then whisk thoroughly to make sure it is mixed in well.
  6. Ladle the milk into your canning jar, and close the lid.
  7. If you have an insulated container that the jar will fit in, place the jar in the container somewhere fairly warm, and let sit for about 12 hours. We use a heating pad wrapped around the jar on low for an hour or two to give it a good start, and then let it sit at room temperature still wrapped in the heating pad in a fairly warm room for the rest of the approximately 12 hours.
  8. Place the jar in the refrigerator, and let sit another day or two before eating to let the flavor develop a bit.

Yogurt Yogurt Yogurt Yogurt Yogurt Yogurt Yogurt

Crème Fraîche

This one is super easy and delicious. Crème fraîche is a cultured cream, similar to sour cream, and making it yourself from really good quality cream is easy and turns out very well. Equipment you’ll need is a saucepan, a quart-sized canning jar, and a instant-read thermometer.

Ingredients

  • 1 pint heavy cream (fresh or pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1/8 tsp mesophilic bacteria starter or 1/2 cup buttermilk at room temperature

Directions

  1. Put some water in the saucepan, and the cream in the canning jar.
  2. Put the saucepan on the stove over medium heat, and lower the jar partway into the saucepan, so that it’s nearly touching the bottom.
  3. Hold the thermometer in the cream.
  4. When the temperature of the cream reaches about 86 degrees, remove from heat and add the bacteria starter or buttermilk.
  5. Stir gently to mix in the starter or buttermilk, and the put the lid on the jar.
  6. Put the jar somewhere and in something that will keep it at least around room temperature.
  7. Let sit for around 9-18 hours, until the cream has notably thickened and smells like sour cream.
  8. Refrigerate for at least a day before using.

Crème Fraîche

Crème Fraîche

Crème Fraîche

Paneer Cheese

Paneer is a simple, un-cultured cheese used often in Indian food, and is basically identical to queso blanco. It goes great in curries, or you can slice it or cube it and season it and fry it for a snack, or crumble it and put it on tacos. All you need is a pot, milk, a colander, an acid and some cheesecloth.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk, non-homogenized and non-ultra-pasteurized
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (apple cider or white), or lemon juice

Directions

  1. Scald the pot and cheesecloth with boiling water.
  2. Pour milk into pot and bring to a foaming boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a slotted spoon (be careful, the milk boils over quite suddenly).
  3. Remove pot from heat, and slowly pour in the vinegar or lemon juice, while stirring gently in one direction.
  4. Continue stirring for 30-60 seconds as curds start to form.
  5. Cover the pot and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  6. Lay the cheesecloth in a colander and place either in the sink or over a large mixing bowl.
  7. Scoop the large curds out of the pot and into the cheesecloth with a slotted spoon.
  8. Pour the rest of the liquid through the cheesecloth, so that the rest of the small bits of curds get filtered out.
  9. Pull the cheesecloth together so that the curds are sitting in the bottom.
  10. Rinse the curds out under cold water, twisting the cheesecloth and lightly pressing the curds to squeeze liquid out.
  11. Tie some kitchen twine to the excess bit of cheesecloth and hang over sink or bowl to drain for about 4-5 hours (less will do if you’re in a pinch).
  12. Take cheese out of cheesecloth and store in your favorite container in the refrigerator until needed for cooking or eating.

Paneer Cheese

Paneer Cheese

Paneer Cheese

Paneer Cheese

Paneer Cheese

Paneer Cheese

Paneer Cheese

Paneer Cheese

Paneer Cheese

Baking Powder Biscuits

We’re always on the search for the perfect baked goods, and I think we’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to good, standard baking powder biscuits. This recipe came from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, and the only modification we made was to substitute whole milk for cream in the dough. They come out fluffy inside and crispy outside, and they taste amazing. This recipe will make about a dozen biscuits, depending on exactly how thick you make them.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Cut butter into dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or your hands, leaving fairly large pieces.
  4. Form a well in the middle of the bowl, and pour in the milk.
  5. Using a fork, mix together the milk and dry ingredients until nearly all the flour is incorporated.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, and press together into a cohesive mass, incorporating the last bit of flour, but don’t knead any further than that. The dough should not be smooth.
  7. Press dough out so that it is about 1.5-2 inches thick.
  8. Using a biscuit cutter, cut as many biscuits as you can, as close together as possible. Gently form the dough back together, press flat and cut as many more as you can. Repeat until dough is used up (I like to munch on the remnants). Avoid working the dough as much as possible, you don’t want to develop the gluten structure in the flour.
  9. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet, and brush the tops with some heavy cream.
  10. Place sheet in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, until biscuits are lightly browned.
  11. Remove from oven and eat while still hot!

Baking Powder Biscuits

Make Yourself Some Sauerkraut

Yes indeed. You know it. You either love it or hate it. But if you haven’t had it home-made, boy are you missing out. Especially since it’s so easy. Homemade fermented sauerkraut is not only quite healthy for you (lots of beneficial bacteria grow in there that aid digestion and are generally good for you), but it tastes so much better than the pickled-in-vinegar stuff you usually find at the store. Naturally sour due to acid produced by the bacteria eating the sugar in the cabbage, with a bit of that warm, yeasty after-taste you sometimes get from a good beer, and a nice, firm crunch. Really, if you’ve never had home-made sauerkraut, give it a try.

Recipe to fill a 5 liter jug:

Ingredients

  • 3 heads of cabbage
  • About 9 tsp sea salt
  • Water

Directions

  1. Chop each cabbage in half and then in half again (so, in quarters), remove the core, and then slice each quarter as thinly as possible.
  2. In a bowl, mix about 3 tsp salt per head of cabbage (you can do it 1/4 or 1/2 cabbage at a time, depending on what size bowl you have) with the shredded cabbage. Use your hands to make sure the salt is rubbed in well, rub it into the cabbage until it is starting to dissolve.
  3. As you get the salt mixed in, transfer the cabbage to the jar, and press down firmly all around, so cabbage is well-compacted.
  4. Once you’ve gotten all the cabbage in the jar, and all is well pressed down; if there is not enough liquid to cover all the cabbage, add brine just until the cabbage is covered (brine is 1 cup water and 2 tsp salt).
  5. In order to hold cabbage below the level of the liquid, put a large ziplock bag filled with brine (in case it leaks) on top of the cabbage. Make sure not to use a biodegradable bag.
  6. Let sauerkraut sit in jar for approximately 2 weeks – open the jar and press down cabbage every day or two, as it will release liquid and therefore lose volume. Be careful as you open the lid, as gas will build up in the jar, release it slowly when you open to avoid being showered in brine.
  7. After about two weeks (the longer it goes, the more soft and sour it will be), open jar, remove plastic bag from top, and stick a fork in and try it. Mmmmm. Let it sit in the fridge for a day or two for the flavors to kind of mellow out a bit, and it will keep in the fridge for several months.

Update – we made a second batch, and didn’t use a plastic bag on top, but just sealed the big jar, and twice a day we let the gas out (the fermentation releases gas), and packed the cabbage down so it was below the brine level, and that worked fine as well.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut!

Feta Cheese

Well, we’ve just moved into a new apartment, and as we just took a beginning cheese-making class last week, we decided to make the first food adventure in our new place a bit of feta cheese. We got a tip on some fresh goat’s milk in town, and yesterday we got down to business and made the cheese. The cheese has to sit for 5 days before eating (you’ll see that later), so we haven’t really tasted it yet, but we’ll let you know how it is. Here’s the basic process:

  1. Take 1/2 gallon of goat’s milk, any kind but ultra-pasteurized (the ultra-pasteurization ruins the milk for making cheese).
  2. Heat milk in a pot (stainless steel or enameled) until milk reaches about 86 degrees F.
  3. Add about 3/4 tsp of cultured buttermilk. Stir gently with a wisk to make sure the buttermilk is thoroughly distributed through the milk.
  4. Cover and let the milk sit with the buttermilk in for about 1 hour.
  5. Mix about 1/4 tsp double-strength rennet (or 1/2 tsp regular strength) with about 1/8 cup water.
  6. Mix the rennet/water mixture into the milk, and stir gently with a whisk to make sure the solution is well distributed through the milk.
  7. Cover again and let sit for about 1 hour.
  8. After 1 hour, you should have a layer of curd formed. Cut it with a knife, and if the curd doesn’t stick to the knife, you’re ready to move on. Otherwise, let sit a little longer.
  9. Cut the curd into cubes and let sit for about 20 minutes, to let more of the whey release from the curd.
  10. Let sit for another 30 minutes, and stir gently several times during that period. It’s ok to break up the curd some while stirring, but try to leave it mostly in-tact. This is to again release more whey from the curd.
  11. After the 30 minutes, lay some butter muslin in a colander, and strain the cheese curd through. Keep the whey to make soup stock or for another recipe if you can use it. Make sure your piece of butter muslin is large enough to wrap up around the cheese curd into a bag.
  12. After most of the whey has drained off, tie the butter muslin up into a bag, and tie around a wooden spoon or some other long piece.
  13. You can use this to hang the bag of cheese curds above a bowl or above the sink, to let the rest of the whey drain out.
  14. Hang and let drain for about 5 hours, until the cheese curd feels nice and solid, and the whey has pretty much stopped draining from the bag.
  15. Unwrap the curd and place in a large bowl.
  16. Cut the curd again into cubes, and sprinkle with about 2 tbsp flake, sea or kosher salt. Make sure as much as possible that all sides of cubes are covered. Again, it’s ok if you break up the curd a bit.
  17. Store salted feta in a canning jar in the refrigerator for 5 days before using.

Feta Cheese
Cheese curd after being cut, resting and being stirred.

Feta Cheese
Butter muslin in colander, awaiting cheese curd.

Feta Cheese
Cheese curd tied up in the butter muslin for draining, and initially drained whey in a jar.

Feta Cheese
Cheese curd after draining for 5(ish) hours.

Feta Cheese
Cheese curd packed in salt and ready for brining in the refrigerator.

Sourdough Bread

I got a bee in my bonnet to try making sourdough bread, so I looked around at recipes and found this one at Scientific Psychic. We just baked the bread last night, and for a first try, I think it turned out pretty well. We’re going to try out a different recipe this weekend, so we’ll let you know how it comes out.

First of all for sourdough bread, you have to get a starter going. This recipe doesn’t use packaged yeast, so you have to generate your own. That’s what the starter is. It takes a few days to get the starter going, but once it does, you can keep it going and just dip out of it when you need it for baking.

Use a glass, ceramic or plastic container for the starter, nothing metal. Also, use wooden utensils for mixing – if you use a metal utensil that happens to be reactive, you can kill your yeast off. We did use metal measuring cups/spoons, and it still seemed to work ok.

The pineapple juice in the recipe is to add a small amount of acidity to keep out things like mold and other bacteria you don’t want growing in your starter. Many recipes just mix flour and water, so if you want to try that, just look up some recipes for starters and see how they do it. Whenever you add water, make sure to not use tap water, as it is often chlorinated and will kill your yeast.

Day 1: Mix 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 2: Add 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 3: Add 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 4: Measure out 1/4 cup of starter after stirring it well. Discard the rest. Add 1/4 cup bread flower and 1/4 cup spring water and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.

After the 4th day, your starter should be looking bubbly and smelling yeasty, and should grow in size a bit. Once you have a good bubbly, yeasty starter, you can keep adding 1/4 cup flower and water, mixing well and letting it sit overnight at room temp until you have enough starter to use for whatever recipe you are making.

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter

Bread Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (5 oz.) whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups (11 oz.) white bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups spring water
  • 1/4 cup starter

Directions:

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Dissolve the starter in the water. It is important to use non-chlorinated water because chlorine will kill the gas-generating yeast and bacteria in the starter. Pour the water on the flour mixture while stirring. Shape the dough into a ball and cover the bowl with a towel. If your starter is very fluid, you may need to add 1/4 cup additional flour to obtain a dough that has a moist and firm consistency. The porosity of the bread depends on the amount of water in the dough. Wet doughs produce breads with big holes.

Bread Dough!

Leave the covered bowl at room temperature for approximately 18 hours (we left ours about 22 and it was fine). During this time the dough will approximately double in size.

Sprinkle some flour on a large cutting board. Empty the dough from the bowl unto the board and spread the dough gently so that it can be folded in thirds and then folded once more to form a ball. Cover with your towel and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Use a towel to line the large bowl. Sprinkle wheat bran or oat bran on the towel to keep the dough from adhering to the towel, and transfer the dough to the lined bowl. You may also use a wicker proofing basket or banneton, if available. Cover the bowl or proofing basket with another towel. Proofing is the final rise before baking. During this stage, the dough is allowed to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The towel allows some moisture to evaporate from the surface of the dough and will create a thin skin that eventually produces a crunchy crust. The best results are obtained when the dough is proofed in a warm place.

Just before baking

The crispy crust of sourdough bread is obtained by baking the loaf in a hot oven with plenty of moisture during the initial baking period. This can be accomplished by baking the moist dough in an enclosed space, such as a clay baking cloche, a cast iron Dutch oven, or by spraying some water on the dough when it is placed in the the hot oven and by keeping a shallow pan with water in the lower shelf of the oven to generate steam while the bread is baking. Controling the moisture of the whole oven is more difficult than using a covered brick oven or cast iron Dutch oven. Since the dough is very moist, the shape of the Dutch oven determines the shape of the loaf. If the Dutch oven is too large and the dough does not fill it halfway, the loaf will bake flat.

note – We didn’t have a dutch oven with a lid handle that would stand a 475 degree oven, so I just baked it on a baking sheet, and it did bake a bit flat, but not too bad. We moistened the outside of the dough before baking, and the crust came out pretty well.

Thirty minutes before you plan to bake the bread, place the covered empty cast iron Dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 475°F. When ready to bake the bread, work quickly. Open the Dutch oven, sprinkle some bran in the bottom of the heated Dutch oven to keep the bread from burning and sticking. Transfer the dough to the Dutch oven. Make some decorative 1/2 inch (1 cm) deep slashes with a razor blade, if desired. Put the lid on the Dutch oven. Bake the covered dough for 30 minutes at 450°F. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven, and bake for another 15 minutes at to 400°F (204°C) until the crust is golden brown. Be careful not to get burned by the steam as you open the Dutch oven. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool for at least one hour.

note – since we baked ours on the baking sheet, we just preheated the oven, put the bread dough on the baking sheet and put it in after the oven was preheated. we baked it for about 35 minutes at about 425, and that was just about right. The time may vary depending on your particular oven.

Post-baking

Maple Cinnamon French Toast

This weekend we made the now annual feast for my birthday (more on that later). And as per usual for us we had tons of leftovers. One thing we had to use right away was the beautiful fresh french baguette.

Maple Cinnamon French Toast
Maple Cinnamon French Toast

day old french baguette, cut in 1 1/2 inch thick slices
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Maple Cinnamon French Toast
Preheat oven to 375 F

~beat eggs till just scrambled but not frothy
~add in milk and maple syrup and combine
~add sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon and mix completely

Maple Cinnamon French Toast
~Place the baguette slices in a baking dish and pour egg mixture over the bread.
~Let sit for 15 min, turning occasionally to coat and soak up all the egg-y goodness.
~Remove the bread slices and cook each side in a hot buttered skillet or griddle till just golden brown, careful not to burn.
~While the bread slices are browning throw away any left over egg mixture from your baking pan and wipe it out.
~Once your french toast has browned place the slices in the baking dish and finish cooking in the oven for about 10 min.
~The middle of the french toast will finish cooking through and puff slightly.

Maple Cinnamon French Toast
Serve with maple syrup and butter.

Pasta with wild leeks and green garlic

This weekend we went to the Portland Farmers’ Market, and we got some wild leeks and green garlic (which is just very young garlic, including the green shoots). We decided to make a very simple pasta dish with them, so that they were the predominant flavor.

Just roughly chop the leeks and garlic, after removing the roots.

Pasta with wild leeks and green garlic

Sautee them in a skillet with olive oil over medium to medium-high heat until they are just getting soft. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove the skillet from heat and let the leeks and garlic cool a bit. Zest half a lemon into the leeks and garlic and mix it up.

After cooking your pasta, dish up the pasta and top with the leek and garlic mixture. Finish it off with a sprinkling of lemon zest, and then grate some parmesan cheese on top. If you like, you could also drizzle a bit more olive oil over top.

The flavor is fresh, and the oniony-garlicy flavor goes well with the lemon zest. It’s a nice, simple pasta that only takes about 20 minutes to make and is super cheap.

Pasta with wild leeks and green garlic