Friday, March 4, 2011

Cheese and Cake

No, not cheesecake. 

During my goat milk caramel phase (which hasn’t entirely passed, but is on hiatus), I bought a quart of goat milk to make my own sweetened condensed goat milk.  I only used a cup.  Every day since, I’ve stared at this open quart of goat milk in our refrigerator wondering what can I do with it and will I do something with it before it has to be thrown out. 

Cheesemaking is the only time I want to
see chunks in my milk.

Epiphany:  Cheese!  I pulled out one of my textbooks from school and am in the process of homemade goat cheese.  It takes about two days, but the original recipe from my Garde Manger textbook was beyond simple to begin with and I simplified it even more.  My recipe, adjusted to use the full quart of goat milk, is at the end.

I was hoping to show pretty pictures of the drained cheese this morning.  However.  Apparently our mini-frige downstairs is having an identity crisis and thinks it's a freezer.  What I have this morning is frozen curds, cream and whey.  Not what I was looking for and not sure if it can be rescued. 

My frozen curds, cream and whey.  At this point,
there's not supposed to be any cream,
 just curds and whey. 
You're thinking of Miss Muffett right now aren't you?
I'll be a bit annoyed if it can't.  It would have been better to just toss the goat milk than waste heavy cream.  Heavy cream is sacred in our refrigerator.  At least to me, anyway.
For the past couple of weeks it’s been in my mind that I haven’t done a cake in awhile and I’m feeling the itch.  As fate would have it, I was contacted by a fellow culinary student Wednesday about doing a wedding cake for some friends of his.  (I think he’s arranging the cake for them on the sly since he won’t let them contact me or vice versa.  What a friend, huh?!)  I was told the cake should be a simple, elegant, but bold, three-tier cake.  Their colors are yellow and orange.  I have free reign on pretty much everything.  They are getting married April 16.  For all intensive purpose, six weeks is rather short notice for a wedding cake, but it’s not as if I have a full schedule.  I’ve worked on my design, and if everything comes together as I’ve visualized, I think they will be happy with the results.  You’ll probably see it before the couple does.  I’m super excited about this!!

Lemon Pepper Goat Cheese
1 quart goat milk (I got mine at Neighborhood Co-op, but I think I’ve seen it at WalMart, too)
1-1/3 cups heavy cream
6 Tbs plus 2-1/4 tsp cold lemon juice (strain if using freshly squeezed)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp coarsely ground or cracked peppercorns (whatever kind you prefer)

Special equipment you’ll need:  thermometer, cheesecloth, mesh strainer

Combine the goat milk and heavy cream in a large, microwave safe bowl.  Heat to 100°F.  (In our microwave, I went full power for 2 minutes, stirred and checked the temp; 2 more minutes, stirred and checked the temp; then 45 seconds to reach 100°F.  Newer models are probably more powerful, so you may want to do this in 1 minute intervals.)  When the temperature reaches 100°F, add the lemon juice.  Stir briefly and gently, just to combine.

Cover the bowl with the cheesecloth and let rest at warm room temperature for 3 – 4 hours, depending on your schedule or level of patience.  Line the mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and set it over a bowl to catch the whey.  Gently pour the curdled milk into the cheesecloth.  Fold the cheesecloth over the top of the milk and refrigerate the whole thing for 8 – 12 hours, or overnight, to drain.

Transfer the cheese to a bowl and work in the salt and pepper.  Clean or gloved hands are your best tools here, but use a wooden spoon if you'd rather.  Be gentle so as not to overwork the cheese.  Tired cheese is not a good thing.  Press the cheese into a mold (bowls can be molds), place a piece of cheesecloth over the top and weight it down.  I usually use a jar of something I already have in the refrigerator as a weight.  Refrigerate overnight.  Unmold and serve or wrap and refrigerate for up to four days.

This should make about a pound of cheese.