Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cheese Making Workshop, Part Three

While the cheese making was fun, my favorite part was actually milking the goats. Everybody got a chance to milk Co Co.

Co Co stands on the milking stand and is held in place by the stanchion.

This was the end result, raw goat milk.

Everybody got a chance to try it - and everybody did. To my knowledge, they are all still alive too. Many were apprehensive about trying it but they soon realized that was just silly because it tasted delicious. I'm not a milk expert; I rarely drink it (intolerance). To me it tasted like warm, whole milk. Quite good!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cheese Making Workshop, Part Two

The class was held in the sustainably designed, solar heated meeting and workshop space of the Angelic Organics Learning Center, towards the back of the farm. The building is a straw bale structure and from what they say, very energy efficient. Attached is the milking area and animal pens surround it.

This picture shows our class. Starting from the lower left and going clockwise: feta, chèvre, ricotta, fromagina, and mozzarella.The ricotta came about pretty quick and caught me unprepared and cameraless.

Mozzarella required heating the milk to a couple different temperatures. Below the milk is sitting in a water bath trying to maintain a constant temperature of 108 °F for 35 minutes.
Mozzarella also needs to be worked. Bits of mozzarella are pulled like taffy and then formed into balls and dropped into a brine solution. This was the hardest recipe because there are several different temperatures that have to be hit and maintained and it also requires the most actual 'hands-on' work. However, this cheese probably turned out the best (I didn't try the ricotta) that day.

Fromagina may sound unfamiliar. It is a cross between Fromage Blanc and Mascarpone developed by Bob & Ricki Carroll of the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. Ricki Carroll is also the author Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses. Fromagina is an easy-to-make, creamy cheese. Here the curd is being ladled into colanders to drain the whey.I think this cheese needed more time to drain than the class allowed.

The most common goat cheese you will find on the supermarket shelves is Chèvre. 'Chèvre' is the French word for goat. This is also a cream cheese which usually comes in vacuum-sealed logs; often combined with herbs, nuts, edible flowers, or fruits like cranberries. Here they are ladling the curd into colanders to drain.Several people declared this cheese 'goaty' though I didn't think it was bad. Pete, the instructor, made several different types of spreads with Chèvre as the base including a chocolate one.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cheese Making Workshop, Part One

A little over a week ago I attended a cheese making workshop put on by Angelic Organics Learning Center in Caledonia, IL. I've been to a class there once before and actually have another class scheduled next weekend. This was a very basic class covering cheese making. The milk used was raw goat milk from the small herd of goats they maintain. All recipes were also provided by them.

The class divided into groups of one or two based on what kind of cheese you wanted to make: chevre, fromagina, ricotta, mozzarella, feta, and queso blanco. Most groups had two people. Actually, thinking about it now, I was the only one working alone since I chose feta. The rest split across the other types of cheeses save queso blanco, which nobody wanted to make. I chose feta because I didn't want to do a cream cheese and I was a little intimidated by the mozzarella recipe.

Feta begins as whole goat milk that gets heated to 86 °F. At this point you add 2 ounces of mesophilic goat cheese starter culture, mix, and allow to ripen for one hour. This is my milk ripening:

After ripening, 1/4 rennet table is dissolved into 1/4 cup cool water and then added to the milk. Again, cover and let sit for another hour. This is when the curd is formed. With a knife, cut the curd into 1/2 inch cubes using a gentle sawing motion. Let the whey get between the cubes and let it sit another 10 minutes. This is my curd post-cutting:

Now the curd gets stirred for twenty minutes. This picture is just as I started stirring:

After stirring, the curd should be broken down. Feta needs to hang and drain so it goes into cheesecloth. Line a colander with the cheesecloth and ladle the curd and whey into it. My curd and whey just before tying it off:

Tie the corners together and hang the cheese for four hours.

After hanging cut the curd into 1 inch cubes and sprinkle with 1 tsp of coarse salt. Age the cheese for four to five days in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.

My feta tasted OK. The times in class were abbreviated so it only aged for ten minutes before people tried it. I do think it was one of the better cheeses made that day. The cream cheeses didn't seem to turn out great.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Teal Perfection!

Paul and I have done cut-outs probably a dozen times now…and this last time was the best technical execution of the basic frosted cut out cookie (i.e. there have been problems in the past – egs. dough too sticky, dough sticks to many surfaces, icing doesn’t dry – to name a few). In fact, on ‘baking day’ I have been known to turn up missing for several hours to avoid any cookie drama. After our first run at Easter cookies with multiple, unplanned designs that had to be perfectly executed, I pawned off our next Baby (cookie) Basket job to my Mother who was visiting from out of town, telling her I couldn’t take the stress of working with Paul again so soon. She recalled my stories of how the bunny eyes (made of Candy Dots) had to be perfectly matched shades of blue and how Paul became upset when one set wasn’t…A look of fear came over her. I think I might have bribed her with something (spa day at HQ?) to assist Paul with this job, as we had three Baby Baskets to make for Mother’s Day. I once asked Paul, “Why does it take all day to make cut outs?” He gave me this reply: Step 1) Roll out dough. Step 2) Cut out cookies. Step 3) Remove good cookies. Step 4) Scrape up bad cookies. Step 5) Repeat Steps 1-4.

HOWEVER, nothing brings me more joy than planning around a theme and delivering a box of cookies that delights on both taste and appearance! One of my hobbies is scrap booking. As such I make use of my squeeze 2x2 die-cutting system as well as shop for the perfect embellishments. I do not get involved in the cookie itself until the actual decoration of the cookie. Although I sometimes advise (strongly) how I want the cookie to look as I did on this occasion. So, Paul and I have different strengths and can compliment each other quite well.

This occasion called for cut outs in the letters “H” and “Q” for the salon I go to for my therapeutic massages and miscellaneous other services: “HQ Headquarters Salon & Spa.” HQ moved into their new upscale location approximately one year ago, which is consequently how I found them, and were celebrating their one-year anniversary; a week long celebration with a different free service to try each day of the week: Hand masks, paraffin dips, facials, polish changes, 10-minute chair massages, and more. Plus treats and more treats. I wanted to bring in something special that represented the theme and the salon atmosphere.

Although I didn’t get the specific PMS (Pantone Match System®) color number for teal that Julie (salon owner) uses in her printed materials (she didn’t have that readily available), we did match to her brochure and business card. Julie uses teal and white as her primary colors.

Trial and error has led us to the Hard Glaze for Cookies from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. We poured the frosting into clear bottles, much like what you find at a diner for ketchup or mustard, and each set off to frost our assigned letter. I frosted all of the H’s, Paul the Q’s. I preferred to trench a heavy line of frosting across the entire middle of the cookie, then spread evenly with a small spreading spatula. Paul preferred to use the clear bottle for the entire process; he traced a thick line of frosting over the entire cookie then used the bottle tip to spread the frosting. His cookies had more cookie border showing than did mine. Both methods achieved the objective. We had about eight dozen cookies to frost and sprinkle and we finished in record time; in about one and a half hours! It does seem that the frosting starts to set in a couple of minutes…so one should sprinkle the nonpareils every 4-5 cookies. I let the frosting set overnight, then packed everything up in the morning. I arranged them in stacks of four high, alternating H’s and Q’s in the bakery box.

We used Wilton® Teal icing color for the coloring and added a little at a time until we reached the desired boldness of teal color. The sprinkles are Wilton® White Nonpareils and really popped against the teal. The cookie recipe also comes from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. The H’s were flavored with vanilla extract and the Q’s with almond extract.

The packaging was simply a window bakery box with teal scrap booking paper overlaid with a 10” dia. doily. I used a second piece of teal paper to die-cut the letters HQ. I shopped until I found the perfect embellishments, which turned out to be Jolee’s Boutique® ‘My First Haircut.’ This set of stickers contained scissors, a comb, a hair dryer, a salon chair with booster seat and other salon-related tools. I also used parts of three other sticker sets so that everyone at the salon would be represented in their particular specialty; massage, nails, etc.

Julie was thrilled with the cookies, and I was told they were quite the hit with Julie’s clients. This is my first post at Cookies, Et Cetera. I hope you enjoyed reading my first post.