April 10, 2009


This was going to be a back to back double-feature post, but then Emily ruined it by discovering that her laptop has a built-in SD card reader which made it easier to process her photos before I could finish typing everything up.  I'm still laughing though, because she went three months not knowing about it and transferring pictures with a cable.

This is the story of mascarpone, the second-fattiest food you can make from cream, besides pure butter.  I used instructions found here, but scaled up drastically due to my...bountiful...situation.
The first step was to heat the cream to 180F, which I did with one modification:  I used a heavy-bottomed frying pan as an additional heat defuser because I'm paranoid and dairy is vulnerable to scorching.  I couldn't find the candy thermometer, so I used our digital probe thermometer instead.

I prepped a mesh colander set over a bowl and lined it with gauze cloth:

That cream of tartar sure got measured!

After the cream hit 180F, I stirred in the acid, stirred some more, then poured into big bowls to cool in the fridge.

 The next morning, a little liquid had managed to strain through the cloth, and scraping the gauze off with a spoon produced little clots of proto-mascarpone.

Which I then put on my toast for breakfast.

Here is where I learned that cream is really thick for a liquid, and it takes a long time for the watery part to strain out from the fatty part.  It took several more days of scraping

and straining, and waiting...
Until I had something closer to the semi-solid that is mascarpone.  At this point, it resembled Greek yogurt, and I called it done because I was tired of scraping that stuff twice a day, and do you know how crusty gauze cloth gets when you leave it in the fridge for a week?  It's gross.

All in all, an interesting experiment was had and guess what, I have to do it all AGAIN because what you just saw was one quart of cream being processed, because that's all I could fit in the colander at once.  I still have the other quart from the initial boiling, waiting to be strained!  Hurrah!   Ugh.


or you know, blogging in the middle of the meal. WHAT

So tonight is trying out this Foodie label Chardonnay.

It's. really. um. Fruity. Not buttery. Little acidic. Not a lot of character but I imagine that it's supposed to be accessible, cheap and to pair with food? WHATEVER. It keeps me company while I cook.

TONIGHT. Our meal will be Israeli couscous and chicken and whatever the hell was big enough to pick in my garden.

You poor bastards. Made the mistake of growing up big and tall and now I will eat you. It's some chard, oregano, english peas, snap peas and thyme.

Thing is, you're supposed to pick often to encourage fruiting, but at the beginning, there's just not very much. Hence the mishmash of tonight.

So, there's defrosted chicken thighs, leftover chicken broth from a previous experiment and the israeli couscous.

First toast the couscous in oil.

It's pearly and kind of weird to see, but I think it's sorta neat.

Then cook the chicken.

This cat thinks she's getting chicken. Um. No.

Chicken cooks with some onion, some garlic and gets deglazed with a little of the wine. Add the couscous back and the chickenstock - two cups to every cup of couscous. And a can of tomatoes.

It looks like a mess but I'm going to let it cook uncovered for a bit. Plans are to let it cook up and add all the green things at the very end. People just called and confirmed they were coming over for dinner so i just threw in more couscous and hoped for the best. MORE SOON

April 9, 2009

Browned butter

Or beurre noisette, if you want to sound fancy.

Creamfest 2009 is in full swing over here. Since the last post, I've made two more batches of butter (one cultured, one plain), a giant pot of chicken fettucine alfredo, and I'm in the process of making mascarpone.

The mascarpone is taking forever to drain, so I will tell you the tale of browned butter instead.

The first batch of butter had way too much water in it, so much that it squished faintly when being scooped out of the tub. The only way to get the water out was to heat the butter and clarify it, so that is what I did.

I started out with the giant mass of butter in a heavy bottomed frying pan on low heat, thinking to separate out the butterfat without damaging the milk proteins with excess heat.  But when I saw the sheer amount of water that was separating out, I decided to go with browned butter and switched to high heat.

Boiling off the water took a long-ass time.

I stirred and continually skimmed off the foam. Butter is weird. There were three separate stages of foaming-up along the way.

Also, did I mention that this process makes the kitchen smell like butter? Ridiculously so.

As the mixture reduced, I turned the heat to medium to avoid scorching and spattering, and just kept stirring and waiting.

Eventually all the water was boiled away and I was left with milk proteins and butterfat. That was also disturbing, because I was frying butter solids in butter.

I let the milk proteins caramelize to a golden-tan color before removing the pan from heat and letting them finish browning from residual heat (heavy bottomed pan = heat reservoir). Carryover is your friend.

After skimming off all the foam that was left:

We went and hung out at a friend's place and watched LOST and when we returned many hours later, the butter was semi-solid. All the delicious browned bits were still at the bottom of the pan, so I stirred them through the butter evenly and poured it into the tub:

Damn, there was a lot of water in there. And probably air from the whipping. Fixed now!

Now it smells like toffee and it tastes deliciously browned and nutty.

The More You Know: If you separate the clear butterfat from the browned solids, you wind up with ghee, aka clarified butter, which is used in Indian cooking. But why would you abandon those deliciously browned solids?

April 4, 2009


What to do when your SO comes home with a crate full of marked-out cream from the local coffee shop?
You introduce it to your little friend the buttermilk (lucky I had some on hand)

And make cultured butter!
Cultured butter is like regular butter but with FLAVOR. Instead of just tasting like delicious fat, it tastes like deliciouser fat. Seriously, if you've never had it, find some and try it (fancy food stores will have it), or make your own.
Dan came home at 10pm with a literal crate full of marked-out heavy cream, so after boggling at this surplus of dairy I poured a quart of it into a mixing bowl and added some buttermilk (about 1/2 cup) and left it out overnight with a cover on it.

This is what it looked like at noon the next day:

It tasted kind of weird when I tried it.
I then whipped it until it held stiff peaks

And then I turned the mixer speed to LOW because when whipped cream turns into butter it goes GLOP and seizes up and if your mixer is going too fast it will throw buttermilk everywhere.
This is what you want.

Mmmm, curdly.

I drained off the liquid into another bowl. This is true buttermilk, the liquid left over from churning butter. Modern-day buttermilk from the store is more like a pourable yogurt.

I still haven't decided what to do with the liquid.
What I was left with:

Tastes more like butter at this point.
You're supposed to wash the butter until the water runs clear. This gets rid of residual milk proteins that might spoil and turn the butter rancid. Most recipes say to knead it by hand under running water, but I like technology so I ran the mixer with some water poured in with the butter.

I decided to salt this batch as insurance against rancidity (salt inhibits spoilage somewhat), so I threw in a tablespoon of kosher salt as the water/butter mixture was churning.
After several water changes, and a mixing paddle change (the butter was getting stuck inside the wire whisk head):

I drained the last of the water and whipped the butter up, then stuffed it into an empty yogurt tub:

Dan got the residual butter off the beater and he was very, very happy.
Just seven more jugs to go!

April 1, 2009


Yesterday, I still had leftover potato water for additional breadmaking endeavors and I had some under-utilized dried figs in my pantry.   So those two things plus lots of flour and some soft butter, small handfuls of flaxseed, wheat germ, shakes of cinnamon/clove/nutmeg and a small heap of brown sugar equals:

Breakfast for the next few days!

I am really liking the King Arthur flour I bought (unbleached white whole wheat).  It was something of an impulse purchase but I think I may buy it again in the future.  It behaves a lot more like white flour than a whole wheat flour and you can't really pick out the wheat germ particules because of the finer grind.  I've been cutting it with some store-brand all-purpose flour as a way to make my 5-lb. bag last longer.