Monday, July 27, 2009

Curds and Whey

So I've been into making yogurt lately because it's soo easy, and based on the milk prices here, it's actually more economical. I know...crazy! And with making it myself, I can determine the consistency, so I go with the nice thick, Greek-style yogurt. Jacob loves that too.

You can make it a little smoother with some stirring or the addition of some whey, but I'll get to the whey in a minute. Here's the recipe for making yogurt. I don't remember what website I got it off of, but there are plenty out there. Here's the one I make from memory.

Plain Yogurt

1 quart milk (any percentage)
3 tablespoons already prepared yogurt (you can use store-bought or homemade)

1. Pour the milk into a large saucepan and scald. This means to heat up but not boil. Do not boil. I tell when to turn the heat off by looking at the surface of the milk. By then it will have formed a thin skin, and when it's ready it will have reached the "alien stage" as I like to call it. The "alien stage" is when you can see ripples under the skin moving, like something is trying to get out of the milk. After it is doing that steadily, turn off the heat.
2. Let the milk cool down some. This is an important step. If you skip this, you'll kill the yogurt starter and just have some warm milk. I usually let it cool for about 45 minutes to an hour. It needs to just be warm to the touch.
3. Spoon out the skin. You need to take this off, or else you'll be eating it in your yogurt. Mmmm, plasticky yogurt pieces.
4. Stir in the tablespoons of yogurt.
5. Place the mixture, covered, in a warm spot. I like to use the oven with the oven light on. It's warm enough, controlled enough, and enough out of my way. Let it sit in that environment for at least 4 hours. I shoot for 4-5 hours.
6. Refrigerate the yogurt (yes, it's yogurt now) until cool. Then strain if desired. I do suggest a little straining, because it does have a lot of whey produced.
7. Eat and enjoy. Flavor however you want!

This is what I use to strain my yogurt. A sieve over a measuring cup with some cheesecloth. I spoon some of the yogurt in there, put it in the fridge and forget about it for a few hours or overnight...depending on how well I have forgotten about it. The cheesecloth will have your thicker yogurt, and the measuring cup will have caught all of the whey.

When you're done making yogurt, you'll have about this much whey as a by-product. People say you can just drink it. I tried it. It tastes like liquid yogurt. You also can use it in recipes whenever it calls for water. If you do that, you get a more flavorful whatever your making, and it's more nutritious as well, since the whey has a lot of protein and nutrients in it. I've been looking into making some recipes, and I'll post about them later.

But the best thing about making your own yogurt is that you get to flavor it however you want. I've tried honey, jam, lemon curd, and now...

Blueberry Curd! I didn't even know there was such thing as blueberry curd. But blueberries were on sale, and I found this recipe for red currant curd here and thought, why not try, so I did. Here's what I did.

Blueberry Curd
adapted from The Daily Spud

1 pint of blueberries
1/3 cup of water
mounded 1/4 cup of sugar (add more or less to your taste)
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 egg yolks

1. Rinse the berries and put them in a saucepan with the water. Boil for 10-15 minutes until dark purple and pulpy. I squeezed the blueberries that did not pop with the back of my spoon to get an even mixture.
2. Run the mixture through a sieve to remove stems and casing that did not boil down.
3. Return to saucepan and mix in sugar over medium heat until dissolved. Taste and adjust sugar if needed. Add pinch of salt.
4. Whisk egg yolks and add a spoonful of the blueberry mixture to heat the eggs. Then add to the rest of the blueberry mixture, whisking until desired thickness is achieved.
5. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until melted.
6. Let stand or store to let it set up before using.

Now you may remember that I made some biscotti that landed me a gig making a birthday cake. Well, I was experimenting around with cake to find one that would work for the party. I first made a white cake, and it was sooooooo dry. So I did some searches for a more moist cake. Here's one of the cakes I found.

A lemon curd cake. It was pretty easy to make, but I wanted to see if I could make it into a layer cake. The cake was very dense, but I did manage to split it, and I put the blueberry curd I had made earlier in between the layers. Then I covered it all in a cream cheese frosting. The cake was really good. Really lemony, but really heavy and sweet. Definitely a grown-up cake and not a little kid's birthday cake. Darn.

Anyway, here's a cross section.

You may be wondering what that blue thing is at the top of the cake. It was one of my experiments for decorating the birthday cake.

Here's the top view of the cake.

So that blue was a little portion of Cinderella. The part is supposed to be a Disney Princess theme, so I was working on tracing those characters in chocolate to put on the cake. I think it turned out pretty well.

Here's a close-up of Cinderella.

She broke in some places putting her on the cake, so I'm going to reinforce the back with some more chocolate. I'm not exactly sure how many princesses I'll make. We'll just have to see what happens. And pray that I find a cake that's moist and kid-friendly. Pray hard!