Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mysost: Caramelized Whey Cheese

I had some whey leftover from making Camembert, so today I took a tip from my co-author, Ken Albala. Slowly cooking down whey turns it into a concentrated caramelized cheese called mysost. And it's so, so delicious, even though I neglected it at a few key moments. (I allowed it to boil, which made ricotta, so it's grainy rather than smooth. I also let it burn a tiny bit during the last caramelization stages, so it has some brown flecks in it.)

Nonetheless, it is just ridiculously cheesy and fudgy, and would have been nearly effortless had I kept the heat low enough and paid attention when it started to thicken, like the recipe says. Ken calls it "precisely midway between candy and cheese," which is apt. Umami like mad. Be prepared to spend a long time scratching at the pot and licking the spoon. Even a tiny scraping of mysost will make you wiggle in delight.

From almost a gallon of whey, I got almost a cup of mysost. What an excellent space-efficient use for the jars of whey that wind up sitting around after making cheese!

Incidentally, the recipes for both Camembert and mysost appear in our new book, The Lost Arts of Hearth and Home, the very first advance copy of which just reached me today!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gluten-Free Cheese Muffins

I have lately had occasion to experiment with gluten-free baking. Namely, the more pregnant I get, the more picky my stomach becomes. I'm not complaining; I've so far had a ridiculously easy pregnancy, so long as I figure out the rules and follow them.

Anyway, these muffins are a bit of a marvel: crusty, buttery, eggy, and all that, but somehow the cheese gives them a very gluten-like springiness and chewiness. It makes sense, I suppose, given that gluten has a texture like cooling melted cheese.

Gluten-Free Cheese Muffins

Preheat the oven to 375.

Mix together:
1.5 cups sweet white rice flour (Bob's Red Mill brand is what I've found)
1 cup fine cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

In a separate bowl, beat:
3 eggs

Then add:
3/4 cup water + 1 tablespoon of vinegar (or 3/4 cup whey, kefir, etc...)

2 tablespoons butter

4 oz. cheese (I used a sharp cheddar)

Stir everything together. It will seem like way too much cheese at first.

Then I take 3 tablespoons of butter and divide it between 9 muffin holes. I use a stoneware muffin pan with muffin holes that are 1.5" deep and 3" across at the top; adjust the number if yours are much different. Pop the pan in the preheated oven for a few minutes to melt the butter.

Scoop the muffin batter into the melted-butter-filled muffin holes. The batter will come up about level with the top of the pan.

Bake 30 minutes. Remove from the pan to cool.

The melted butter in the pan makes the muffins so nice and crusty! These would also be delicious with some fresh herbs minced in, like chives or rosemary.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Coffee and Tea Dying

I recently wound up buying a highlighter-pink tee shirt that was just too cheap to pass up. I can't be too picky given the demands my swelling belly has placed on my wardrobe. Not that highlighter pink is intrinsically bad, of course--it's just bad in proximity to me.

And I do have a few tricks up my sleeve for dealing with bad colors--tricks that broaden my options when cruising sale racks or thrift stores.

First I tried tea-staining it. This was moderately successful, but highlighter pink is very tenacious. So I raided my husband's supply of single-origin small-batch-roasted coffee beans. I only needed an ounce, which I ground and threw into a pot of boiling water. (Forgive me, Sightglass.)

I let that brew for a while, then brought up the heat again and added the shirt. Letting the shirt simmer in the acidic coffee for 30 minutes helped strip some of the pink dye, while the coffee itself added a shade of sepia. The end result was a very nice dusty rose color, far more palatable than highlighter pink.

The basic method is so wonderfully simple. You can even make a stronger brew and paint the tea or coffee directly onto surfaces, like lampshades or sneakers. And you can experiment to obtain other colors. A little turmeric with tea, for example, will get you yellow hues, and the skins of yellow onions give you reddish-orange colors. Whatever blend you use, you'll want some tannins from tea or coffee (or walnuts, or oak leaves?).