fresh Mozzarella and fresh Ricotta – Viking class

Yes, you read that correctly.  We made fresh, warm, mozzarella cheese from cut curd.  And, using whole milk and heavy cream, we made fresh ricotta with a subtle hint of lemon.  The Viking class was small and intimate, allowing ample discussion time.

Since purchasing this book last summer, I’m on a quest to taste as many cheeses as possible.  I choose a new one from the Whole Foods counter once or twice a month. Not knowing the flavor of what I choose is half the fun.

The class began with brief introductions and – let’s get started!

curd, previously frozen; it seems that finding curd locally is somewhat difficult
(online sources include Golden Age Cheese in NY and Todaro Brothers in NY)

cutting the curd as thinly as possible

smaller curds will melt more evenly in the boiling water
added a little salt to the curd and hot water; 
v e r y   s l o w l y work the warm, melted curd, moving as if tossing a green salad
The goal is to develop a smooth, creamy mozzarella; 
too much handling and the cheese will be rubbery.
We formed the cheese into a ball, pulling the sides toward the bottom as if forming a loaf of bread.
Mozzarella cooling in cold buttermilk:
Kelly removing her cheese from the buttermilk and placing it in a plastic bag for storage in the refrigerator.  We added some of the buttermilk to the bag to prevent crust formation on our newly-made cheese.
My mozzarella, pictured the next day coated with olive oil and Herbes de Provence.  Taste testers were impressed that I made the cheese and highly complimentary of the flavor.
my last bite—
cheese is beginning to form a crust on edge, but center remains smooth-day 6
Making ricotta-
Mise en place

 Though ricotta is traditionally made with whey, we used whole milk, heavy cream, lemon juice, and salt…
(vinegar, rather than lemon juice, would yield a more neutral flavored ricotta)
…and low heat

The class had an extended conversation related to stirring.
Our team stirred very little during the heating process.  Our cheese making process resulted in a smooth texture, fine curd ricotta, with a subtle hint of lemon. 
watch closely for the curd to form

 our first taste

 we always appreciate instructor Tanya’s assistance

 preparing several layers of cheesecloth
It’s time to pour our cheese into the cheesecloth; extra hands are very helpful
notice the thickness of the mixture
our yield

 preparing to tie the bag…

 …and hang to drain

The cheese tasting portion of the class included several cheese selections as well as parings.
Viewing the cheese plate, the wine glass is at 1:00.  
Our first tasting was the cheese at 12:00, and we worked clockwise around the plate.
Silver Goat
creamy white
goat’s milk; cheese produced in Canada
paring:  tomato jam and the most wonderful flavored almonds
(whole almonds, egg white, sugar, salt, pepper, and finely chopped rosemary)
waxed rind embossed with embossed black herringbone design
aged 3 months
mixture of sheep, cow, and goat’s milk; cheese produced in Spain
paring:  sweet quince paste, sweet chutney, grapes 
reddish brown rind developed from tomato/olive oil wash
aged 20 days to 4 months
(alternative to parmesan)
ewe’s milk; cheese produced in Tuscan region in central Italy
paring:  bitter spicy olives, nuts, grapes, Granny Smith or Pink Lady apple slices

Grand Camembert
edible soft, washed rind
cow’s milk; cheese produced in France
very mild cheese, wrapped in paper
(in Brie family)
paring: fig/almond cake, fresh raspberries

Chaumes (pronounced Shohm)
orange soft washed rind
aged 4 weeks
cow’s milk; cheese produced in south west France
soft, creamy, buttery cheese, melts easily and is delicious
paring:  grapes
(softer the cheese – higher the fat content)

herbal brine/wine/cider wash forms golden rind

  • “Classic”. Aged three to four months. The wheels are wrapped in a silver label.
  • “Surchoix”. Aged four to six months. Gold label.
  • “Extra”. Aged six months or longer. Black 
cow’s milk; cheese produced in north east Switzerland
firm cheese
paring:  sweet pickles, sweet German mustard (delicious!! with this cheese)

aged 1 year
cow’s milk; cheese produced in Ireland
semi firm, yellow cheese
paring: pickled vegetables with hint of worcestershire 

Center of cheese plate
cow’s milk; produced in England

forms it’s own crust/coat
strong flavor
paring:  chutney, raspberries, strawberries, Granny Smith apple slices, pears, steak

the table….after the feast

notice the footed cake stand in the center of the table…
cheesecake truffles – made of cream cheese, butter, amaretto, powdered sugar, dried cherries, chocolate chips, and rolled in finely crushed graham cracker crumbs

This was a very informative and enjoyable class.  If you enjoy cheese, this IS the class for you!

fig jam squares

In the beginning, these figs…

…became this beautiful jam made of figs, lemon juice, honey, and sugar.

Months later, I used the fig jam as the filling in these buttery bars:
The recipe makes a 9″ x 13″ pan.  Cool well and cut into small pieces; these are quite rich in flavor.
Recipe adapted from Amanda at
In a stand mixer, mix for 2-3 minutes
8 oz soft butter
10 1/2 oz granulated sugar ( I rubbed the zest of one orange into the sugar prior to mixing with butter)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 t vanilla
13 1/2 oz flour
1/2 t salt
Mix only until dough forms.
Line 9×13 pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Press 2/3 of dough into bottom of pan; press evenly across entire bottom of pan.
I toasted 3/4 c walnuts for 8-10 minutes in 350 degree oven and cooled.
After cooling, chop nuts.
Sprinkle chopped nuts onto top of crust in 9×13 pan.
Spread 15 oz fig jam over nuts and crust.
Pinch remaining 1/3 of dough into pieces and press onto top of jam, leaving areas open to allow the jam to bubble through.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
The bottom crust will brown quicker than the top curst.  I placed the 9×13 pan on top of two sheet pans to help insulate the bottom crust.  Place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the bars if they are browning too much prior to completion of the 40 minute baking time.
Cool the bars and cut into squares.  
I froze a few of the bars and they were very good after removing from the freezer.

hummus and ‘The Accidental Baker’s’ artisan flatbread crackers

Thank you, Alton and Good Eats, for inspiring me to try hummus.

To be honest, the word hummus just never sounded like something I wanted to taste.  As would happen in life, things change.  During the past 1 1/2 years, I’ve enjoyed broadening my culinary horizons.  Thus, hummus, your time has come…

Since I’ve never tasted hummus I have no point of comparison; however, Alton’s recipe, in my opinion, is very good.

I wanted to taste the hummus with an unflavored cracker; thereby allowing the hummus flavor to shine.  I chose an artisan cracker sold by Whole Foods.  ‘The Accidental Baker’s’ Sea Salt Artisan Flatbread Crackers (made in North Carolina) were the perfect choice. I highly recommend this product!

Here’s a news clip from The Accidental Baker’s kitchen:

Hummus recipe adapted from Good Eats, found HERE on the Food Network.  Also, click here for some nutrition information related to chickpeas.

Cook the dry garbanzo beans/chickpeas:
Add to crock pot:
7 c water
1 lb dry chickpeas, rinsed and sorted
1/4 t baking soda

Cook on low for 8-9 hours.
Drain the beans, reserving some of the liquid to add to the hummus if needed.
This will yield about 40 ounces of cooked beans.  My adaptation of the Good Eats recipe uses 10 oz or 1/4 of this recipe.  I either add the remaining beans to a soup or freeze the beans for future hummus.

Make the hummus:
(this yields about 1 1/2 cup hummus)

Into food processor, add:
10 oz drained cooked chickpeas (I don’t remove the outer husk as some recipes suggest; my hummus is velvety smooth)
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 T tahini (sesame paste)
process well

1 T water or the juice from cooking the beans
4 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
process well

3/4 t salt
3/8 t smoked paprika
process well

slowly add through feed tube while food processor is running:
1 T olive oil
process well

I don’t think you can over-process; I mix until the hummus is as smooth as I like. You may need to add a little more liquid if you want a thinner hummus.  For me, the recipe listed above was perfect.

I’m now ready to try various flavor-versions of hummus.  A simple internet search yields numerous add-ins for my future hummus preparations.

cherry almond tart

The almond tarts pictured above are immediately out of the oven.  They are steaming and puffy and the surface shows craters of cherries.
The recipe makes two rectangle tarts.  Taste testers gave these tarts A++ ratings.  I found the tarts cut smoother on day two, after being refrigerated; however, tasting an end piece directly from the oven was an experience not to be missed.
The crust mixture is very soft; continued persistence pressing the dough into the tart pans is necessary. You may have a little crust dough left over; make cookies!
Recipe is adapted from El at
Cherry Almond Tart
140 gr sugar
400 gr butter; use the best butter available
1 egg
1 t vanilla
445 gr flour
1/4 t salt
Mix sugar, softened butter, and egg well with mixer. 
Add vanilla
Slowly add flour and salt and mix only until incorporated.
Press dough into tart pans; this will take a little time
Dock crust with fork and refrigerate for 20 minutes
After refrigerated, line tart crust with aluminum foil and pie weights/dry beans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes to set the sides of the tart
Remove tart pans from oven to cooling rack; remove beans and aluminum foil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Generously sprinkle both crusts with ground cinnamon
250 gr fresh or defrosted pitted cherries, drained
Evenly divide cherries between each tart pan
 Beat in stand mixer for 8 minutes until very fluffy
3 eggs
100 gr sugar
Fold in 
75 gr melted unsalted butter
1/4 t almond extract
100 gr sifted almond meal
pinch of salt
Pour filling over cherries.  Top with slivered almonds to decorate.
Place tart pans on lined baking sheet; butter may seep out of the tart pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until golden brown and the filling is set.
Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

‘Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad’ by Melissa Clark

Isn’t this broccoli salad beautiful!  The florets are so rich in green color, and if you could smell, the aroma would be of sesame oil, cumin, and garlic.
This is the second recipe I’ve tried from Melissa Clark’s book, “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.”  For those looking to try something new, this is a great book – one I highly recommend!
As the author comments, the salad is good freshly mixed; however, it’s much more flavorful on day two or three or four.  Since I was traveling, I froze the uneaten portion of the salad.  A week later, I added the frozen salad to a roasted tomato soup. The broccoli maintained a bit of crunch in the soup, even after simmering for three hours.
Here’s the LINK to Melissa’s recipe in the New York Times dining and wine section.

soup…recreating the leftovers

Though it’s April 16th, it’s a cool, windy, overcast day here in TN.  Soup seemed like the perfect lazy Saturday afternoon lunch.
There is no recipe for this soup….I used my leftovers, as have many cooks through the centuries.  

Into a large pot, I added:

  • 13 frozen roma tomatoes, previously roasted with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little sugar, salt, and pepper
  • 16 oz frozen very thick turkey stock, made from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass
  • 10 oz frozen slow-cooker cooked chickpeas
  • 3/4 of the frozen ‘Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad’ recipe from my new cookbook, “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite” by Melissa Clark
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • no seasoning was required, as all ingredients were previously seasoned
I turned the stovetop eye to very low, covered the pan, and let the ingredients simmer for about 3 hours.
The roasted roams add such intense flavor, and the broccoli maintained a bit of crunch.  Ladled into my pottery dish, the soup was warm and rich and very flavorful.

(photos taking using my iPhone 4, Camera+ app, and natural light)



muffin tarts

These muffin tarts are very, very loosely adapted from a recipe for Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins, posted by Nicole of

When I pulled the pumpkin from the refrigerator it was molded.  Out with the pumpkin; in with the butter – there goes the ‘making good choices’ in this recipe.

I proceeded through the recipe, substituting when necessary and reducing the yield.  The result was a muffin tart that was light and fluffy with a little added texture provided by the oats.  I would add more cinnamon and cardamon next time, as well as cut back a little on the chocolate chips.

Muffin Tarts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place 6 – 4″tart pans on a baking sheet; spray lightly with cooking spray

1/4 c. raw sugar
2 T apple butter
2 T apricot preserves
1 egg

1/2 c. melted butter
1/4 c. water

In separate bowl, mix:
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. thick rolled oats
2 T ground flax
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t soda
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t cardamom
1/4 t salt

Add the wet to the dry
Gently stir in 1/2 c. chocolate chips

I used a #8 scoop, and evenly divided the batter between the 6 tart pans.
Sprinkle generously with raw sugar.

Bake for about 15 minutes.

You really should read he original recipe here; I’m sure it’s healthier.

Austin Eats Food Tours in Austin, TX

Food Tours….
If you love food, or just want to explore a city behind-the-scenes, I encourage you to research the next city you plan to visit.  If food tours are available, add that event to your travel plans.

I became a ‘food tour aholic’ during my visit to Seattle, WA.  After experiencing three of the city’s Seattle Food Tours, I now search for similar tours in all cities I visit.

In Austin, TX I found Austin Eats Food Tours.  (follow them on facebook here; on occassion, you might find a discount code there)  You can find the link to my food tour pictures at the end of this post.

Austin Eats Food Tours is a young business, owned and operated by a young couple excited about food.  They have great visions of adding additional Austin food tours in the future.  Austin offers such a variety of cuisine, the tour ideas are endless.

Don’t let the ‘young’ business fool you.  The Austin Eats tour was conducted on the same professional level as those of the Seattle food tour pros (we didn’t need the headphones in Austin that were needed in the craziness of Pike Place Market Seattle).  We parked for free, met at the corner of Republic Square Park, received our bright orange bags and a bottle of water, and we were off!  Off to sample two treats from two Austin Downtown Farmer’s Market vendors, and we had enough time to browse around the market for a few minutes.

Though not on the food tour, I found Tom Pedersen’s Cocoa Puro chocolate within the market (I can always find the chocolate).  I can highly recommend the caramelized cacao nibbs!

Dia Due served hot, local pork sausage and biscuits covered with cream gravy.  Breakfast at the market!

Bola Pizza, (named after the owner’s dog-Bola) working with their mobile wood fired oven covered in bright blue tiles, allowed us to watch the making of their specialties, then offered two pizza tastings.  Their crust is their signature.  They are a regular at the farmer’s market.

We walked past Lance Armstrong’s bicycle shop, Mellow Johnny’s, and stopped at Hut’s Hamburgers.  I spotted this restaurant the day before while driving to Whole Foods-that’s another blog post!  I snapped a quick iPhone shot and emailed it to my brother (we had an uncle named Hut….ahh….), not knowing the restaurant was on the food tour.  Hut’s serves a delicious hamburger, and very unique onion rings.  Huge onions, sliced and battered with a cornmeal and pepper mixture are a specialty at Hut’s.

It’s good that we walk between restaurants.  We need to walk.

Haddingtons-An American Tavern (English gastropub style) served a banana bread slice topped with sweet bacon and whipped cream cheese, drizzled with maple syrup.  Oh, this was so good!

A few steps away and we entered Walton’s Fancy and Staple.  I’m a “Confections of a Closet Master Baker” fan; after tasting the Golden Egg at Walton’s, the pieces fell together. The book author and restaurant owner have strong family ties.  The list of dainty dessert delicacies included Cream Cheese Brownies, Golden Egg nuggets, Dark Chocolate cupcakes with Strawberry Cream cheese frosting, Butter Croissant pieces, and tiny round Honey-Bee Cake.  Honey-Bee cake is a honey almond cake layered with slated caramel butercream and topped with a ganache rosette and toasted almond.  This flavor combination is awesome!

A walk up Congress to see the ‘the lady who saved Austin,’ and we redirected toward Franks, whose web site and building wall sports the tag, ‘hotdogscoldbeer.’  Jackalope sausage, shredded cheese, crackers, and a couple of sauces began the tasting.  Jackalope is a combination of rabbit, antelope, and pork.  It was very tasty.  We sampled wine on tap, chocolate covered bacon, and a couple of additional items.  The atmosphere was lively, even at noon.  I’m sure it’s lively+,  12 hours later in the day.

The last leg of the downtown tour took us to a dark cozy tavern, The Ginger Man, where we sampled a dark and a light locally brewed beer.

After eating, walking, talking, and touring all morning, the entire tour group seemed to meld together as one might think of old friends.  We parted and wished each other happy future culinary adventures.

Here’s the link to my PICTURES from the food tour and the farmer’s market.

If you find yourself in Austin, TX, contact Andy and book an AUSTIN EATS FOOD TOUR!  I’m giving them a 5+ star recommendation.

…San Diego, CA is next on my USA city adventure list…
Any food tour recommendations will be most appreciated