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Entries in Cheese (7)


Homemade Goat Cheese & Madison, Wisconsin

In September, we spent five blissful days in Madison, Wisconsin.  If you haven't visited, Madison is situated on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona.  There are cyclists everywhere and the city has a hip, urban feel combined with the surrounding area's focus on farming.  The Ironman was the focal point of our trip, but it didn't prevent us from exploring the city, the Wisconsin campus, and the surrounding countryside.  The Madison Farmer's Market (held on Saturdays around the Capitol Square) is not to be missed - I've never been to a bigger market, or one where there is such a defined flow of traffic!  We rode our bikes all around the university campus and worked up an appetite for the Babcock Dairy Hall Store  -- how did I not know there are universities with their own dairy store?  We patronized Madison Sourdough several times and enjoyed the beautiful and flavorful bread and amazing sandwiches, breakfasts and pastries.  I sat there for 3 hours the morning after the Ironman when I couldn't sleep and they happily refilled my coffee and didn't judge when I ordered a second breakfast.  As a stationery lover, a visit to Anthology was a must, and, similarly, as a beer lover we trekked out to the New Glarus Brewery.  On our way to the airport, we made a final stop for crepes at Bradbury's Coffee.  I think one of the highlights of the trip was riding bikes all over the city

Another wonderful thing about Madison?  Our dear friends V and N live there.  Not only did they meet us at awesome local haunts like Fromagination and  A Pig in a Fur Coat, but V gave me and Rob a tour of the gorgeous farm where she works, Dreamfarm.  

This was my first experience getting up close and personal with goats.  Man, are they cute!  They love to nibble on everything (particularly buttons) and were so social and sweet.  

After visiting Dreamfarm, I was inspired to make goat cheese... it just took me a few months to get around to actually doing it.  I tried a very simple recipe from Food52 and am happy to report the process is straightforward and yields delicious results.  When Rob first tasted the cheese, he said it tastes "farmy" and I think that is an accurate description (albeit not a particularly flattering one) -- unlike much of the goat cheese you get in the grocery store that can be bland and flavorless, the homemade version has a complicated, fresh flavor.  The best part is that you can adjust the flavor of the cheese as you wish - I added just a bit of salt and pepper because I liked the simple flavor, but you could garnish it with any combination of herbs or peppercorns.  So far, I've enjoyed the goat cheese spread on crackers, on top of pizza, and on a roasted vegetable and kale salad.  I'm thinking next I might need to incorporate into a dessert....

Homemade Goat Cheese
Recipe from Tasia Malakasis via Food52 

Yield = 3 small logs (approximately 3" in length and 1.5" in diameter)

Notes - First, I was able to find goat's milk at Sprouts, Whole Foods, and In-Season Local Market in Denver.  Second, after heating the milk and pouring it into the bowl with the cheesecloth, I was struck by how much whey (liquid) was left.  Don't be alarmed if the cheesecloth "bag" is almost fully submerged in the remaining milk.  I've included a picture that illustrates this above.  I periodically drained off the excess liquid.

1 gallon goat milk
2 rounded teaspoons of citric acid (Available in some grocery stores but I ordered mine from Amazon)
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
Cheesecloth or cotton kitchen towel

1. Mix the citric acid with 1/2 cup of water. In a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot, combine the goat milk and citric acid to 185 degrees over medium heat, stirring continuously. Once it reaches this temperature, turn off the heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes. 

2. Lay out your cheesecloth in a bowl. Pour in the milk mixture. The curds simply resemble curdled milk at this point. Tie the ends of the towel together so it becomes a bag. Hang it on a wooden spoon and let the bag hang free. The whey should strain for at least two hours,  but for best results you can leave closer to 6 hours (I left mine for 6 and was really pleased with how dense the cheese was). This makes forming a log easier and results in a denser cheese.  Before taking the cheese out of the cloth, squeeze the cloth to extract more liquid from the cheese. 

3.  Transfer the cheese from the cloth to a bowl and season it with cheese salt to taste.  You can garnish with fresh herbs, peppercorns, or form a traditional log.  To shape into a log, simply place on a clean smooth surface and begin to roll out gently, like a Play-Doh snake.

How could you not love that face?


Parmesan & Rosemary Crackers

Colorado is known for its fickle weather.  Saturday I enjoyed a day at the swimming pool.  It was over 80 degrees outside and in one hour in the sun I managed to get a sunburn.  We had a picnic, including a few of these Parmesan & Rosemary Crackers.  

Today it snowed.  The spring flowers are in full bloom, the lilac bushes have buds, and the air smells of spring.  One can only hope that this April (snow) shower doesn't ruin it all.

Spring or winter, I think you'll enjoy these crackers.  At our March cooking club, three people mentioned how much they loved these and how easy they were to make.  What isn't to love about a cheesy cracker, particularly for a cocktail party or to bring to someone's house as a hostess gift?  Double the recipe and freeze a log so you'll always be able to pop a tray of crackers into the oven.  And while I made these with fresh rosemary, the original recipe calls for thyme and I think you could use any fresh herbs you have on hand.

Parmesan & Rosemary Crackers
Adapted slightly from the Barefoot Contessa

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 ounces grated Parmesan
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary sprigs (stems removed)
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper 

1.  Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix until creamy. Add the Parmesan, flour, salt, rosemary and pepper and combine.

2.  Dump the dough on a lightly floured board and roll into a 1 1/2-inch wide log (mine was approximately 12 inches long).  Wrap the log in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.*

3.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the log crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices. Place the slices on a sheet pan and bake for 22 minutes.

* I made a double recipe and froze one log to bake later.  I let the log thaw at room temperature for about 15 minutes and then proceeded with step (3) above.  


Homemade Mascarpone

After a number of consecutive weekends away, it was such a relief to be home this weekend.  There is something about two whole days stretching ahead of you with very little planned.  Rob and I enjoyed fresh oysters and happy hour at Jax, a trail run at Matthew Winters, a visit to Little Man Ice Cream, and some gorgeous Colorado sunshine.  I also finally got back in the kitchen and feel so much more like myself.  Hello, March!

When I read this recipe for homemade mascarpone, I couldn't wait to give it a try.  Homemade Ricotta was so simple and a huge success and I had high hopes that the mascarpone would be similar.... and it was. This comes together in about 20 minutes and then sits overnight. In the morning, you have mascarpone! There is something so amazing to me about making something at home just seems impossible to make.

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast today of toast spread with mascarpone, drizzled in honey, and covered with sliced berries.  My inspiration was Panaficio, a favorite spot of mine on Charles Street in Boston, where they serve Formaggio, which is essentially what I made.  After finishing my toast, I proceeded to just dip strawberries into the mascarpone.  Serve it as you'd like, but definitely don't miss this recipe!

Homemade Mascarpone
Recipe from Two Tarts
Yield = 1 1/2 cups (approximately)


2 cups heavy cream (pasteurized is preferable to ultra-pasteurized, but ultra-pasteurized worked for me)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
candy thermometer



Heat the cream over low heat in heavy-bottomed saucepan until it reaches 190° F.  While the cream is heating, stir it to ensure the bottom doesn't scorch.  At 190° F, the cream should be gently simmering.  Add the lemon juice to the cream, stir frequently, and continue to heat the cream at 190° F for 5 minutes.  The cream will thicken so that it coats the back of your spoon, but no visible curds will form.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool for 30 minutes.  While the cream cools, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl.  Once cooled, pour the cream into the sieve and allow the cream to drain and cool completely.  Only about 1-2 tablespoonds of liquid will drain out.

Leave the cream in the sieve with the bowl underneath, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge overnight.  The next day, remove the mascarpone from the sieve and store for up to 10 days.


Homemade Ricotta

One of the many bad habits I picked up in college was the late night food run on Saturday night after the requisite dance party at Toad's. For the most part, those nights are a bit hazy, but they typically involved a stop at Yorkside Pizza for a slice of pizza or a calzone. I quickly decided that I didn't like the ricotta cheese in the calzone and always ordered calzones without it... and I haven't had it since.  But then GP and Ina Garten proclaimed it to be awesome and oh-so-easy to make.. and Ali confirmed that it was, in fact, incredibly tasty.... and the final straw was seeing yet another recipe for homemade ricotta in this month's Bon Appétit.  Okay folks, I can take a hint. It was time to give ricotta a second chance.

And now I have a confession. I have been eating homemade ricotta on any number of things during the past week. It comes together in a flash and it complements so many foods! I first had it with garden-picked tomatoes from my parents... then on extra plums I didn't use the Plum Crumble... and finally I had to bake it into something so that I would stop myself from taking spoonfuls of it from the refrigerator! If you enjoy fresh mozzarella or burrata, you will love this. You will also be amazed at just how simple it is to make... and I find there is something so rewarding when you make something yourself that it just seems you shouldn't be able to make (I felt this way about making crème fraiche, too). Please make this! And please don't feel guilty if you can't resist the urge to eat a spoonful of the end product... it is that good!

You can see the ricotta forming on the edges of the strainer in this photo - yum!

Homemade Ricotta
from the GOOP newsletter with Ina Garten & Gwenyth Paltrow 
Yield = approximately 2 cups 

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar

Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a stainless steel or enameled pot such as Le Creuset. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).

Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. (I tend to like mine on the thicker side but some prefer it moister.) Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.


Crème Fraîche Cheesecake with Sour Cherries


Until college, cheesecake was one of those foods that I was a little bit scared of.  It seemed wrong to me that people ate cheese in a cake for dessert.  Granted, I had never tried it... but the whole concept didn't sit well with me.  This all changed when L's Aunt Ellen visited us in New Haven from New York City and brought with her an assortment of truly incredible mini-cheesecakes.  I was skeptical only until the first bite and since then I've been a cheesecake convert.

My dear friend J alerted me to this unusual recipe in the NY Times a few weeks ago.  I say "unusual" because I don't usually think of cheesecake having goat cheese in it and I was concerned about what this would do to the flavor.  Rest assured, it just makes the cheesecake better.  The combination of cream cheese, goat cheese and crème fraîche is dynamite and the sour cherries drizzled on top really make this dish.  I also love adding dishes that can be entirely prepared in advance to my repertoire.  The other unique aspect of this recipe is that the cheesecake doesn't have a crust.  The lack of crust highlights just how tasty the cheesecake is, but if you prefer to have one any graham cracker crust would pair well.

Crème Fraîche Cheesecake with Sour Cherries
From the New York Times 


1 1/2 cups cream cheese
1/2 cup fresh goat cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 large eggs 


2/3 cup sugar
2 pints sour cherries, pitted
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. 

1. To make the cheesecake, heat the oven to 325 degrees. Wrap the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with foil and place on a baking sheet.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and goat cheese until very smooth. Add the sugar and continue beating until no lumps remain. Beat in the crème fraîche, vanilla and pepper. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions, and beat until combined.

3. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 250 degrees and bake until the cake is just set (it will still wobble a little in the middle), 45 to 60 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

4. While the cheesecake is cooling, make the cherry topping. Pour the sugar and

2/3 cup water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the cherries and balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cherries soften and release their juices, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cherries to a bowl. Continue cooking the liquid in the pan until the sauce reduces by half, about 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir the cherries and any juice from the bowl back in.

5. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the pan before unmolding and serving with the cherry topping.

Yield: One 9-inch cheesecake.