For several years and until recently, my usual contribution to a dinner at friends' houses has been gelato or sorbetto. Vanessa of Italy in SF has just published a very informative post on gelato and ice cream. I don't know the fat content and percent of air of my products, though I know that when I adapt a recipe I usually decrease the amount of fat.
Cheese making has changed this custom. Now, I often bring a piece of my homemade cheese to share. For example, to this birthday party, I brought some Manchego that I had made in early March. After reading of Nocciola (which means hazelnut in Italian), a goat cheese made in Oregon by Tumalo Farms that includes pieces of hazelnuts, I decided to do something similar.
I made Manchego, as always according to the recipe in the book Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll (which uses cow milk) and added to the curds, as I was putting them into the press, some toasted chopped hazelnuts (I used a mortar and pestle to break the whole toasted hazelnuts into small pieces). I let the cheese age for 40 days. I like the result, which is interesting both to look at (photo on the left) and to taste.
I have also tried adding caraway seeds to Monterey Jack cheese. This is still in the aging phase, so I don't yet know how the experiment turned out.
Besides adding variations to recipes I am already familiar with, I am trying new recipes from my guide book. The most recent new cheese I made is Derby, for which an interesting technique is used to process the curds after heating and before pressing.
I also continue making ricotta using whey (siero di latte) as the main ingredient. With the whey left over from making Derby I made ricotta according to what I called recipe #2 in this post. It coagulated nicely and was easier to drain than in previous occasions. I then used the output to make pane alla ricotta. This time I did not halve the quantities and therefore made two loaves, one of which I froze for later consumption.
In the area of ricotta-making I have recently realized that I need to start measuring the whey's pH. According one of the recipes I follow: "If too much acid is added, the curds will sink to the bottom and the cheese will not be sweet." For the most recent batch of ricotta I made (using acidified whey), the curds did not sink to the bottom of the pot, but the result was rather bland in flavor. I need to be more conscientious about taking notes of what I do and about measuring the pH. I take all that happens as part of my learning curve: I still enjoy the process and the results.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the formaggio e ricotta audio file [mp3].