I have said it before and I will say it again - I am not much of a baker. I feel much more comfortable with the flow of cooking, than the rigidity of baking. But I want to get better, and a large part of that is experience. So my friend Melissa, an excellent baker and author of Smells Like Brownies, is helping me learn.
We decided to start with some peanut butter swirl brownies, with the knowledge that we wanted there to be plenty of saltiness to contrast the sweetness. So we made sure that the peanut butter layer was salted, then finished the brownies with flaky sea salt - yum.
What if I told you that you could make delicious, fresh mozzarella in 30 minutes at home. No, I'm not kidding and yes, it is awesome. You already know how much I love homemade ricotta; now I have another cheese to add to my repertoire!
My friend Melissa and I have been talking about doing this for a while, and I am so glad that we went for it! All you need is a gallon of whole milk, rennet, citric acid, salt, a cheese thermometer (shows lower temp range than a candy thermometer), and cheese cloth. Everything except the milk is available in an awesome kit from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company ($25 and makes 30 batches!). You can also just buy those things individually. The kit comes with a very handy instruction and recipe booklet, but the instructions are also available on the website.
On the subject of milk - butterfat is necessary to make cheese, so please use whole milk. Also, ultra-pasteurized will NOT work (pasteurized is fine). There are instructions on the website for pasteurizing raw milk, if you want to go super fresh. The main ingredient and flavoring comes from the milk, so use the highest quality you can find. I recommend milk from local, grass-fed cows for the best quality (more info on Melissa's post).
We have made mozzarella twice. The first time we were still getting the hang of it and overstretched the mozzarella. It was still yummy, but more like the texture of string cheese. So the second time we handled it much less and it came out beautifully (we used it to make delicious margherita pizza). So don't freak out if it doesn't turn out exactly the way you want it the first time. You may need to do it a few times to get the feel of it. And make sure that you have read through all the instructions a few times first. It's not difficult, but it is a lot of steps.
I was browsing through blogs and found a series of recipes on Alexandra's Kitchen involving homemade ricotta cheese that looked perfect for the end of summer. The recipes all looked really great but I questioned whether or not making ricotta versus buying it would make that much of a difference. I decided to go ahead and try it since it didn't look all that difficult.