Thursday, July 9, 2009

Well hello blog, nice to see you again.

Yesterday I was feeling rather optimistic and took on two kitchen projects that I've been wanting to try for a while. I decided to try my hand at making ricotta cheese and no-knead, whole grain bread. 

Now, food-related projects tend to go badly for me when they involve a recipe. I'm pretty awful at following written directions, because of my ADD and general impatience. But it's become very important to me to start making more of my own food, particularly expensive and frequently purchased items like cheese and bread. Eventually my goal is to have a little homestead with my own chickens and goats, and maybe even a miniature cow, for eggs and milk. But that's another blog entry.


The ricotta recipe I used was supposed to yield about a cup of cheese. I wound up with more like a tablespoon. Having read on several different websites that this was by far the easiest cheese, that it was a joy and pleasure to make, and that basically a monkey could do it... well, it was a bit discouraging to see the results. I figured there were several places where I could have gone wrong. First, I used 2% milk instead of whole. I only did this because one website said it was fine to substitute, but who knows. Second, I scalded the milk on the bottom of the saucepan (in spite of my frequent stirring). I'm not sure if this would really affect the end product or not. Finally, and I think most likely, I don't think I waited for the milk in the saucepan to come to a full simmer before adding the lemon juice. I saw the bubbles start, and promptly dumped the juice in. When it didn't coagulate immediately like the recipe said it would, I had a feeling I'd jumped the gun. 
I got enough to mix in to a little bowl of blueberries, at least. Oh, and I can't believe how freakin' hard it was to get this stuff out of the damn cheesecloth! Maybe because the curds were too watery, maybe because I squeezed too hard when trying to get the last of the water out, but my goodness that was a frustrating episode. Practice makes perfect I suppose, but it's frustrating to be unsuccessful when you practice on expensive organic ingredients. 
On the plus side, I got a nice amount of whey which I used to make breakfast smoothies. Delish.

I fared far better with this project. Behold, my ugly, yet tasty loaf o' whole grain bread:

It didn't rise quite as nicely as I'd hoped, but for a first attempt it turned out decently. The bottom got a bit burned, but it still tastes pretty damn good. I had a moment of panic when somehow, a piece of saran wrap somehow got stuck to the dutch oven and wound up on the 500 degree oven rack. I'm not exactly good at thinking on my feet and I had no idea how I would get this gooey, stringy plastic out of a hot oven, and I envisioned the plastic gluing itself to the oven floor and the burning smell permeating everything that was cooked from then on. Fortunately I was able to pull almost all of it out with some tongs, and there was a slight smell of melted plastic but it didn't permeate anything and the bread turned out fine. WHEW. 

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