Sunday, August 19, 2012

Stephanie Manley's Cream Cheese

Stephanie Manley knows how to copy restaurant food and she's been doing it since 1995!

If our math is right- that's 17 years!  She has a website loaded with recipes she has adapted for home use (CopyKat) and a new book - Dining Out at Home Cookbook which has 200 "unauthorized restaurant re-creations."

Stephanie goes to restaurants and if she likes one of their offerings, she goes home and recreates it with simple ingredients.  She started doing this when she was a child living in a remote rural area.  Trips to a restaurant were a major excursion for her family so her mother let her cook on the stove from the time she was 4 or 5.  Now, she has a group of testers who try all her recipes before she posts them.

One of the categories on Stephanie's nav bar is called 52 Weeks of Cream Cheese.  (Woo Hoo!)  But, there's no need to buy the cheese, of course.  Here's Stephanie's tutorial, which even includes a video:

Making Homemade Cream Cheese
By Stephanie Manley at CopyKat

Making homemade cream cheese came from I having opted this year to cook a dish each week with a chosen ingredient, and I chose cream cheese.  I love cream cheese, I think it can be the salvation of any meal.  It has been a salvation of many of my favorite meals.  When I announced that on Twitter, I got a reply back from Michael Ruhlman, who constantly asks us to cook our own food.  When I attended Blogher food, I made bacon after seeing his demo.  So I sat down, and looked up how to make cream cheese.

Why would you make your own cream cheese?  You don’t do it because it is more economical.  You do it because you can craft your own cheese.  It isn’t hard, it is pretty easy to tell you the truth.  I have personally jumped onto an organic kick, and I try to substitute organic products where I can.  For some reason organic cream cheese is expensive, and making your own from scratch isn’t quite as pricy.

A lot of homemade fresh cheeses, or cheeses that don’t have to be aged, you can make at home.  Often it is a matter of adding some lemon juice to some milk and letting your milk sit on the counter for 12-24 hours and you have homemade ricotta,  leave the curds to grow a little more, and you have farmers cheese.  This type of cheese is wonderful for breakfast, spread some on some toast, and you have a real homemade breakfast.

So my adventure to make homemade cream cheese, didn’t take too long.  You do need some supplies.  You need to purchase some bacterial culture to make the cream cheese.  I recommend on purchasing some butter muslin, it is a finer weave than cheese cloth, or you could use a flour sack towel to drain the whey from the cheese.  You will need some half and half, and then you will need some Mesophilic culture for your cheese. You must make this purchase, I don’t know of any substitutes for making homemade cream cheese.

You can use up to 2 gallons of half and half for this recipe, or if you are like me, I am going to use 1 quart, but this culture will set up to 2 gallons of milk.

Homemade Cream Cheese

Yield: 8 – 10 ounces of cream cheese
1 quart light cream or half and half
1 package Mesophilic culture
Butter muslin

Allow your half and half to reach room temperature, your cheese will set more quickly if it isn’t refrigerator chilled when you add the starter culture.

Add your half and half to your container, I like to use a flat baking dish to make mine, I am sure technically there is no real difference in how long it will take your cheese to set, but for me, I like to do this in a flat container.

Add your culture to the milk, sprinkling it over the top. I let this set for about two minutes before I stir in the culture and mix it up really well.

Next I simply place some plastic wrap overt the top of the dish, and let it set on my counter anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. While my pets would never climb on top of a countertop and see what is there, I like a little extra insurance from flying objects to land in my cream cheese.

When the cream cheese is set, it will have the texture of yogurt. It will appear to you that the whole process isn’t going to work, but here is where you wait and be patient, it really takes about 10 – 12 hours for the cream cheese to set in a cooler house, so be patient. Here is what mine looked like 10 hours after setting. When it is thick like this, you can start to drain the whey out of it.

I take the butter cloth, and make a small sling over the top of the pot, using the handles to secure the cloth. I then add my soft cream cheese into the cloth and let the whey drain out of it.

You can let the whey drain out for up to 12 hours. Then you have some delightful cream cheese you can package into smaller containers. You might like to stir in some herbs, or even some jam for a nice treat for breakfast.

I was really amazed how easy it was to make homemade cream cheese. This would be a fantastic project for kids, there is very little measuring. I have not tried making this recipe with milk, skim milk, or anything else, so I can’t speak to if that would work for those types of milk products. What I really liked was I got to make a wonderful organic cream cheese that tastes rich and tangy.

1 comment:

wingedshadowwolf said...

I tried this and it turned out great! One of the best parts is because it doesn't contain rennet you can use the Ultra Pasturized half n' half in it! It's almost impossible to find non UP cream products at the store.