Last Friday, I felt like playing around in the kitchen. Cooks Illustrated had published a recipe for deep dish pizza that looked amazing and I thought I’d give it a try. But…I wanted to take the challenge one step further and make my own mozzarella cheese as well.

Some time ago, I bought a cheesemaking kit. I’ve used it once with near success. By the end of the process, I had something that resembled really soft mozzarella cheese. For this second attempt, Chris joined the fun.

This kit doesn’t use any active bacterial cultures to make the cheese. It relies on acidification and addition of an enzyme to separate the curds(the proteins in the milk) from the whey (the liquid).

First, you add citric acid and heat the milk to a specified temperature.

Then, you add the rennet, which contains enzymes that chew up the proteins in the milk and cause them to coagulate. In this kit, the rennet comes from calf stomach, but a vegetarian form exists too. After 15 minutes, we saw the curds separate from the whey.

For the last step, you pour off the whey, heat the curds, and stretch them like taffy to make the cheese. Everything seemed to be working well until we heated the curds. Instead of melding together, they stayed separated and we ended up with something that looked like ricotta cheese. According to the website, this can happen when the milk is ultra-pasturized (heated to higher temperatures than pasturized milk). This damages the proteins in the milk and causes it to form a weak curd.

Not wanting to waste our curds, we added some basil and turned them into a dip. Then I went to Trader Joe’s to get some mozzarella. I still wanted some pizza!

To make a long story short, the pizza was delicious. The recipe is time consuming because the dough for the crust has to rise twice, but it’s totally worth it. Next time, I’ll freeze some of the dough to see if it can be made ahead of time. Either way, this recipe is a keeper!

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