Fromage Blanc DIY
I’d always been intrigued by how milk becomes cheese. The process, despite being easily rationalised by science, remains much of a mystic to me. Actually, I pretty much want it that way. Kinda keeps the magic alive for me. haha… heed not, that’s just silly me talking.
Yesterday, I’d decided that I wanna experience the magic for myself and found an easy to work with recipe to make Fromage Blanc, a soft french white cheese which is ideal for making creamy desserts, without the density and heaviness of phillys and mascarpone.
Making cheese is quite an art in its own right, and Head Pastry Chef, Grégoire Michaud from Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong summarised the process of making soft cheeses rather well in his book, “Got Cheese!“, which I’ll produce a small excerpt here. It helped me to understand the process quite a bit and I hope it’ll do the same for you too. 🙂
“The first step in making cheese is dividing the milk into a from curd and liquid whey. The process is done by acidifying the milk by [sic.] different sorts of acids such as citric acid, vinegar or lemon juice but most of the time it is a starter bacteria that is used, and of course, mort importantly by adding rennet. However, some fresh cheeses are curdled by acidity only, but most are using rennet to obtain a stronger jellified curd rather than the softer curd obtained by acid only… As a general rule, softer fresh cheeses are done with a larger proportion of acid compared to rennet and the contrary applies to hard cheese, done with a larger proportion of rennet than acid…
For fresh cheeses, the jellified stage is almost the end of their fabrication. They will be drained from their whey, some might be salted. Or mixed with cream and packaged in pots, wrapped or kept in brine which is a mixture of whey and salt…”
That’s quite a bit of swiss english for you. 🙂
Ingredients for Fromage Blanc
1 litre of full-cream milk
1/2 litre of buttermilk
2 teaspoons of lemon juice, strained
a dash of salt to taste
Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan or milkpot and heat it over a low flame until around 80 °C. As you can see, cheapo me got the least expensive thermometer in the whole range and ended up being compromised with its accuracy. So I approximated the value by interpolation from the graduated markings.
One way to tell if the milk has reach the suitable temperature, is by observing the presence of tiny bubbles around the edge of the pot.
At around 80 °C, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. Stir in the buttermilk, followed by lemon juice. Whisk very slowly and let the magic begin! Sooner than you can say “magical macarons”, the milk begins to curdle and separate into curds (the milk protein solids) and wheys (the liquids). Feels very little Ms Muffet isn’t it? 🙂
Allow the mixture to stand for around 10- 15 min, allowing more effective jellification to take place, i.e. the milk proteins would somewhat hurdle together to form a creamy layer near the surface. Do not stir anymore at this stage.
After 15 min, slowly transfer the mixture into a strainer/colander lined with cheesecloth.Allow most of the liquids to drain off while the “cheese” is collected as the residue. Then catch the corners of the cheesecloth to tie and hang them up for the “dripping process” to continue. And yes! that’s dental floss I’d used for the tying!
When the liquids stops seeping, the cheese is now done, primarily speaking. It would be better to allow the cheese to rest and mature for a day in the fridge before usage.
And this is the whey that seeped through. I read that it could be used to make ricotta, but that was after i had a taste of it, and poured the whole lot down the sink! 😦
Personal Notes and Reflections
(1) This is quite an easy recipe to follow and the results are quite satisfactory. But I’m looking for something slightly creamier than what’s being made. Probably would either add more buttermilk or change the milk ratio by incorporating some heavy cream next time.
(2) As you can see, my candy thermometer is pretty much obsolete here. Cheapo me but the least expensive thermometer in the whole range, one which cannot register temperatures lower than 90. So I basically estimated the temperature by interpolating the values downwards.The “watch the bubbles” test is ironically more reliable.
(3) I don’t have muslin or cheesecloth and used instead, a brand new kitchen towel which worked quite well, in my humbe opinion.
(4) Do not allow the milk to come to a full boil, that would cause the milk to curdle and develop a skin membrane over the surface.
(5) Let the liquids trickle on its own after hanging up the bundled cheesecloth. When the whey stops flowing, the texture of the curds should be just right. DO NOT attempt to squeeze lliquids out of the cheesecloth as how one would wring wet laundry. That would affect the texture of the cheese. Overdoing it would cause the cheese to become too dry!!!
(6) Fromage blanc, as I was told, is the same as Fromage Frais, but NOT the same as phillys and mascarpone. So I was told to never substitute the former with the latters… wonder how true that is…
(7) Monsieur Michaud’s book does have a recipe for Fromage Blanc, but it uses rennet with milk at room temperature in place of heating and lemon juice. Rennet isn’t the easiest ingredient to get in Singapore. I’d been told that its available at some organic food stalls but i’d not gotten round hunting for them yet.
(8) There are probably better brands out there for true full-cream milk. The Meiji I’d used, was subtle, put diplomatically. Need to try other brands out there. Recomendations anyone?
Now with the DIYed fromage blanc, I shall make desserts with it! So many recipes, so little time!