Cheese | Frank Bonanno

Cheese

A few months back, my buddy Ramey came back from San Francisco raving about a
burrata cheese she’d discovered in a restaurant there. I’d never tried that particular
cheese before, so I researched online, found the exact source her restaurant was using,
and ordered some for our staff to try. We loved it, and the burrata landed on the Luca
d’Italia menu. Every time we served it, though, I was bothered. It’s a soft, white cheese-
-why in the heck fly it all the way from California when we could be (should be) making
it here?
We make our own burrata, now–and because someone just asked me for the recipe, and
because I’m sitting at the computer typing it out—I thought I’d share my thoughts on
cheese-making (and pass on some recipes).
The first time I made my own mozzarella was just before my wedding. I had this idea
that a great appetizer would be cheese rolled around basil and tomatoes and sliced
pinwheel-style. I picked up mozzarella curd at Oscar’s market, brought it to my fiancé’s
smallest-kitchen-in-the-world, and set about what I thought would be the tricky task of
moz-making.
It wasn’t so hard.
I poured boiling water over the curd, kneaded it with a spoon (that part took patience) and
flattened it with a rolling pin. I sprinkled the basil and tomatoes over the top, rolled it up
like a pig in a blanket, and sampled it on the neighbors. A minor hit at the Biltmore,
overall.
Since then, I have the notion that any white, soft cheese is worth making rather than
buying. Cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, mozzarella . . . whatever. They’re fairly
easy to tackle, significantly better fresh in texture, flavor, and aroma than what
supermarkets put out—and an impressive product for the home chef to offer friends.
Personally, I wouldn’t endeavor to make any more complicated cheeses—anything, say,
requiring mold. Leave that to the experts. But a soft, mellow, white . . well, just try it for
yourself.
You ought to know:
There are a few of tricky ingredients in mozzarella: rennet, raw milk, and citric acid. All
can be found readily on line
Rennet will curdle the milk, and it’s just as effective made from a cow’s stomach (the
traditional preparation) as it is using chemical means (the vegetarian way). Citric acid is
the other coagulant, and its best in crystallized powder form (also called “sour salt”),
though you can use lemon or lime juice if you triple the quantity the recipe calls for to get
the same chemical reaction from the milk. Only raw, whole milk will work for making
cheese curd, and to get non-pasteurized milk, you will end up owning a time-share of a
cow. It’s worth it, though, and I found my local provider at Realmilk.com, which lists
sources in every state. Here’s the burrata recipe we use at Luca. Essentially, burrata is a ricotta infused
mozzarella. So, by sharing this recipe, I am actually sharing 3 different ricotta recipes, a
mozzarella recipe, and a burrata recipe.
Enjoy.
Ricotta, large batch
2 quarts cream
2 quarts organic whole milk
5 lemons (1 cup lemon juice)
1 cup buttermilk
½-1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
Tools needed: citrus reamer; sauce pan; cheese cloth
Preparation
1. Ream the lemons; set juice aside
2. Bring cream and whole milk to a boil
3. Add lemon juice, buttermilk, and salt
4. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stir until thick
5. Wrap in cheese cloth; knot the top and hang over kitchen sink (I hang it on the
faucet.)
6. Drain 24 hours; use Kitchen Aid to whip additional heavy cream into ricotta until
it is the consistency of soft ice cream
Some variations on Ricotta:
To make Ricotta Salata
1. Instead of whipping ricotta with cream, form ricotta into thin logs or small bulbs
2. Sprinkle with sea salt.
3. Wrap in cheese cloth, hang to dry for two weeks.
To make Ricotta Al Forno
1. Oil inside of a ramekin, fill with ricotta
2. Bake at 400 degrees for 36-45 minutes until golden
3. Let cool and firm
—————————————–
Burrata
Mozzarella curd
2 gallons non-homogenized whole milk
2 ½ teaspoons powdered citric acid
¾ teaspoon liquid rennet
Tools needed: double boiler; cooking thermometer; 2 small glass bowls; colander;
cheese cloth To make the curd:
1. Line a large colander with a generous amount of cheese cloth (enough to fold up
and wrap the top of the contents of the colander later). Set aside.
2. In a small glass bowl, dissolve citric acid in ½ cup of cool water. In another
bowl, mix the rennet with ½ cup of water. Set bowls aside.
3. Warm the milk in a double boiler to 88º. Remove from heat. Add citric acid
mixture; stir. Add rennet mixture; stir some more until curd forms. Pour curd
into cloth-lined colander. Wrap cheese cloth all the way around the top of the
curd. Set a plate on top of the cheese cloth, and something heavy (like a large can
of tomatoes or a marble rolling pin) on top of the plate so that the weight will bear
down on the curd and press all of the liquid into the sink and down the drain.
4. Leave in sink overnight.
For the mozzarella
2 cups ricotta
14 ounces mozzarella curd cut into ½ inch cubes
Tools: Two stock pots; 8 oz ramekin
A note on the ramekins: it would be a rare home cook who happens to have 10 ounce
ramekins lying about. An alternative would be to use a cup cake mold—not the metal
ones, but those plastic, bendy ones. Put about a teaspoon of the mozzarella water in the
bottom of each holder (so the cheese will come out easily when you are ready to use it),
then line each mold with the mozzarella and fill with the ricotta as you would if using
ramekins.

1. Put curd into large pot. In another pot, bring about 2 quarts heavily salted water
to a boil (“salty like the sea”). Pour the boiling water over the cubed curd and let
steep for ten minutes. While the curd is steeping, set out 10 ramekins.
2. With a wooden spoon, knead the curd, gently pressing it into itself. As the curd
starts to come together, set the spoon aside and use your hands to knead the form
into 3 ounce balls (about the size of a regular meatball).
3. Flatten out the balls to about ¼ inch thick and 4 inches in diameter (like a pie
crust—this flattened mozzarella will be the crust on the outside of the burrata).
Set flattened cheese over the rim of the ramekin.
4. Scoop 2 large tablespoons of ricotta into the middle of each mozzarella “pizza”,
using the spoon as you go to gently press the mozzarella down and into the
mozzarella-lined ramekin.
5. Cover the top of each filled mold with a little mozzarella water (enough to form a
wet seal). . Serve at room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate
if using at later date; then set out until the cheese comes down to room temp.
Good for 3 days.