Cheese Whiz: A Cheese Class with HipCooks   Leave a comment

I woke up at 6am this morning, excited that today I was making cheese. Actually, I did that on Thursday too, but then realized I still had to go through Friday. But, today was the day!

HipCooks
is a studio located in Northeast Portland, actually tantalizing only a few steps away from Tasty N Sons and Pix Patisserie. The Cheese Whiz class, taught by Cheyenne, ran from 11am to a little past 2pm, but she made sure to let know in advance that as we were classing through lunch, we should plan to have eaten beforehand. I found out later that most of the classes they teach there's a lot more eating apparently and this one is more "workshop". Have breakfast and you'll be good.

We made 5 fresh cheeses,which included from easiest to hardest, fromage fort, mascarpone, ricotta, goat cheese, and mozzarella, though actually we made the fromage fort last as it took the least amount of prep time and waiting until it was ready to eat. The cheeses were made in a shared hands-on experience of generally groups of 4-5 and a total class size of 14. We also then ate each of these cheeses in her suggested recipe for serving, though at that point with the breaking out of the wine, a light effervescent white Vinho Verde, we also broke out into more socializing and conversation subgroups during actual recipe/eating time and she had to recruit single/pairs of helpers for the "using the cheese in a recipe" preparation.

BTW, the Vinho Verde is an easy to drink wine that would please anyone with its light flavor with little bubbles, and has low alcohol content so everyone can drink freely with less worry about quantity! During the class, they also had water and a pitcher of minty tea to keep us hydrated. After class, she had put together some small cheese starter kits that were optional for purchase, a great idea since otherwise you might have to stop at a few locations. I almost wish they stocked everything they used equipment, and the wine. Particularly I strongly feel the need for a Creuset.

Fromage fort is the meatloaf equivalent to using a bunch of random cheeses, and is more assembling and putting together then real preparation of cheese, though you need a food processor and some already existing cheeses (though whatever leftover cheese you use doesn't matter). This was garlicky cheesy goodness that we spread onto some baguettes that had just been toasted in the oven. It takes longer to toast the bread then it does to do any of the prep/putting together! Awesome hat trick to pull out for easy entertaining snacks if you like to have cheese in the fridge to snack on anyway.

Meanwhile, the mascarpone only needed a few steps, literally heat the milk, add the acid, flavor, and chill. We talked about different options for flavoring mascarpone since so many mascarpone you can purchase in the store already come somewhat flavored… and we all got passed spoons to taste virgin mascarpone right then and there, and then after flavoring, and then it went to the fridge for a couple hours and that's it. The particular recipe for this class was to use the mascarpone, sweetened with vanilla paste and lemon zest, into mini-sandwiches between sliced poached apricots and rolling the outside with pistachios to make very light dessert bites.

The ricotta was our first visit into really seeing the curds and whey separating after heating, and using the cheese cloth to assist in that separation over time. It was funny as we passed the bowl around to poke the curd (with clean fingers!) to get a feel for it. The final recipe for the ricotta was to pipe it into roasted tomato halves and drizzle some olive oil and fresh basil.

The goat cheese was only more difficult because it was more a test of patience. Unlike the fromage fort which had no weight until you could eat it, or the mascarpone which would sit in the fridge chilling, or the ricotta which would sit draining, the goat cheese includes putting the curds into molds and waiting for the whey to drain. As the whey drains, the curd compresses into the mold, which means you can fit more curd… so it was almost like watching water boil in the sense that you had a bowl of curd still and really wanted to stuff it all into the mold, but had to wait for draining. 

After the molds are finally really full and you've got all the curd you can fit, the goat cheese can be left to age much longer then the other fresh cheeses we learned about- more patience testing. The cheese below was made using the molds in the photo above- look at all that compression, it's like half the size! Although Cheyenne was using a fancy mold she had been gifted with, she explained we could use anything as long as there was drainage for the whey- including empty yogurt containers with holds punched in. We talked about various ways to flavor the goat cheese, both during the making of it or as we did in this class, by rolling it in extra flavor such as freshly chopped herbs. After that, the spreading of the herb goat cheese chevre onto toasted crusty bread is super easy.

 

The fresh mozzarella took the most steps, and is apparently a fussy fresh cheese. She made sure to explain how many times she failed in trying to make it, how she kept a cheese journal on all her attempts trying to track her attempts, and how to tell it's not turning out as it's much more temperature sensitive and milk sensitive, and what to do if the mozzarella doesn't quite turn out (put it in lasagna/treat it like ricotta!)

Everyone in class all made a watery mess everywhere on the counter in forming our mozzarella balls as we kneaded and stretched by hand cheese that had just been poached in hot whey. Mozzarella also has an extra complication in which after you have separated the curd from whey, you then return the curd to hot whey later in order to make balls step… which leeches out whey which you want somewhat but you don't want the mozzarella to be dry either, which can be based on how much handling of the cheese you do or the temperature of the whey. Temperate mozzarella!

The shape of the balls and size didn't matter though in this case, since they were then cut to be used for pizza bianca (just on top of dough with olive oil and basil).

This class was really fun, and the entire 3 hours well thought out to keep everyone interested. Her teaching style is laid back but also detailed because she had a lot of knowledge and experience, and explained in a way understandable to anyone. She emails after class out all the instructions, including where to buy various supplies/ingredients and tips for preparation/Plan B if the cheese making didn't work out, and the recipes as an initial idea of what to do once the cheese was finished. This makes you less focused on reading a list of instructions or writing notes and more on just listening and watching and feeling and tasting, like a bunch of little apprentices. It was like she was a friend you have that knows how to cook but also knows better then to try to impress you with techniques or references to what others in the professional industry do- she knows you care about putting together good food not being fancy, so focuses on teaching in a very practical way, including her own personal stories from the everyday attempts. The entire format made this Cheesemaking 101 very approachable and seemingly easy.

I would recommend this Cheese Whiz class to anyone who loves cheese and is interested in getting a good basic introduction to what is the cheesemaking process and foundation of some easy make at home cheese with very little time, effort, or equipment. No special terminology of French words that have you looking for a dictionary or chemistry science in this class beyond reading a thermometer- just practical DIY cheese loving that includes making and eating and is a mix of demonstration by the instructor as well as a little hands on, sampling and touching mid process to get a feel, and then enjoying samples of the fruits at the end of class.

Despite telling us to eat beforehand, everyone left really stuffed from tasting milk and cheese as we were working, and then the final products which included basically 3 appetizers (on bread or tomato), a main (the pizza) and a dessert (the apricot and mascarpone) from the 5 fresh cheeses we had practiced creating.  In fact, I was so full after this class I couldn't make it back to the Bite… though admittedly we got distracted exploring Mississippi Avenue as well. I do plan to go tomorrow.

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Posted August 7, 2010 by pechluck in Uncategorized

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