I am taking an online course from Harvard called Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science. Not for the faint of heart, it is actually a physics/chemistry class applied to cooking. But, some of the best and most innovative chefs in the world are part of it. For example Adrian Ferran, the father of molecular gastronomy. Enough said. I have to admit that I am not a math genius, so have a very hard time with that aspect. Yet, even if you don’t understand half the actual science, you can learn a lot.
For example, this week (I am on Week 2), the lesson explored energy, temperature, and heat and the science behind why adding heat (energy) to food makes it cook or otherwise do what you want it to do. In the lab, I made ricotta cheese. The principles demonstrated here is that adding acid (vinegar) to whole milk changes the milk. Yet, if you add heat AND the acid, you end up with something that actually tastes good. Without heat, it tastes nasty.I am going to share the recipe here, mine turned out really well, I’ll never buy ricotta again.
- 1 liter whole milk
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
You need a thermometer that will measure at least down to 100 degrees F and up to at least 200 degrees F. I used a candy thermometer that went down to 100 degrees, but a more precise one would have been better that went below 100 degrees F. A meat thermometer, except maybe for a digital one, doesn’t go down low enough.
Mix milk and salt in a pot and place on stove. Prepare a large bowl with ice and water to make an ice bath to quickly cool down your
mixture when the time comes. Also, prepare another large bowl with a strainer layered with four layers of cheesecloth. Now you are ready to heat the milk.
Heat the milk under medium high heat to 198 degrees F, stirring continuously. As soon as it reaches the correct temperature, remove from heat and, as quickly as possible, add the two tablespoons of white vinegar. Quickly stir the mixture for a second or two, no more than that. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Do not stir as this will disrupt the chemical process caused by the vinegar (acid). The milk starts to clump up and coagulate. After this, put in ice water bath until temperature reduces to 97 degrees F.
Next, pour mixture into the cheesecloth lined strainer and allow to drain. At this point, you can stir the mixture to help with the draining off of the whey. I found it necessary to pour off the whey as the fluid level reached the bottom of the strainer to ensure it continues to drain. Fold over the cheesecloth over the ricotta and let it sit in the fridge at least 20 minutes before eating. Mine rocks, I was really happy. This will be going in my next lasagna.