Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ridiculously Rich Ricotta

Homemade ricotta is a dream. Its silky and luscious texture slicks down your tongue, leaving nothing but the richness of dairy. This morning, I spread it on toast drizzled with honey and I dare say it was the best breakfast I’ve eaten in a while.

I first tried ricotta in Montreal. This cheese is a rare find in Shanghai, where I spent most of my life growing up, and if it is sold, it’s too expensive. Montreal (sigh) was like the start of a fun musical where the velvet curtain yanks open, revealing colourful spotlights from every direction and the actors bring you to a world far far away from reality. Living there opened my eyes to so many things, including cheese (Montreal is still my Happy Place, though in the winter, there are no blinding spotlights, just freezing winters).

I don’t recall exactly when I first used ricotta, though I’m sure it was in some pasta dish, like lasagna. I also loved that subtle flavour from plain store-bought ricotta and bought it once in a while to spread on slices of baguette topped with figs or jam. It was my little indulgence.

So my mind boggled when I read Smitten Kitchen’s mad easy recipe for homemade ricotta. Anyone can make this. Even a monkey.

And then last night, I made this ridiculously rich ricotta and now my life has changed. I’m not kidding. In fact, I’m warning you that if when you make this, you will never ever want to buy commercial brand ricotta again. You will scoff at the plastic containers idly waiting for their fate in supermarkets. They're nothing--I repeat, nothing compared to homemade ricotta.

All you need to do is boil whole milk and heavy cream, add lemon juice, let it sit and do its curdling magic, then separate it in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Go do some core exercises (like I did, to uh…better prepare me for the good things to come) and after a hour or so, you will have silky cheese in your hands. I stored my cheese in the fridge and in the morning, it thickened to the consistency of cream cheese. The acidity from the lemon juice gives the ricotta a mild tang, the dairy is unbelievably refreshing, almost floral.

The ricotta is amazzzzing on bread. On carrot sticks. On cucumber slices. On raw peppers. I bet it would even be good if eaten off the floor (but it’s not recommended). Depending on what you’re feeling, try it on bread with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar or with slices of fresh peaches, I’m sure that would be divine. Whatever you eat it with, rest assured you will have a cheese so smooth, so creamy, all you can think is: Where have you been all my life?

Homemade Ricotta
From Smitten Kitchen

Deb from Smitten Kitchen suggests that if you prefer your ricotta a little less rich, you can use just ½ cup of heavy cream and increase the whole milk to 3½ cups, which I haven’t tried. But I’m planning to once I run out of my first batch of cheese (which I anticipate will happen very soon).

Also, she notes that the shelf life of the ricotta can vary, depending on how fresh your milk is. I’m still working on mine, but I suspect it can keep for a few days.

3 cups of whole milk
1 cup of heavy cream
½ teaspoon of sea salt
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice


A kitchen thermometer


1. Boil whole milk and cream in a nonreactive saucepan, until temperature reaches 190°F. Stir it occasionally to avoid burning the bottom

2. Remove pan from heat, add lemon juice. Stir gently once or twice and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, line colander with a few cheesecloths (I used three and it was fine) and set over large bowl to catch the whey. Pour liquid into colander carefully and allow the curds to strain for at least an hour. At this point, you will have soft, spreadable ricotta that you can use right away. As it cools, the texture will firm up. If you're using it later, transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge until ready to use.

Recipe here!

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