Monday, March 18, 2013

Daring Cooks' March 2013 Challenge - Let's Get Cheesy!

After experiencing an almost full year of Daring Kitchen and its mad rush tasks, I'm always surprised at the camaraderie and encouraging community that are byproducts of this virtual culinary smackdown. There's no real race, proof be told in my habitually late shows, only quality recipes and priceless knowledge shared to project onto more than hundreds of hyperbright screens. What better way to gain friendships and tons of motivation, all the while mastering some very excellent cuisine? 

And even when I welcome each and every with excitement, I happened to be doubled over in joy this particular because it is my very first "kitchen" buddy, Sawsan, who is the March DC hostess.

Sweet pleasure, indeed, to paste the few sentences in my blog checking line! Sawsan is a source of inspiration and guidance to me, and in this month's challenge she put us to the task of making cheese, supplying us with an arsenal of recipes and instructions, and an exhaustive glossary of terms to boot.

Scrolling through, my eyes caught hold of the most recognizable amongst that list, my brain  nodding to the native curd cheese. Coming from the same country was of no real consolation to either of us, since I had never chalked up the courage to curdle and mold the same, resorting always to premade storebought cuts, texture and taste similar to that of cardboard. Here it was, two-ingredient-easy-enough-for-a-five-year-old right in front of me. Sold and taken. I was making paneer.  

Paneer is nonaged cheese that is most common in Indian cooking. It comes together when adding an acidic element to hot milk, forcing the fat to float and separate from the hazy watery substance known as whey. Straining out all liquid and pressing the resulting milk curds reveal the first solids of crumbly white cheese, making you feel like woman of the hour, all in less than thirty minutes. Further weighting down brings about a sturdy block of curd cheese, that can at this point be cut into pieces and generally cubed for curry.

Without further ado, shall we then proceed to the making of?

Good. I knew you'd say yes.

Sawsan from Chef in disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our own homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make,all of them easily accomplished and delicious!

Paneer~
Ingredients:
(Courtesy the Daring Cooks' challenge recipe)
  • 8 c or ½ gallon milk (whole or 2%)
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
Directions:
  • Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth.
  • In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring the milk to a boil. Keep an eye on it because it can boil over very quickly.
  • When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Stir until milk separates completely separates into curds and whey . If it doesn't seem to be separating completely, add another tablespoon of lemon juice.
  • Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander. When it's cool enough to handle, gather the corners of the cheesecloth into a bundle and squeeze out as much of the excess liquid as you can.
  • To press it into a solid cheese, set the bundle in the middle of a plate with a good lip to catch the liquid that will be squeezed out. Put another plate on top and press until the bundle has flattened into a 1 inch disk. Leave the plate on and weight it down with something heavy.
Applause for my weight system, please, which consisted of soup cans, broth and a jar candle .


My notes~ I used about ¼ c of lemon juice combined with 2 tbsp warm water for the ½ gallon milk, making the separation a bit more fast and furious. 


With its crumbly insides, paneer makes for some marvelous sponges, soaking up surrounding flavors, most often and superbly so within a rich gravied frame. Stay tuned

Know your paneer? Variations for this cottage cheese are many and methods differ according to Indian region, even type of dish. Masala and most gravies demand firmer chunks, thus the preparation above works just perfect. Retaining a bit more moisture makes for fluffier, softer pieces, convincing in many syrup based Indian desserts. Certain areas knead pressed curds for a dough like consistency. Others leave it to ferment calling for stronger flavor. 

Paneer popularity has reached, with its starring in top convenience menus! Case in point, the McSpicy Paneer  which is served only at McDonald's India . Da-da- da-da-da- I'm loving it!

Thank you Sawsan, for hosting this entire course on cheese making, emboldening me to mold cheese from milk in a most amazing challenge. Maybe the right cue for journeying beyond boundaries, and trying my hand at the more complex and aged goodies.
******
"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever." ~Isaiah 40:8 (NASB)

12 comments:

  1. ooh yummy! you are brave, girl!!!

    http://therealfoodrunner.blogspot.com

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    1. I know it was scary at first, but a breeze once I started- thanks Katherine!

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  2. Paneer looks soo perfect , lovely pictures

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  3. oh wow... looks seriously well done... n congrats on the new look!!! :) tisa, would appreciate if you could email me on sweettoothraf@gmail.com, have a request to make! :)

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    1. Thanks for noticing Rafeeda- too sweet!

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  4. Tisa, I am humbled by your kind words!Thank you so much!
    You are an inspiration to me too, with your creative take on challenges, beautiful pictures and above all, your kind heart and beautiful insight into life.
    Your paneer looks perfect! hats off to you on another job beautifully done

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    1. Aw Ms. Sawsan, I am honored to be comrades in the Daring Kitchen with you. This was an enlightening and fantastic task, thanks again.

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  5. Replies
    1. Kudos to you Julie, this was my first time, but definitely not my last :)

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!