Sunday, October 23, 2011

The art of making nut cheeses: Red Currant Walnut Cheese

Last year, when I came to New York City in February 2010, I went to eat at Pure Food and Wine for the first time and was blown away by the tastiness and quality of the divine gourmet creations they dished out. And one item on their menu particularly impressed me: The Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheese Sampling Plate. Making hard aged nut cheeses was beyond my knowledge that I had acquired so far and I had no idea on how to actually make them. 

In Spring this year, I started experimenting with fermented aged nut cheeses and the results turned out great, as you can read about in a previous blog post I published a while ago. I have been making plenty of cashew, brazil nut and almond cheese since then. A small batch I kept in my fridge to experiment with the aging process and I just recently had the last bites of 3 months old cashew, brazil nut and almond cheeses. All of them were still delicious. The almond cheese developed an interesting “patina” and all of them intensified in taste and became harder over time. Surprisingly, none of them developed any molds, which is outstanding. Not many commercial dairy based cheeses can keep in the fridge for 3 months without growing unhealthy molds!

After having explored the base of nut cheese making, I figured, it is now time to get creative. So, I just used my September Course Bread & Cheese to experiment for the first time with walnuts. I blended up the base and let the first fermentation process happen overnight. Next day, when my students and I tried the result after the first 24 hour fermentation, we all agreed that the walnuts leave a somewhat bitter flavor. In that moment, I remembered a black current powder, I have had sitting in the shelf for a while and never put to use and had the immediate idea to combine it with some white crushed peppercorn and combine it with the base flavorings of nutritional yeast, nutmeg and salt and whip it under the fermented nut cheese batter. 

After dehydration and fermenting it for another week, the result was an amazing walnut cheese, perfectly balanced in flavor, with bitter notes of walnut, sweet and tangy notes of the black current and pungent notes of white pepper. Moreover, the color of the cheese is particularly eye catching and beautiful. I served it with fresh fig and peat and my fennel kamut squares at my last dinner club and it turned out to be a big hit!

One and a half years after discovering these wonderful cheeses in New York, I miraculously find myself sitting in the living room of Pablo, founder and owner of Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheeses, in his wonderful loft right under Williamsburg bridge in New York City just a couple of days ago. That was such a nice experience, after all my small home experiments to finally meet the creator of those cheeses that were the source for my inspirations and cheese creations this year. Special thanks to Neal (my friend and also ex head chef at Pure Food and Wine), whom I stayed with in New York and who lives just around the corner from Pablo and introduced us. 

I hope you all get a chance to taste these wonderful cheeses yourself soon, either Dr. Cow in the States or my homemade ones in Berlin, when I am back next year :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My new favorite breakfast: Raw Probiotic Almond Yoghurt

I am still keeping my obsession about fermentation. And my new favorite breakfast is very simple but oh soooo delicious. It is plain fermented probiotic almond yoghurt with seasonal fresh fruit sprinkled with some raw Balinese Cacao Nibs and Bee Pollen.

Not only is this combination super delicous, it´s also VERY healthy. For one, the probiotics in the almond yoghurt are an immune booster, since they are helping to maintain a healthy intestinal flora, which is the center of your immune system. If you have a week immune system, most of the time there is something wrong with your intestinal flora. Almonds on the other hand are one of the most healthy nuts. They have a high content in proteins, while close to no carbohydrates, they lower the bad cholesterol and raise the good cholesterol levels and can therefore prevent heart disease and moreover they stimulate brain function due to their content in phenylalanine, a brain boosting chemical.

So, now of course you would like to know how to do this great immune booster healthy yoghurt at home :) It´s that simple, all you need is 3 ingredients
  • almonds
  • water
  • probiotic powder (check your health food store or local pharmacy, you can even use probiotic pills, just open them and take the powder out of the caps)
soak about 1,5 cups (or a little more) of almonds in water for about 12 hours. Then peel them using your thumb and index finger to sort of squish the skin off. It needs a little practice, but once you got the technique it´s fairly quick and easy to do. I usually do this job while watching an episode of Desperate Housewives ;-)
After peeling the almonds, give them another quick rinse and put them into your vitamix or similar blender. It should be about 2 cups of almonds. Add water to fill it up to about 3 cups and blend everything until very smooth. You can add more water for a more runny yoghurt or less for a thicker one. Blend until it is slightly warm (around 40 degrees). Then add the probiotic powder to your mix. As a rule of thumb, use 1/4 teaspoon of powder (or 1 pill) to 1 cup of yoghurt mass. So for your 3 cups, use 3/4 teaspoons of powder. Blend again until the powder is incorporated.
Transfer the almond mix into a glass jar (fill max up to 3/4), cover with a cheesecloth or a nutmilk bag and let sit overnight (for about 8 hours) in a warm place (for example at 40 degrees in your dehydrator or on top of or near a radiator.
Stir again and transfer to your fridge. Your yoghurt is now ready. It might still ferment a bit more over the next few days in the fridge. The probiotics make it last for at least 5 days in the fridge.

In my bowl, I put y few spoons of the yoghurt in the bottom, and topped it off with all the delicious seasonal autumn fruit like grapes, Turkish figs, pear, prickly pear and for ultimate nutrition, sprinkled some bee pollen and raw cacao nibs on top. Bee pollen are loaded with B vitamins and proteins and are considered the most complete food on the planet, whereas raw cacao is the highest source of magnesium and antioxidants and has about 300 other active nutrients as well as psychoactive brain chemicals like serotonin stimulants, which will make this day truly a happy day.

Enjoy your yoghurt, b.happy - b.healthy - b.alive!