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 :)

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