In cooking, I believe that the ingredients in a certain dish are there because an element of it is needed. For example, pie crust. A pie crust recipe needs some kind of solid fat. Why? as you cut the fat in the dough it incorporates itself in chunks, and when you bake it, the fat melts away leaving the former space it occupied almost empty. This is what makes pie crusts flaky.
The most common type of fat used in pie crusts are butter and lard. I won’t go into the debate on whether the former or the latter is better, in the end they’re all the same fat that becomes solid in the ref and melts away in the oven.
So I can take any type of solid fat and make it into pie crust like… Margarine for example? Or that white layer of fat that forms at the base of your left over roast in the ref? My point is, as long as you can ‘replicate’ a certain property from a certain ingredient, then you’re as good as having the said ingredient. We’re not talking here about flavor, mainly, I’m talking here about structure and how it stands as the dish.
This idea came to my mind a couple of years ago…
A professor of mine was telling the class while holding a milk carton that “This is not milk, this is white water.’ Or something like that. Maybe throw a couple of fucks and shits there.
I had no Idea what the hell he was talking about. I mean, milk is milk right? What, there is now some kind of milk ranking where in cows from this certain place or breed has a higher check price?
On that same year, I developed a habit of reading the nutritional facts and ingredients of things in the grocery. Amidst all the milk cartons in the dairy section, I saw a very familiar looking box of milk. Yes, it was the ‘white water’ my professor was talking about. Usually, when you buy packaged ‘fresh’ milk, it does not have an ingredient list. Probably because they DID NOT make them. But this particular brand of milk has three ingredients.
Ya really. And it was Water, Reconstituted Milk Powder, Milk Fat.
I was actually surprised by that. They were selling us the stuff that we can make on our home all this time! I double backed and thought maybe they were using some kind of special milk powder. You know, with nothing added in it? Cause I always believed that the locally available milk powders has a lot of vitamin-like additives that changes the taste.
I went to the milk powder isle (or something like that) and checked the ingredients. There was only one listed, it was like 100% dried milk or something like that. I don’t really remember the exact words but it was quickly processed in my mind that its just fucking dry milk. Add water and it will be ‘real’ milk again!
From this, I started my experiment. From cheese to yogurt. And of course, cream cheese.
Now, why would I want to make my own cream cheese? For cheesecake of course! Everybody here loves cheesecake. The thing is, it’s pretty expensive compared to any cake or pie. Even making them home is quite expensive.
To cut the long story short, I made my own cream cheese using milk powder. How? Well actually, the ‘cream cheese’ I made was sometime called ‘yogurt cheese’ because the process was draining the yogurt with most of the whey it had, thus leaving us with a thick cream cheese-like consistency.
Like what I said earlier, you don’t actually need the ingredient, you need the properties it comes with. So What I need to do is make an inexpensive mush of white with a creamy texture.
So the experiment began.
The first step here is to reconstruct the milk. Gradually sifting the milk in warm water while stirring works best. If you google how to make yogurt, you’ll see a lot of process that sometimes require a thermometer and a whole lot of other equipments. I developed a shorter method.
The real method is heat the milk up to 180ºC to kill the competing bacteria present in the milk and then cool it down to 110ºC. After it cools, add any amount of yogurt you want. Like 3 tbps for a liter of milk? That should do. Then mix it. Next comes the incubation period where you need the live yogurt germies to multiply, thus turning your milk to yogurt.
You need to keep them in a warm place to multiply and do their magic.
Kinda complicated? This is what I do: heat the milk until it’s warm enough for you to bathe in. Wait for 10 mins, add the yogurt then ‘incubate’ them inside the oven, turned off. What I do to keep it warmer there is to boil a pot of water and put it in the oven then leave it for 12 hours. Simple enough for you?
After 8 hours, you now have your yogurt!
Now the obvious got me thinking again. If it’s called cream cheese, should I add cream?
That’s the thought I had while taking the biggest dump ever. I chuckled. But I remembered an article I read about milk powder. It said there that commercial milk powder does not contain fat. It’s even called skim milk powder in some places. Cream is fat and cream is milk so… I went up, washed my hands (of course!) and got started already.
I made 2 batches of yogurt. The normal one, and the one with cream. I made them according to my normal ways on preparing yogurt. I took a very close look at them during the fermentation.
At the 4th hour, the one with no cream shows very little development. The one with cream however is already dense. I incubated them more, strained them for 12 hours and put a weight on them on the final hours. These are the results.
Looking at them both, we can clearly see their difference. Specimen A gave me a hard time getting it out of the cheesecloth, while specimen B popped out like a pimple. I gave them both a stir then weight them.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that Specimen A has obvious lumps while Specimen B may look lumpy, but it is very smooth when you spread it.
The smell difference of the two is very significant. Specimen A has this very sour yougurty smell, close to keffir, while specimen B has this very creamy smell, the sourness is just a hint.
Taste wise, A is pretty sour and B…
It fucking tastes like cream cheese! FUCK YEA.
It tasted very creamy! Unlike the cheeses I made before, they almost tastes like Greek yogurt.
What, shall the experiment end here? Hell no! We still want to see how they stand as a cheesecake, that’s the point of this experiment after all!
So I got started.
Wait before that, how do you crush your grahams? Before, I do it Mano y mano. With my bare fucking hands. After that, my hands felt like they came through a grinder or something. So I used my brain for a while and came up with a brilliant idea.
Yeah, a towel and something to hit it with (in this case, a French Rolling Pin). This combination of modern equipment can turn this
Now because I am doing 2 kinds of cheesecake and 290 grams of cream cheese is not enough for 1 I figured I should follow Mrs. Jaworski’s recipe for mini cheesecakes.
Prepped the muffin tin with liners and pressed the crust with the best tool for the job.
If you guessed meat thermometer then you’ve just won your self a kiss on your left butt cheek!
I made the batter without adding anything that can greatly affecting it’s taste. I usually add limes to my cheesecake but I opted to leave that out for now for me to identify the taste difference between the two (and it just so happened that I’ve ran out of limes at that moment so…).
As expected, they kept their original properties. A is still runny and B is still thick.
Poured them in my prepared pan and placed a toothpick on B for easy reference.
I still got some leftover batter so I just combined them and bake them some other time. I don’t like to waste food you know.
Baked them according to the recipe and they came out looking like…
As I look at the two, I can clearly see holes in specimen A that kinda looks like a creme brulee or some sort of egg based dish. I theorized that since Specimen A was runny to start with, the eggs were the one that stabilized the cake. While in specimen B, the cake has no holes and looks pretty heavy. Maybe because the cheese has its own body to start with.
Cooled it a bit and sliced them like a full-sized cake and took the first bite.
As expected, the light looking tastes light and the dense looking tastes dense. So yeah, I guess we can declare B as the winner here. But really, if there’s anyone who’d won, it’s probably me. The cost of this is very partial compared to the price of real cream cheese. If my calculations were right, I can probably save 70%!
Not just that, but I was able to put real effort what I cook and I think that’s what is most important (well, money is still…).
This strongly proves my point on this blog. Don’t get me wrong. This may be seen as an excuse for not spending too much cash but really, who wanna spend more than less?
This has quenched a large part of my thirst for making things from scratch. Maybe next time… water from scratch?
Oh and by the way, even losers taste good. Look.