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Belle Chèvre

Local Goats

I have a thing for goats. I’ve adored them for years. In my dreams, I’d like to have a small herd someday, but, realistically, that just isn’t going to happen.

I love goat cheese too. It’s more realistic for me to try my hand at homemade goat cheese. I took a goat cheesemaking class in September 2011, but after I ordered the cultures, I felt intimidated and procrastinated on trying it myself.

Recently, I took another class on making fresh cheeses. We learned to make ricotta and paneer from cow’s milk and chèvre from goat’s. The goat cheese recipe was simpler than the original one I learned. I still had the original cultures in the freezer, so I took immediate action.

Oak Knoll Dairy Goats MilkI don’t have access to raw goat’s milk, but Whole Foods sells goat’s milk that isn’t ultra-pasteurized. Interestingly, I read in the local paper that Oak Knoll Dairy has a Lexington connection. The owners used to live on a small farm just across town, Oak Knoll Farm, with blueberry fields open for pick-you-own. Apparently, they started to raise goats and eventually moved to Vermont where they now have a Grade A commercial goat dairy.

Here’s how easy it is. The milk is heated up to the right temperature. I mixed in some direct-set culture for goat cheese. I covered the pot and let it sit on the stovetop for 24 hours until the curds set.

Goat Cheese Curds

Then, I ladled the cheese into a strainer (I used a fine-meshed jelly bag) to allow the whey to drip out for 12 hours, and it was chèvre.

Curds Draining

There was one hitch, I had a goat cheese accident. This isn’t part of the recipe. I decided that the jelly bag and the bowl it was dripping into should be on a tray. I didn’t account for the precarious balance of that jelly bag, and, just my luck, it tipped. I caught the bag on its way down, but I lost a third to half of the batch all over the kitchen floor… It took an hour to clean up and I continued to notice missed spots on the cabinets for days…

Goat Cheese Accident

Goat Cheese Accident

I started with a half-gallon of goat’s milk and, in the end, accident included, the chèvre filled a 10-ounce container. If it hadn’t spilled, there should have been about a pound.

The soft fresh cheese was delicious spread on toast and topped with a sprinkle of coarse salt.

Chevre sprinkled with Red Hawaiian Salt

Chevre sprinkled with Red Hawaiian Salt

I also dabbed the goat cheese on top of a galette.

Galette

And inside some handpies.

Handpies

You can substitute the whey for milk when baking, so my Super Bowl cornbread and some not-so-successful buckwheat popovers had some added tang from goat milk whey.

My first batch is gone, but I plan to make more this week, without spillage, I hope.

Fresh Chèvre
Makes about 2 pounds

1 gallon goat’s milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
1 packet chèvre direct set starter (I used C20G culture)

Heat milk to 86F. Stir in one packet starter bacteria. Cover and leave at room temperature, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours, until curds are set. Ladle curd gently into a jelly bag or butter muslin-lined strainer set over a bowl large enough to catch whey. Let it hang to drain for 6 to 12 hours. Can be salted to taste with an uniodized salt, like kosher or sea salt.

The recipe can be halved (that’s what I did).

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ffwd: goat cheese mini puffs

I have a soft spot for goat cheese. Actually, generally speaking, I have a soft spot for goats. I have a fantasy of keeping a small herd of goats and making cheese from their milk. I’ve researched it, so I doubt I’ll ever fulfill this dream, but it’s still in my head.

This week’s French Friday recipe is for goat cheese mini puffs. These are small savory cream puffs stuffed with an herbal goat cheese filling rather than pastry cream. Definitely intriguing.

First step is to make the cream puffs. I’ve only made pâte à choux for French Friday recipes. Previously, we made éclairs and gougères, and now these mini puffs. Each time, I’m amazed at how magical it is to see the pastry transforming from seemingly dense dough into puffy little balls. This time was no exception. Flour is stirred into a pot of boiling milk, water, and butter. Then, eggs are beaten into the warm mixture to make shiny dough. Spoonfuls of dough are placed on the sheet and baked until puffed and golden.

Before

After

I didn’t read the recipe well before I went shopping, so I bought plain goat cheese instead of herbed. No problem. I added a teaspoon of dried herbes de Provence when I mixed the chèvre with cream cheese and cream.

I got a chance to whip out my never-before-used pastry bags with tips to fill the cream puffs. The recipe said a small plain tip, so I used the smallest tip which was the only one without fancy edges.

I think it’s meant for writing with icing because the filling was too thick to come out easily and I popped the bag.

Oops! A Goat Cheese Explosion!

When I switched over to a slightly larger star tip, it worked much better. Some of the puffs already had a little hole for filling. For the others, I used a chopstick to make a little hole for inserting the tip.

Due to a timing glitch last night, I didn’t serve these as an appetizer. I served them as an accompaniment to a bowl of soup for lunch.

I have to say that I didn’t LOVE these as much as I expected to, though I did like them. I ended up baking the puffs the night before I filled them, and might have stored them a little too airtight so they weren’t crusty, but a little soggy. I still have some left, so I might reheat them a bit before filling and see if that improves things. I liked the impressive presentation though. I’m going to a holiday potluck next month, and these might be the perfect finger food to bring for my contribution.

You can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. I’m looking forward to reading about what my fellow FFwD bloggers thought about this week’s recipe. Check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie.