Making soft and semi-soft cheese isn’t hard. Claudia Lucero of UrbanCheeseCraft.com, the Speed-Cheese Diva, is going to show you how many popular cheeses, from mozzarella and ricotta to chevre, paneer, and other soft, semi-soft cheeses are really no-brainers to make at home, easy-cheesy.
Cheesemaking is a process, a science, an art. There is a LOT of custom and tradition in it, much of which has to do with following in footsteps rather than really understanding why certain things happen the way that they do.
Claudia Lucero is one of us. Someone who just started down the road of “How do I do this?” driven by a love for food and a need to make stuff inexpensively while paying off a stack of student loans. In a waitress gig in her teens, she worked in an Indian restaurant where they set her to making paneer, the basic cheese curd that is a staple of Indian cuisine. When she moved to Portland, she began her cheesemaking journey working with cheeses that are daily needs, and easier to get right, without waiting a year or more to see if you pulled it off.
Her book’s title is almost longer than the book itself: “One Hour Cheese: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Chevre, Paneer – Even Burrata. Fresh and Simple Cheeses You Can Make in an Hour or Less!”
It’s a wonderful primer for beginners wanting to experiment with making the basic cheeses of many cultures.
Claudia gives you a great education in how to get your kitchen and equipment ready for cheesemaking, how to buy the right kinds of cheesecloth, and how to clean properly, both before and after, your work area and equipment, which, since all cheesemaking is using good bacterial interaction with milk to transform it into cheese!
There are a lot of step-by-steps and lots of good photos of the process. Her writing is clear, cogent, and conversational/comfortable, as if she was just walking you through cheesemaking in her kitchen.
She comes up with some nice riffs on traditional cheeses, and has developed processes that simplify and clarify a process that often is filled with a lot of steps that are either not necessary anymore, in the age of refrigeration, or are just habits without much rhyme or reason. She’s also adopted modern techniques like (gasp) a microwave that work well even if they might hospitalize the odd French fromager with a case of horrified apoplexy.
Her take on ricotta, using meyer lemons rather than your standards, set me to thinking, and ultimately I revisited and revised an old recipe for a ricotta basket, an amazing presentation of fresh ricotta that I had learned in Sicilia (Sicily) in the 1990s, for a bit of a facelift.
I would highly recommend a visit or three to her website, UrbanCheeseCraft.com, where you can continue on your foundational forays into the fun of fromage!
WHY THE KINDLE EDITION
The book comes in paperback, which is where I started, but, as I keep these books open as I teach myself new things in the kitchen (Even those who teach should always be growing, reading, learning, and processing), I tended to do in the cookbook with the odd water stain and the stress on the spine to get it to stay open.
I find that an iPad in a good waterproof/food-resistant, easy-to clean case is far easier to work with in the kitchen. It takes up much less space than my cookbook addiction used to occupy in my kitchen, too. What is also nice is that it makes all of your cooking books, technique and recipe, easily searchable. I used to spend hours trying to remember where I saw something that I wanted to explore. Now it only takes a couple of minutes to open and read.
The only thing I can’t have done is have it autographed, and Claudia’s work is quite worth her Hancock on a cover, if you can catch her at one of her events.
I tend to love books that integrate traditions and travel with the cooking, but this truly is one of the best “How to” 101 books for the cheese-curious that I’ve ever encountered.
Claudia is very real and down-to-Earth, one of us home chefs whose pathway to cheese nirvana began in a kitchen very much like yours, so she doesn’t tend to have the habits that some top chefs have of forgetting what it’s like to cook with challenging equipment and limited budgets.
Her well-tested recipes, documented with a ton of photographs, help you create a lot of the day-to-day cheeses like ricotta, mozzarella, chevre, that go for prime dollar in the markets.
Claudia Lucero’s “One Hour Cheese: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Chevre, Paneer–Even Burrata. Fresh and Simple Cheeses You Can Make in an Hour or Less!” is a Choicestuff Five Diamond+!