EATING YOUR CURDS AND WHEY
By Jennifer Carden • Photos By Matthew Carden
Yogurt is one of our most basic foods—so simple and nutritious that it’s one of the first foods we feed babies. But even big kids and adults love it. Yogurt can be sour, sweet and a bit of both. It is always creamy—and delicious.
Many cultures around the world have long viewed yogurt as an everyday staple, but until recently most Americans have considered yogurt a “diet” food. Now it seems yogurt is everywhere. And for good reason: The probiotics in yogurt are good for your digestion, and it’s full of calcium and protein, too.
The yogurt offerings in local markets are expanding by leaps and bounds. There is extra-thick Greek-style yogurt, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, raw milk, lactose-free, soy and even coconut milk–based yogurt. And then there are the “addins”: yogurts with cookie crumbs, granola and even sprinkles. You can find it packaged in returnable pottery crocks, plastic cups or even squeezable tubes.
One of our family’s favorite ways to enjoy yogurt is to turn it into a thick, luxurious, spreadable cheese. The following recipe for soft yogurt cheese is easy and fun to make and you can add just about any flavoring to suit your taste, sweet or savory. Use the extremely nutritious whey that comes from the draining of the yogurt in place of water when you cook grains or steel cut-oatmeal, or feed it to your chickens. Or, use it to make tasty biscuits to enjoy with your cheese!
We all know the story of the spider that scared the poor gal sitting on the tuffet and snacking on her curds and whey. Well, keep a lookout while you are eating these nutritious and delicious treats. They are sure to attract a lot of admirers!
Jennifer Carden is a chef, author and stylist. She is dedicated to helping families get excited about food, and with her creative recipes she inspires kids and adults alike. Her book, The Toddler Café (Chronicle Books, 2008), has received acclaim for its innovative approach to feeding children. She is the co-founder/ instructor/partner of Dirt to Dine Adventure Camp for Budding Chefs at Napa’s Connolly Ranch and a regular contributor to numerous cookbooks, publications and websites. Her blog is PlayfulPantry.wordpress.com/
Soft Yogurt Cheese with Lemon and Honey
This cheese can be the consistency of sour cream or of cream cheese, depending on how long you let it drain. You can experiment with just about any flavoring, sweet or savory. Add curry or diced red pepper and herbs for a savory treat.
Delicious spread on a warm homemade biscuit!
32 ounces best-quality plain organic yogurt
1 clean flour sack or linen towel, or about 7 layers of cheesecloth Edible flower petals, about 1/4 cup
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest
2 tablespoons honey
Lay the towel (see note below) or cheesecloth in a shallow bowl with the sides of the cloth hanging over the edge. Pour the plain yogurt into the cloth. Gather the corners of the cloth together and tie them in a knot.
Slide the handle of a wooden spoon through the knot in the cloth. Place the bundle over a tall vase or deep bowl so the yogurt can hang freely to drain. For best results, drain at room temperature for 4 hours, then transfer to the refrigerator for 15 to 20 additional minutes before unwrapping to add flavoring and serve. The longer you allow the yogurt to drain, the firmer the cheese will be.
Remove from refrigerator and untie the bundle, scraping the cheese into a bowl.
To flavor, gently mix in flower petals, lemon zest and honey. Chill until you are ready to serve.
Note: If using a previously used towel, rinse it several times in hot water to be sure there is no soap residue left over from laundering.
Flaky Biscuits with Whey
You can make these by hand, but using a food processor works very well. The dough will be very wet. Don’t be afraid of it—the wetter the better.
Yield: 10 (2- to 3-inch) biscuits
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting your cutting board 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder (aluminum-free)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional for sprinkling on top of each biscuit before baking
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1-inch pieces, , plus additional for topping each biscuit before baking
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 cup whey (approximately) (Note: if you do not have whey, you can substitute 1/2 cup buttermilk, or 1/2 cup whole milk to which 1 tablespoon of vinegar has been added)
Zest from 1 Meyer lemon (optional)
Preheat oven to 450°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or nonstick foil.
Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor.
Add the pieces of very cold butter to the dry ingredients and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. You want pea-sized chunks of butter to remain, no smaller. Use 2 forks or a pastry blender to blend if you are not using a food processor.
Add milk and vinegar to a 1-cup measure and top off with enough whey (approximately ½ cup) to make 1 cup of liquid. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and butter mix and mix JUST until combined. The dough should be very wet.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Gently pat (do not use a rolling pin) the dough out until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Try to handle the dough as little as possible so it does not toughen up. Once it reaches 1/2 inch thick, fold the dough over and pat out and fold over 4 more times. After the last time, gently press the dough out into a 1-inch-thick square.
Using a biscuit cutter (or small glass) about 2 to 3 inches in diameter, cut out about 8 biscuits. Gently reform the dough and cut 2 additional biscuits. (Note: The second-cut biscuits will not be as tender as the first ones.)
Place the biscuits on the prepared cookie sheet, forming a square so that they touch each other. Add a small pat of butter and a pinch of salt to the top of each biscuit. If using the lemon zest, sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon on the top of each biscuit.
Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, until light golden brown on top.
* Biscuits can be made ahead and frozen before baking. If frozen, bake in a preheated oven at 450° for 20 minutes when ready to serve.