One of the things that we miss about living in Australia, or indeed living off our parents, is that baking ingredients were so much easier to find and afford. So many of the best recipes for delicious baked goods require buttermilk or cream cheese or various other ingredients that aren’t easy to come by in Bombay or like we mentioned, easy on the wallet. Philadelphia cream cheese costs about Rs.360 here.
While we have a new deli or gourmet grocery store popping up every few weeks and these ingredients are becoming more commonplace, the prices are still a little guilt inducing, especially when you’re experimenting. So we’ve spent many hours hunting for conversions or home made alternatives for these things and found precious few of these that we can trust. But those that we have figured out are worth collecting in one place. Here are a few of our experiments with home made cheese:
Home Made Paneer or Ricotta or Cream Cheese
Makes about 3/4 cup
1 liter Whole Milk
2-3 tbs Lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
Directions for Paneer and Ricotta
Heat the milk slowly, stirring occasionally to keep it from scorching. As soon as the milk starts to boil, immediately stir in the lemon juice and watch the milk instantly curdle. Take the pot off the heat and let the curdled milk sit for a few minutes. Now place a sieve over a pan and line it with muslin or cheese cloth, ideally folded over a few times so there are plenty of layers.
Pour the milk into the sieve and watch the whey and milk solids separate. You will be left with the curdled bits in your muslin. When the solids cool a little, squeeze the cheese into a ball and hang it over the sink tap to drain.
To make Paneer, let it drain for a few hours and refrigerate. To make Ricotta, let it drain for about an hour, stir in some salt to taste and refrigerate.
Directions for Cream Cheese
Place a sieve over a pan and line it with muslin or cheese cloth. In a bowl, mix together 1/2 a cup of warm water and 1/2 tbs of Lemon juice. Heat the litre of Milk and when it starts to boil, take it off the heat and stir the warm water and lemon juice mixture into the milk. Let the milk stand for 5-7 minutes till it starts to curdle. If you feel it hasn’t curdled much and is still very milky, boil it once more.
Once curdled, stir gently and strain the mixture through your muslin lined sieve. Blend the milk solids with just a touch of the liquid still remaining. The cheese will turn creamy and thick like cream cheese.
A lot of recipes need buttermilk and sometimes Half & Half and instead of being stumped by not having a lovely jar of homemade chaas at the ready all the time, we make our own for our cakes and pancakes.
Buttermilk (for baking)
1 cup milk, room temperature
1 tsp lemon or vinegar
Mix and let it sit for around 10 minutes. Stir well before using.
Half & Half Substitute
For 1 cup Half & Half, substitute with 1/2 cup Cream and 1/2 cup Milk