4 cups homemade kefir, cultured at least 24-48 hours to thicken
Place a large coffee filter (round pleated basket style) in a strainer and place the strainer in a large bowl. Gently pour kefir into the coffee strainer. The whey (the liquid that will seep through the filter) will drip into the bowl. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
The following morning, remove the cheese from the strainer and reserve the leftover whey that has dripped into the bowl. (Add whey to beverages, smoothies, soups, stir it into your finished kefir. Pets are also very fond of whey as a treat.)
To finish cheese, you can leave it plain and use like cream cheese. Or, add a pinch of salt, pepper, some minced garlic, minced fresh herbs of your choice and pepper. Shape into flattened ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator. Serve with crackers.
YIELD: 1 cup
“Loaded with flavor but light as a feather. Technically called gougères, these French cheese puffs are normally made by folding lots of Gruyère into choux pastry dough for fluffy, light, cheesy bites. We changed it up by using aged Manchego, Parmesan, and a bit of black pepper, for addictive bites that will be a hit at your next cocktail party.” — Chow.com
The cheese puffs can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored at room temperature.
1 1/2 cups whole milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
1 cup shredded aged (3 to 6 months) Manchego cheese (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)
Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange racks in the upper and lower third. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
Combine milk, butter, salt, and pepper in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, add flour all at once, and stir vigorously until well incorporated. Cook, stirring constantly, until dough feels dry to the touch and is no longer sticking to the bottom of the pan, about 3 to 5 minutes. (The dough will form one large ball.)
Transfer dough to a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat in eggs one at a time on medium-low speed, letting the first one completely incorporate before adding the next. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the shredded Manchego cheese. Add remaining Manchego and Parmesan cheese to dough and mix on low until incorporated.
Drop tablespoon-size rounds of dough on the prepared baking sheets, about 1/2 inch apart. (A small ice cream scoop works well for this.) Evenly sprinkle reserved Manchego cheese over top. Bake, rotating halfway through baking time, until puffed and golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
YIELD: About 60 cheese puffs
SOURCE: Recipe by Aida Mollencamp of Chow.com