Food special: The physics of making cheese

For those who dig cheese, Silverspoon Gourmet is hosting physicist-turned-cheesemaker Dr Aditya Raghavan from Canada who will conduct a Mozzarella making session on December 13

It was for the love of cheese that Canada-based physicist Dr Aditya Raghavan (33) taught himself the technique of making it and decided to devote himself fully to the craft. He is presently consulting and setting up handmade cheese lines with farms across India.

Poutine, a concoction from Quebec, Canada, combines crispy fries, gravy and cheese curds
Poutine, a concoction from Quebec, Canada, combines crispy fries, gravy and cheese curds

This weekend, Dr Raghavan along with Mansi Jasani will instruct Mumbaikars on the various steps involved in making buffalo mozzarella. Participants will also get to taste delicious mozzarella- themed canapés.

Science of the art
Dr Raghavan shares about his tryst with cheese, “I have always loved being in the kitchen and, for as long as I can remember, I enjoyed eating a variety of cheese. A few years ago, I stumbled upon a recipe to make chèvre — a soft goat’s milk cheese — on Martha Stewart’s website. Seeing that it involved the use of only three ingredients (though not the easiest to find), I ventured into it and enjoyed months of making this simple cheese and improving myself over time.”

A cheese platter.
A cheese platter. Representative pic

Being a scientist, he enjoys the science behind cheese making: “What drew me was the trifecta of loving to be in the kitchen, loving to eat cheese and loving science. I enjoy the complex interplay of microbial activity, acid production, changes in protein structure, and other details responsible for producing a wide spectrum of cheese styles, textures and tastes. Through this craft, the scientist in me could finally meet the cook in me.”

The process of cheesemaking
The process of cheesemaking

He considers mozzarella to be an exciting cheese to make as it affords participants a chance to shape and mould hot, melted curd into balls, which makes for a unique experience.

Cheese call
The session is targetted at anybody who loves to cook new things. “Participants will be equipped to make mozzarella at home for their homemade pizzas or Caprese salads. Today’s foodies enjoy learning new techniques, and we want to introduce them to the world of cheesemaking at home,” reveals Dr Raghavan.

Dr Aditya Raghavan
Dr Aditya Raghavan

He admits that the challenge in cheesemaking is to source ingredients ranging from reliable raw milk to good quality rennet (complex of enzymes) and cultures. “The inertia of sourcing ingredients dissuades most people,” he admits.

He is presently helping The Cheese Collective set up their cheesemaking room in Lonavala. He will soon head to The Farm, a Chennai-based restaurant where he has helped set up a mozzarella line and he will also be working at the Munjoh Resort on Havelock Island, Andaman, helping them set up cultured dairy products for their menu.

On: December 13, 5 pm to 9 pm
At: Silverspoon Gourmet, Dhanraj Industrial Estate, Sitaram Jadhav Marg, Lower Parel.
Call: 8286044424
Cost: Rs 2,500 per head

Fun facts about cheese
Mozzarella belongs to a category of cheeses known as Pasta Filata, which is Italian for ‘spun paste’.
>> Mozzarella di bufala, or Buffalo Mozzarella, made with water-buffalo milk, is considered the highest quality of mozzarella. Indian buffaloes’ milk is ideal for making this cheese.
>> Brie is a type of cheese that has living, white coloured fungi on the surface. These fungi soften the cheese and help make it creamy.
>> The blue in blue cheeses comes from a fungus called Penicillium Roqueforti.
>> Yogurt and paneer are the simplest forms of cheese. Did you know that yogurt has the same average density as milk?

Molten curd is used in making mozzarella
Molten curd is used in making mozzarella

DIY recipe
>> Start by adding specific cultures to milk and allowing it to ripen for a while.
>> Once the milk has ripened a little, i.e. the cultures have become active and started consuming the lactose in milk, you add rennet and begin the coagulation process.
>> The milk will become a custard-like mass in 45 minutes or so, at which point you cut into it and begin to expel whey. Once enough whey is expelled, you can drain the curds.
>> At this stage, you have to wait for the cultures to acidify the milk. It takes at least four hours (which will be shortened by doing two batches in the class).
>> After desired acidity is reached, you chop up the curds and begin to melt them in hot water. The molten curds are then stretched, smoothened and formed into balls at which point you shock them in cold water, so they can retain their shape.

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