Friday, December 11, 2009

Making Burrata

By Jo at Hands Free Cooking
(Many thanks to Joanna Miles for sharing this article with us.)
a ball of burrata
A couple months ago, I wrote about my attempts to make burrata, an artisan Italian cheese that is delicious and nearly impossible to find in stores. It's a close cousin of mozzarella, with an outer shell of cheese surrounding a sweet, rich filling of mozzarella curds and cream.

I first heard about it in the Washington Post almost a year ago, and was intrigued but doubtful that I'd ever find it to taste. Then, one day earlier this year, I was surprised to find it in Whole Foods, on display. I grabbed some, and when I tried it, it was true love. I haven't seen it since, but I knew I wanted to have it again.

My expeditions in cheesemaking taught me that mozzarella is easy to make at home. Having finally worked out some of the variables in mozzarella making (for instance, using local milk if at all possible), tonight I made a second attempt at burrata, and this time it was a hit! My cheese was creamy and rich, and the flavor just right.

The assembly is a little tricky (I admit I haven't quite worked it out yet, as you'll see from the pictures), but I'm thrilled to know that this delicacy can be made at home, any time I want. (Fortunately for my health, it's involved enough that I won't want to make it all the time, because I could eat it any day.)
pasta with burrata and tomatoes
For the record, burrata fits perfectly into a meal that is for me quintessential summer: sliced tomatoes and mozzarella over pasta, with fresh basil and olive oil.

To make it, I followed Ricki Carroll's great 30-Minute Mozzarella recipe, which you can make at home with just a few special ingredients (citric acid and rennet) which you can buy from http://www.cheesemaking.com/individually or as a kit. (If you never even knew you could make cheese at home, and you re intrigued, try it out. It's fun and not as hard as you d expect.) I made just a couple tweaks to turn her recipe into burrata:

After the first or second time kneading the curds, when they start to come together, separate out about a third of them. Make sure you've drained off all the whey, then break them into small pieces with your fingers, and add enough cream to make a wet, thick filling. Stir it all together with a little salt, and set aside.

Keep heating/kneading the rest of the cheese until it's hot and stretchy. Break off a small handful and stretch it carefully into a thin square. You'll have to work a bit quickly, because it cools off fast and loses its stretch.

Add a spoonful of filling in the middle of the square, then fold the edges over to seal the burrata. Try not to let any filling leak out as you're sealing it, because the cream interferes with the seal on its own, the mozzarella shell will stick to itself and form a good seal. I found this kind of tricky, and haven t worked out a satisfactory technique for forming the balls. Burrata that I've seen has been practically bursting with filling, and I have no idea how to get that much inside without it falling apart. Let me know if you do!

Keep going, reheating the cheese as needed to keep it stretchy, until you've used all the filling. Frequent reheating makes the process a lot easier.

Once your burrata are made, the shell dries out quickly, so if you aren't eating them immediately, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate them. They don't keep long, so eat them within just a few days, the sooner the better.

More About Burrata... (added later)

Hi, my name is Jim Wallace and I am Ricki's tech person. I thought I would add a few comments on the Burrata, especially relating to its assembly since:

Jo says in her Burrata piece from Dec.
"The assembly is a little tricky (I admit I haven't quite worked it out yet, as you'll see from the pictures)... I found this kind of tricky, and haven't worked out a satisfactory technique for forming the balls."
and the the chef from SF 'Big' added
"almost all of the burrata that I have work with has been tied with a green ribbon like you would use to wrap a present. The part where it is tied is one of my favorite parts of the burrata. Maybe a similar technique might help your sealing problem."

Burrata is a rather modern cheese invented to use up the little bits and pieces left over from the mozzarella process. It is these bits mixed with fresh cream that makes it such a treat.
The final cheese was traditionally wrapped in the leaves of asphodel (a broad green leaf) which was gathered up around the mozzarella wrapper and tied at the top to make a neat pear shaped package. By tradition, this cheese was to be eaten within a day or so and if the leaves lost that bright green color it was too old.
Until 2007, most of the Burrata I saw at the cheese festival in Bra Italy was wrapped in these leaves but this past September at the same festival they were now being wrapped in plastic imitation leaves.

It is these leaves that probably made it easier to form the pouches that are filled. Without them I could see a small cup used to form the pouch and support it while the filling was added and then the top could be pinched closed and tied off, in season with garlic or shallot greens perhaps. 

In the making of modern Burrata a blast of air is used to form the pouch and the creamy filling is piped into the center. Most Burrata found today is wrapped in plastic.