FARMcurious Review: Learning How to Make Chèvre, Mozzarella and Burrata

At one point in my life when I was exploring career options, I considered cheesemaking. I did some research and quickly realized that it wasn't the path for me, but that doesn't mean I couldn't learn how to make cheese at home to simply enjoy. Cheesemaking has been on my list to learn for a few years and finally two weeks ago I took my first cheesemaking class at FARMcurious in Emeryville, along with Patrick and our friends Laquel (Kid Free Travel), Sandy (Foodhoe) and her husband Mr. K.  

In this class, founder Nicole Easterday teaches us how to make three types of cheeses (chèvre, mozzarella and burrata) in three hours, while we indulged in fresh cheese and wine pairings. The class is taught in a beautiful studio space that's set up with table stations already prepared with everything we needed to get started. 

Photo by Sandy of Foodhoe

Cheesemaking is very intimidating and requires a lot of technique. Nicole did a great job teaching the class and demystifying all three cheeses, breaking down the steps in a quick and easy way to understand, explaining what's going on with the milk and what each ingredient or technique does. I loved her teaching style, super approachable and warm with a great sense of humor. 

In a class of about 22 people who have never made cheese before, everyone's outcome varied slightly but all of the cheeses turned out beautiful and delicious.

My favorite was learning how to make the burrata, one of my favorite cheeses! Burrata looks like mozzarella and is made from mozzarella, but it isn't mozzarella. It has a solid skin of fresh mozzarella that's stretched to make a hollow pouch, then filled with heavy cream and mozzarella curds. It is so rich, buttery and milky. 

We all had such a blast that we're thinking about taking Nicole's brie and camembert cheesemaking class next. We really look forward to applying the skills we learned in class at home!

If you ever had a desire to learn how to make cheese, I would highly recommend her class. Check out her upcoming classes: https://www.farmcurious.com/collections/classes

Thank you for a great experience, Nicole and FARMcurious! 

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Fresh Catch (CSF) is a Seafood Lover's Dream Come True + Cracking My First Live Sea Urchin

A few weeks ago, I cracked open my first live sea urchin and ate the beautiful, bright orange roe straight out of the shell while the spines of the urchin continued to move. I love sea urchin, but I've never had one this alive and fresh. The roe was simply divine out of the shell. It was delicately sweet, slightly salty and briny, very creamy.

The two huge sea urchins that I had the pleasure of eating were hand harvested in the morning by a diver in Half Moon Bay and then delivered to our home a few hours later. It was an incredible experience that I have Fresh Catch to thank for. I was a bit intimidated by it, mostly out of fear from the possibility of getting stabbed, but I followed along the instructions they sent over and unleashed the hungry savage beast inside of me. 

Fresh Catch is a Bay Area-based CSF (Community Supported Fishery) who partners with a collective of sustainable fishing vessels to source high quality seafood every week and delivers to your home or a pickup location. 

We've been using Fresh Catch for the past three weeks and we freakin' love them! It is so awesome that they deliver all the way over to San Pablo. Sometimes we're not home during the delivery time frame, so we'll leave out a cooler filled with ice packs. 

It's been fun to see what they can get a hold of each week. I get excited just knowing that the fish we get is caught by hook and line, or that the sea urchins we get are dived for one by one. Since the sea urchin delivery, we've received little neck clams, PEI mussels, and beautiful fillets of McFarland Springs rainbow trout. Seafood does not get any fresher than this unless you're catching it yourself - or making a trip over to the docks, but who has time for that? 

If you love seafood and live in the 415/510/925 area, I would highly recommend checking Fresh Catch out. You can order a single delivery for the week or multiple deliveries, and opt out if you don't like what they have to offer. Basically, you only get what you want when you want it. The deliveries come with recipes, too! 

Fresh Catch is offering $5 off with code NERB5 to my readers! In case you are wondering if I'm getting paid or receiving credit per sign up, I'm not. I was offered a few free deliveries to try them out and I'm hooked. I really do love them and think you will too. 

You can also find Fresh Catch at First Friday in Oakland. They'll be at 478 25th St in Oakland this Friday, April 7th from 6pm-10pm shucking oysters and serving up fresh clam and mussel poutine with Old Bay fries and bacon from The Baconer. You can follow Fresh Catch on Instagram to see what they're delivering next and for special event announcements. 

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Patrick's Favorite Three-Layer Chocolate Sour Cream Cake Recipe

It was Patrick's birthday last week, which by coincidence is also St. Patrick's Day. Every year when March 17 arrives, I can look forward to eating three things: corned beef, colcannon, and a chocolate sour cream cake.

I had never heard of sour cream cake until six years ago when I had my first slice, and it was life changing. I instantly understood why this was Patrick's favorite cake. There's really nothing else quite like it - three heavenly layers of moist and fluffy chocolate cake, frosted with thick and fluffy, lightly sweetened whipped cream.

If the idea of sour cream in a cake is weird, it's really like adding in any other dairy into a cake, like milk or buttermilk. The sour cream gives the cake a balance of acidity and fat that makes it moist and light in texture.

Patrick's mom has been making this particular chocolate sour cream cake for him since he was a kid. She was out of town this year, so I took the day off from work to bake. I must warn you that while straight-forward, this recipe is a little difficult to nail. The first time I made this cake a few years ago, it tasted good but wasn't up to par to his mom's because I wasn't consistent in beating the batter.

In this recent attempt, I messed up on the first batter due to not properly timing the melted chocolate before incorporating it, so I had to start all over again. My advice is to get enough ingredients in case you need to do a second attempt and to follow the directions precisely - timing is everything. 

I am happy that my final attempt turned out pretty freakin' close to his mom's cake! It was so good that Patrick and I devoured 75% of the cake ourselves within a week. The remaining 25% went to his dad and brother.  

This cake has become one of my favorites and I'm pretty sure it will become your favorite as well.

Three-Layer Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

By Rebecca Linkous adapted from San Francisco A La Carte: Junior League San Francisco 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups cake flour (I use Softasilk)      
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup regular sour cream
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted (I use Guittard - very crucial to let this cool near room temperature before adding to bowl - read step 2 below)
  • ¼ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 eggs

ICING

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Measure all dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.  Then add the rest of the ingredients.  I usually add the chocolate last since I am still cooling it at the last minute.  If you do not cool the chocolate properly (close to room temperature) and you add it to the cold ingredients like sour cream, water or eggs, it will go solid and cause you to have a chocolate chip cake.  Trust me, it is ugly and does not taste the same. 
  3. Beat all ingredients for ½ minute on low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly. Then beat for 3 minutes at highest speed.  Batter should be a really thick consistency.  
  4. Pour into 3 – 8” greased and floured cake pans. I highly recommend covering the bottom of the pans with waxed paper to stop the sticking. 
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. 

ICING

  1. Beat 1 1/2 pints of heavy whipping cream with 6 tablespoons of powdered sugar until extremely thick.  
  2. Slather this on each layer thick and even thicker on the outside.  Then shave a nice milk chocolate bar on top with a peeler. It is important to work quickly and then refrigerate the cake or the icing will run away.

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