Burrata (Italian for buttery) is a delicate package of creamy curd encased in fresh mozzarella cheese. First made by the Bianchini family in 1920 on their farm and remained the delight of the townspeople only for thirty years. Production began to spread in Italy in the 50’s but it has only recently reached America. Although many chefs in the United States serve a version with a ricotta center, this is the actual recipe.
1 gallon fresh milk (Use goats' milk if available, but cows will do.)
3 Tbs. fresh yogurt starter (Dannon plain)
3 Tbs. fresh cultured buttermilk
1 tablet Junket brand or similar rennet
1 pint heavy cream (should be almost as thick as clabbered milk)
Stainless steel pot with cover (about 1.5 gallon capacity)
(Sterilized by boiling a small amount of water until steam rushes out from under the lid.)
Dependable thermometer, range 0-100°C (32 - 212°F)
Long bladed knife for cutting curd
Table knife for finishing the cutting of the curd
Shallow glass baking pan
Ramekins or small bowls
Warm milk to 89 F in sterilized stainless steel covered pot. Meanwhile, dissolve rennet in 1/4 c water.
Blend yogurt and buttermilk together, add a small amount of milk, whisk into 89 F milk.
Stir in dissolved rennet thoroughly, cover, let sit in warm spot until gelled (clean break), about 45 minutes.
Cut curd with clean knife into ½ inch cubes.
Re-warm to 89 F with stirring, cutting larger chunks of curd into smaller pieces with table knife. Let sit 15 minutes.
Pour off whey (save for ricotta and for sealing the burrata), add curd to 2 qts. cold water to rinse, drain in colander.
CRITICAL STEP FOR PROPER "SPINNING" OF THE CURD:
Let sit at room temperature to develop acidity. The final pH should be 5.3. You can monitor the acidification using pH paper with a range of about 4.8 to 6.2. (It might be ready in only 5-10 hours, but with goat's milk, overnight works best. You can tell that proper acidity is achieved when the curd, upon heating, "spins."
Checking for proper acidity using the "spinning" technique:
a) Heat 2 c water to 185° F.
b) Drop several chunks of curd in, stir gently with a fork.
c) Test for acidity by pulling and folding the hot curd. If it softens and draws into strings ("spins"), and appears glossy on the surface, it is ready. If it breaks when you pull it, let sit several more hours until it does.
Once the curd will "spin", break or cut up the curd into pieces about ½ inch diameter. Remove 1/3 and reserve. Place the remaining 2/3 cut curd back in shallow glass baking pan.
Finely chop or crush the reserved curd. Carefully heat the heavy cream to 85° - 88° F and add to the curd, stirring slightly. Set aside to cool.
Heat ½ gallon water to 185° F.
Pour heated water over the curd, and stir with a slotted spoon. The temperature of the water should drop no lower than 135° F, but should not go above 140°F. As the curd warms, it should become more elastic, and finally "spin."
Press or cut the hot cheese into pieces (mozzato in Italian) and form into balls about the size of a large meat ball (about 2 to 2 ½ inches in diameter). Stretch and fold over and over on itself to form thin layers. The balls should be glossy and smooth on the outside.
Place a ball of mozzarella between two zip-lock bags and flatten out (I prefer the thickness of the zip-locks for this). They will end up looking like little pizza crusts about 8 – 10 inches in diameter.
Pour a little whey into each cup or bowl to aid in separation later. Lay one cheese disk in each cup and carefully work down to form a “dish”. Add curd cream mixture to about half way filled – do not over fill.
Bring the sides of the cheese up and gather like a sack. Twist slightly and form a knot to close.
Plunge into cold salted water (1 Tbs. salt/quart) and store in the refrigerator a few hours to firm up. It may be stored for several days in this brine, but is best when it is freshest. Always serve within 48 hours.
Enjoy your prized burrata with someone special: It is a treasure to be shared. When you cut into it, the creamy center oozes onto the plate and begs to be spread on fresh, crusty bread or crostini only, or with heirloom tomatoes, fine olive oil and fresh basil, as you would with regular mozzarella.
© D R DeMilo 2010 all rights reserved