first you make the cheese

After making blackberry cream-cheese kolaches, I set my sights on making savory ones as well — they’re called klobasnek, but as I have no hopes of pronouncing that, I’m going to call them savory kolaches. I found Lisa Fain’s (The Homesick Texan) klobasenk recipe on epicurious.com, and after reading through it, I decided I wanted to change things up a bit.

My big problem, her recipe calls for cheddar, which is tasty, but it lacks the awesome melty qualities that I look for when I bite into a savory sausage-and-cheese stuffed kolache. I didn’t want to go with an overly processed cheese-product that has an expiration date fifteen years in the future, so I decided to make my own super-melty awesome cheese, enter the America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook and their recipe for American Cheese.

Yes, I am making American Cheese for the sole purpose of putting it in savory, sausage-stuffed kolaches. I’m starting to get the feeling there are really other things I should be doing but I’m suppressing those feelings and focusing on making cheese (and then making kolaches… because).

IMG_9923I have to confess, the idea of making American Cheese at home sounds a lot like witchcraft (or chemistry), neither of which are strong points for me.*

I already had most of the ingredients, so all I had to buy was 12 oz. of Colby cheese and a 5×4 inch disposable aluminum loaf pan — you could probably use a non-disposable 5×4 pan, but I didn’t have any of those either. Then I started reading the fine print, including the note:

This recipe calls for whole milk powder; don’t mistakenly buy nonfat milk powder, which is the far more common of the two.

I’d already grabbed the nonfat powdered milk from the pantry, and I’d already finely grated 12 oz. of cheese and started the gelatin softening. The recipe went on to mention their favorite online source of whole milk powder, and as I wanted my cheese made today and not when the package arrived in the mail in 5-7 business days, I dug further into the pantry.

The recipe went on to say that the nonfat milk would give it an “off” taste, so I grabbed the powdered buttermilk and used 1/2 a teaspoon of it, omitting the cream of tartar. The cream of tarter was added to give it a “tangy” flavor, and buttermilk is tangy, so logically it should all work out in the end, right?

IMG_9926Too late to worry about that now, I added the heated milk and gelatin, and whirred it until it reached an amazingly smooth, creamy consistency — it looked like a thicker, creamer version of “nacho cheese” and tasted pretty good too.

At least three hours can feel like a long time to wait for cheese to set. I was more than a little anxious, had the buttermilk messed up the flavor? Would it be any good? Would I need to order powdered milk online and wait five to seven business days before I could try making cheese again? Would I need to use cheddar in my savory kolaches — hardly the end of the world, but after all this effort.

Exactly three hours later I unwrapped the now-firm cheese. Very carefully, with the sharpest knife in the block, I sliced off a piece to sample. I took a nibble. The flavor was good. The texture was good. The consistency was good, but how would it do when it was melted?

IMG_9934As I’d already had some lunch making a grilled cheese felt ambitious, but a slice of cheesy toast sounded just about right. I sliced off a second piece and put both pieces on a slice of sourdough. Into the toaster oven the sourdough and homemade American Cheese went.

The results were amazing. The cheese melted perfectly.

IMG_9939I can hardly wait to use this cheese in my savory kolaches.


American Cheese from America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook

My modifications are noted in parenthesis

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 12 oz. Colby cheese shredded fine
  • 1 tablespoon whole dry milk powder (1/2 teaspoon powdered buttermilk)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter (omitted)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk
  1. Line 5×4 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap
  2. Sprinkle gelatin over water & let sit until gelatin softens. Pulse cheese, milk powder, salt, cream of tarter in food processor until combined.
  3. In small saucepan, bring milk to boil. Remove pot from heat, whisk in gelatin. With food processor running, slowly add hot milk mix to cheese until smooth, scrape down sides as necessary.
  4. Transfer cheese to plastic-wrap lined pan. Work quickly. Pack cheese firmly to remove air bubbles, smooth top. Tightly fold overhanging plastic over top. Let chill for at least 3 hours. Apparently this keeps in the fridge for up to 1 month (I have not tried that yet).

Full disclosure: I am growing rosemary in the front yard, which is apparently a sign that I’m a witch — someone on the internet said so, so it must be true…

 


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