Friday, April 16, 2010

Caramelised Onion and Goat Cheese Tartlets

Remember how I made a batch of goat cheese the other day? Well by itself, it tasted bland and I didn't quite like it. It's probably the fact that I've never tasted commercial goat cheese before, or goat milk for that matter. But why would I dive head-first into cheesemaking with goat cheese? Well it was to make Caramelised Onion and Goat Cheese Tartlets. I've searched online, and it seems only goat cheese goes well with caramelised onions in this recipe, so as to avoid paying more for commercial cheese, I made my own.

Cheesemaking involves heating milk to a boil and adding acid, like vinegar or lemon juice to it, to separate the curds and whey. Once separated, the mixture is poured into a colander lined with a cheesecloth (I just used a kitchen towel) and the whey is strained out. Depending on how dry you would like your cheese, you can tie the cloth up and let it drip for an hour to further extract the whey. In my opinion, goat cheese should not be overly dried.

Because I didn't know just how salty commercial cheese is, I was wary of adding salt. I add a teaspoon, tasted, added some more, tasted again. I seriously could not tell the difference. As much as I hate to say it, it really depends on your taste. I didn't add any herbs because I didn't have any on hand, but herbs would have added a nice touch.

The tartlets were okay, but the crust was too hard. I opted to make my own shortcrust pastry, but I didn't know what went wrong. It was extremely hard, and shrunk every time i rolled it out. They were placed into the fridge for 20 minutes and blind baked for 10 minutes. I made less than planned because the cases that were not in tartlet cases flattened into discs of thick pastry. I caramelised the onions, and they were delicious. Onions are my favourite vegetable when they are cooked, but I don't quite like them when they're raw. They make me cry too much. I topped each pastry case with a quinelle of caramelised onion, and a quinelle of goat cheese. They looked very cute. I brought them to a picnic with a bunch of friends, along with a batch of ham and pineapple pizza scrolls. Adults seemed to like the tartlets, but children seemed to stay away from them and took the scrolls instead.

Now that I have tried cheesemaking, I may make my cheeses from now on. With cheeses so expensive these days, people really should start making their own.


Goat Cheese

1 litre goat milk
1/8 cup lemon juice or vinegar
Salt and herbs
Candy thermometer (I had to use this because I didn't know when to take off the heat)
Cheesecloth, or a clean kitchen towel
Large bowl

1. Pour the milk into a large pot (Do not use aluminium) and heat on medium-low heat.

2. Heat milk to 180-190°F (82-87°C) and take off heat. Pour the lemon juice or vinegar into the milk and stir. Leave for 15-30 seconds to let the milk separate.

3. Place the colander over the large bowl and place the cheesecloth over the colander.

4. Carefully pour the milk into the colander and stir constantly.

5. Once most of the liquid has drained down into the bowl you can tie the corners of the cheesecloth together and attach to a stick, like a wooden spoon. Let hang over a bowl and let drip for 1-1.5 hours.

6. Remove the cheese from the cheesecloth and season with salt and herbs.


Caramelised Onion and Goat Cheese Tartlets

Obtained here.

Makes about 20 tartlets.

2 tbsp olive oil
4 onions, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 sheets shortcrust pastry
100g fresh goat's curd

1. Heat olive oil in a heavy-based pot. Add the onions and thyme and season with salt and pepper, cooking over medium heat and stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes.

2. The onions on the bottom should become quite dark but not burnt - when it darkens, remove from heat and allow to sit for 3 to 5 mins for the onions on top to sweat and soften those underneath.

3. Stir well, return to the heat and continue to cook for about 10 mins until the onions are completely soft and dark, golden brown, removing the pot from the heat occasionally to allow further softening. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

4. Preheat oven to 180°C.

5. Lay the pastry sheets out on the bench and cut into 5cm circles. Line buttered tartlet cases (you could also use muffin trays) with the pastry and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake blind for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool.

6.Spoon equal amounts of caramelised onion and fresh goat's curd into cases and serve.

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