One thing that every European expatriate residing in the States will tell you is that dairy products are different. Let’s take France for example since it is my home country: cottage cheese? Ugh…no not that present. Sour cream? Ugh…no again, we have "creme fraiche" which no matter how hard you try to convince me it is "like" sour cream….it ain’t. Yogurts are different too, some are even so creamy we call them "cremes bulgare". Finally you have my two favorites, fromage blanc and petit suisse. You can find fromage blanc and creme fraiche pretty easily nowadays at health food store like Whole Foods but they cost a pretty penny for what they are. I make my own creme fraiche if I really crave it (recipe below), not to mention that the odds were against me trying to take the easy route, the store was out of it, but I have not tried my hand at fromage blanc….yet!
When expats get together they start talking about everything and nothing and you guessed it, food. Dairy in particular and exchanging recipes on how to recreate them sharing the same recipes but going a little differently about it.
With friends, we finally put our heads together and came up with a base recipe: creme fraiche, milk, buttermilk and heavy cream. This first experiment we did on our journey to crack down the petit suisse code produced some tasty thick dairy, very close to thick yogurt bulgare. Still….not petit suisse. You will find the recipes for this "yaourt bulgare" below. I encourage you to try it out, very good on its own, but you know what two women with a craving do to satisfy it, right? They keep at it. Back to the drawing board.
Not Quite Petit Suisse: Yogurt Bulgare
1/2 cup creme fraiche (to make your own: mix one cup heavy cream with 1/4 cup sour cream and let sit overnight in the oven with the pilot light on, uncovered, refrigerate after that)
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream (40% fat)
1/4 cup buttermilk
In a thoroughly cleaned bowl, mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon and incubate in a yogurt maker (read the manufacturer’s instructions).
If you do not have a yogurt maker, set the mixing bowl in the oven with the pilot light one, uncovered and let set overnight. Divide into containers and refrigerate.
Right: Petit Suisse, Strawberries and balsamic reduction
While working on a dessert one day, she found out that the taste was really close to what we remembered by adding heavy cream to fresh cheese. Further reading about the making of petit suisse, we realized that was the right track to follow. We had the taste figured out but what about the texture. We could not find any details on how drained the fresh cheese should be before adding the cream but it would not be problem to add whey back in if need be (whey being the liquid that drains out of curds or dairies, like the one in your big yogurt container right now).
Trying to make a long story short: on Monday last week I went and got my gallon of whole milk and my rennet to make fresh cheese. The fact that I chose vegetarian rennet is purely accidental since that was all that was available at the store the day I went.
1 gallon whole milk
5 drops vegetarian rennet
1 Tb water
1 cup heavy cream
Heat the milk to 112F in a large pot or Dutch oven. Remove from the heat. Mix the rennet into the water and add to the milk. Cover with a clean towel. Place the large pot in the oven with the pilot light on. Leave it alone overnight. You should have large big curd chunks after that time. Line a strainer with cheesecloth over another large bowl to save some whey just in case you drain your curds to much. Let the curds drain for about 40-45 minutes. I tie all four corners of my cheesecloth to the faucet for that part and take away the strainer. It just helps the manoeuvre at first. Pass the cheese through a strainer if you want ultra smooth petit suisse over a bowl and then slowly whisk in the heavy cream. Divide in between containers and let set for a few hours (2-4).
Thick and creamy at the same time. A spoon would stand straight in it but so creamy it melts in your mouth. After that….I did have a little fun with the toppings for my newly made petit suisses as you can see from the pictures. Will I do another batch? I am as we speak, eheheh…It may not be the exact original and while many consider that children’s food, I consider it one of those wonderful little things in life. Digging into one is like putting your head on a soft pillow, savouring is bite is like the first sip of a cold cold beer on a hot day…heaven!
I was working on a few sweet sauces for recipes in the book and thought I’d try them out with the petit suisse. I am evil to tempt you with them right now and not being able to write them out for you….arghhhh! Really it’s hard but I got to keep them hidden for a little while longer.
What I can talk about is the "Xocomeli" that I grated on top of one petit suisse. They were sent to me by a French blogger friend of mine, Mercotte, one of the French authorities on macarons and product tester extraordinaire. She had the chance to try out two of Valhrona’s newest chocolate releases: Xocopili and Xocomeli created by one of my favorites chefs, Frederic Bau. Xocopili is Venezuelan chocolate with 72% cocoa, with different spices such as curry and chili pepper while the Xocomeli is 57% cocoa with spices such as cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, etc… While I had an item she was looking for (package leaving tomorrow), I was really intrigued by the Xocomeli and once in my possession, very eager to grate on of those little pearls on my petit suisse. It brought a taste subtle taste of chocolate but gave the salted butter caramel sauce to a complete different level of intensity.
For the Cantaloupe Sensation Satine, I revisited this post and changed the mango jelly to cantaloupe and left the petit suisse in its original form (no gelatin necessary since it was thick enough). The diagonal layers are explained in that post.