Thursday, April 5, 2007

Is this legal?

Ah gee. That photo isn't as sharp as it should be but I was in a hurry to eat the subject and didn't take time to check first. In any case, what you see there is a toasted slice of pan de agua slathered with some homemade seasoned cream cheese. Not just any homemade cream cheese, either. Nossir, nope, uh-uh. This is posilutely, absotively the easiest-to-make cream cheese in this whole world -- and several outer planets.

That's just one of the reasons I would urge you to try it -- provided, of course, that you even like cream cheese. If you don't, all bets are off. But if you love using cream cheese for all kinds of things, as I do, but can't always afford to stock it, as I can't, you're gonna love this version.

One: you make the cream cheese from plain yogurt, which, ounce for ounce, will cost you roughly half as much money for at least twice as much product.

Two: less calories than regular cream cheese and healthier for you.

Three: can be used anywhere you'd use regular cream cheese, sour cream or yogurt. Very versatile, this incredible, spreadable edible is.

Four: did I mention it's so easy to make, it's probably illegal? Shhhh. Don't tell.

What you do is, you buy a quart (32 ounces) of plain yogurt. Read the label and try for one with all the good live cultures in it. Then you take a strainer or colander such as the one pictured here and line it with a couple layers of damp cheesecloth or coffee filters. Obviously, I used the coffee filters.

Hang the strainer on the edge of a bowl and put the whole shebang in the refrigerator for at least overnight. In the morning you will be amazed to see about 1 1/4 cups of whey has drained out and you have -- tahdah! -- close to 3 cups of cream cheese.

Now, the recipe I used (and there are several just like it online) didn't say anything about topping the yogurt with a weight but I later discovered there are versions that do suggest that. I guess I could lay a coffee filter and then a plate on top of the yogurt and weigh it down with a can of corn or something. Certainly more of the whey would be pressed out and the texture would be closer to the bricks of cream cheese you buy in the store.

(Utterly silly aside: the way to whey is to weigh. Sorry. Mild language digression.)

Some versions of the recipe tell you to add your seasoning before you drain the yogurt. Not a bad idea as that gives the flavors time to set in. Also, if you're using any dehydrated veggies like onion, garlic or whatever, they have time to plump up and hydrate. I didn't think of that, of course. Even so, a few short hours after mixing the seasoning in, the flavor is wonderful and the dried onion and garlic pleasingly moist.

There is this -- plain yogurt has a strong sharpness to its flavor compared with, say, sour cream. I don't mind that if I'm using yogurt in cooking but as a spread or topping, I'm not crazy about it. On the other hand, I don't want to add sugar or honey to take the edge off. However, I just happen to have a box of Stevia powder packets -- no calories. One little packet worked perfectly to soften the bite of the yogurt without messing with its character.

As to what kind of seasoning you use, that's entirely up to you and what particular use you may have for this batch of yogurt cream cheese. I wanted to go savory and a bit on the spicy side so I tossed in plenty of seasoned salt, fresh-ground mixed peppercorns, a dash of cayenne, dried onion and garlic, some Montreal steak seasoning and a good dose of dried dill weed. Of course, fresh herbs would be terrific if you have access to any.

How am I going to use this batch? Well, let me count the ways. I've already enjoyed it as a spread on toast. It will also make a wonderful topping for a baked potato and, mixed with grated cheddar cheese, will be magnificent on some steamed cauliflower. It will lend itself beautifully to being mixed with the mayo and other dressing ingredients for cole slaw. If there is still any left after all that, I'll probably whup up a batch of the best shrimp dip in the world.

And then I'll go buy another quart of yogurt.

P.S. I see Jo successfully tried the pan de agua. Good ON ya, Jo! Did anyone else get a chance to try it? I'm about to whup up another loaf myself.


Jo said...

I'm ready to make some more pan de agua, too. It was pretty funny how fast that loaf went down. My daughter, her husband, and their 3-year-old (oh, and now the 2-month-old) live with us. I left the bread sitting on the counter, half gone already a few hours after I made it. Bill and I went out somewhere--to dinner, perhaps--and when we came back the whole loaf was gone. They had the rest for dinner. My son-in-law said it was the best homemade bread I had ever made. Just had to tell ya.

bb said...

I'm telling ya, you missed your calling. Take over the Greasy Spoon and a lot of folk will eat healthier. :-) Of course the ladies could stay on to do the wait stuff and the dishes. lol

How are the ladies?

Mage said...

...and perhaps you are going to use it as part of a dip for tonights baseball game. Down here we have opening night at Petco Park.

Dee said...

Well, durn. I tried to answer this but must have done something wrong because my comment didn't show up. Hmmm ...

Jo, I suggested to you that we should keep your son-in-law because he obviously shows good taste. (smile)

Bonnie, the Ladies of the Greasy Spoon are fine. I'll try to remember to give them a hello from you.

Mage, I'll be thinking of you tonight as you slave away at Petco. You are a star!

Kate said...

thanks for the tip Dee -- I'm not supposed to be having cream chees, but I can have plain yoghurt. This is even worth buying a strainer with a hook for!

Mage said...

Ok, Ok, here you are doing the vanishing act again. Here I am with no time or wrists or bread making machines, and you give me bread. What I, yer nosey friend wants is to find out how you and the books are.

Yer friend into baseball.....

AlphaButterfly said...

Chelsea is going to LOVE this recipe! And I'll reap the benefits of her feeling compelled to make it! Win-win for me! :))))) Thanks, Mizzzzzzz Dee.