A couple months ago, I wrote about my attempts to make burrata, an artisan Italian cheese that is delicious and nearly impossible to find in stores. It’s a close cousin of mozzarella, with an outer shell of cheese surrounding a sweet, rich filling of mozzarella curds and cream. I first heard about it in the Washington Post almost a year ago, and was intrigued but doubtful that I’d ever find it to taste. Then, one day earlier this year, I was surprised to find it in Whole Foods, on display. I grabbed some, and when I tried it, it was true love. I haven’t seen it since, but I knew I wanted to have it again.
My expeditions in cheesemaking taught me that mozzarella is easy to make at home. Having finally worked out some of the variables in mozzarella making (for instance, using local milk if at all possible), tonight I made a second attempt at burrata, and this time it was a hit! My cheese was creamy and rich, and the flavor just right. The assembly is a little tricky (I admit I haven’t quite worked it out yet, as you’ll see from the pictures), but I’m thrilled to know that this delicacy can be made at home, any time I want. (Fortunately for my health, it’s involved enough that I won’t want to make it all the time, because I could eat it any day.)
For the record, burrata fits perfectly into a meal that is for me quintisential summer: sliced tomatoes and mozzarella over pasta, with fresh basil and olive oil.
To make it, I followed Ricki Carroll’s great 30-Minute Mozzarella recipe, which you can make at home with just a few special ingredients (citric acid and rennet) which you can buy from www.cheesemaking.com individually or as a kit. (If you never even knew you could make cheese at home, and you’re intrigued, try it out. It’s fun and not as hard as you’d expect.) I made just a couple tweaks to turn her recipe into burrata:
- After the first or second time kneading the curds, when they start to come together, separate out about a third of them. Make sure you’ve drained off all the whey, then break them into small pieces with your fingers, and add enough cream to make a wet, thick filling. Stir it all together with a little salt, and set aside.
- Keep heating/kneading the rest of the cheese until it’s hot and stretchy. Break off a small handful and stretch it carefully into a thin square. You’ll have to work a bit quickly, because it cools off fast and loses its stretch. Add a spoonful of filling in the middle of the square, then fold the edges over to seal the burrata. Try not to let any filling leak out as you’re sealing it, because the cream interferes with the seal – on its own, the mozzarella shell will stick to itself and form a good seal. I found this kind of tricky, and haven’t worked out a satisfactory technique for forming the balls. Burrata that I’ve seen has been practically bursting with filling, and I have no idea how to get that much inside without it falling apart. Let me know if you do!
- Keep going, reheating the cheese as needed to keep it stretchy, until you’ve used all the filling. Frequent reheating makes the process a lot easier.
- Once your burrata are made, the shell dries out quickly, so if you aren’t eating them immediately, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate them. They don’t keep long, so eat them within just a few days, the sooner the better.