Cooking School Daze, Week 5

Say Cheese! (part 1)


I’m splitting this week’s class into two parts, as we covered two very involved subjects, dairy and eggs. These are both key ingredients in French cooking. According to the French, the food world will actually fall into a black hole without these ingredients. If you’ve ever been to a French restaurant, you know this is true, as every single item on the menu has some sort of milk, cheese and/or eggs.

Dairy encompasses a plethora of products which, if fresh, spoil very quickly. Here in the U.S., most milk has been pasteurized and homogenized. We see those words all the time. But do you really know what these mean? I didn’t either. Pasteurization (from Louis Pasteur) entails heating the milk to kill bacteria and other organisms that might cause infection or contamination. Homogenized milk is milk that been emulsified so the fat is dispersed well and doesn’t rise to the top.
Related Imagery
Making Hollandaise


To be called “cream,” the liquid must be at least 20% fat. There are a lot of cream options for cooking and enriching dishes. The first three are best choices when whipping is needed:

•    Manufacturing Cream (I mentioned this one last week)-40% fat
•    Heavy Cream-35% fat
•    Whipping Cream-30% fat
•    Light Cream-20% fat. Use this one for enriching soups.

By the way, half & half is heavy cream plus whole milk. It has less fat than light cream, and isn’t really considered a “cream” as it only has 10/5% fat.


Butter is the by-product of cream. Remember how our ancestors used to churn butter? What do you think they were churning to GET butter? Cream! Butter is 80% fat. The rest is water and a little protein.

Here’s a fun butter tip: if you need to work with high heat, combine your butter with some oil. The oil stops the butter from burning and you’ll still get that yummy butter taste!!

Want to use only butter? Then you need to use clarified butter. This is when all the milk solids are removed and evaporated, so all you have is the butter fat. Ghee is the Indian version of this. It’s great for making Hollandaise Sauce (recipe below) and can be stored in the fridge for quite a few months.


A lot of dairy products are fermented, we just don’t realize it. This happens when a healthy bacterial strain is introduced to the milk and cream to cause the fermentation. Yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream and crème fraiche are all fermented products.


This was where the fun started. I love cheese. I don’t eat a lot because of the fat content, but when I do, I try to enjoy every bite. All cheese starts out as milk. Then, it gets combined with rennet or an acid, which makes curds and whey. (OH! Miss Muffet was eating cheese in the nursery rhyme. Now I get it.) The different tastes depend on what the animal ate, the KIND of animal it is (sheep, cow, goat, buffalo), and both where and the time of year it was made, etc.

May, our teacher, gave us a little tasting plate with different cheeses on it. I love tasting stuff. We learned that there are six categories of cheeses, ranging from very soft to very hard:

•    Fresh- Very soft and moist, mild flavor. Ex: Mozzarella, Goat Cheese
•    Soft/Rind- Usually has a bit of surface mold. Runny with full flavor. Ex: Brie
•    Semi-soft- More solid than soft. Slices, but doesn’t grate well. Ex: Camembert
•    Hard- Drier and firm. Ex: Cheddar, Monterey Jack
•    Grating Cheese- Crumbly texture. Ex: Pecorino Romano, Parmesan
•    Blue-veined- Varied consistency. The blue comes from injecting mold into the cheese before it ripens. Ex: Roquefort, Gorgonzola

You can see from the photo the range of cheese we got to try. The thing is, I HATE any blue veined cheese. Really, really hate. May said the version on the plate was mild, so I tried it. She lied.

Ever seen the movie Big? There’s a scene at a big, fancy event where Tom Hanks tries caviar, then proceeds to spit it out and wipe his tongue with a napkin. That was me, except with blue cheese. Ick.
If you’re interested in the names of the cheese we tried, go to Cathy’s Blog.

Hollandaise Sauce:

1 cup clarified butter
3 egg yolks
3 tbsps. water
Juice of ½ lemon
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Whisk eggs yolks and water in a stainless steel bowl. Gently heat over a barely simmering pot of water, whisking constantly until eggs are thick. Add warm clarified butter by the dropful while whisking egg mixture. Add a pinch of salt. You’ll need to move it on and off the hot water, as you don’t want the eggs to cook and scramble.

When all the butter has been added, adjust consistency with more warm water if needed. Add lemon juice and small amount of cayenne. Adjust seasonings. Optional: strain through a cheesecloth.

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: JWAFrance
    466239 2

    There's lots of interesting stuff here...
    but there's a "oops" of information that's slipped in too: "Grating cheese CRUMBLY texture" = "Parmesan"!?!?!
    If you ever saw a Parmesan crumble, it certainly wasn't a Parmesan, that's for sure!!..

    Nov 11, 2011 at 4:38 PM

  • Snooth User: Rona Lewis
    359096 115

    You're absolutely right, JWAFrance! As a matter of fact, here are a few corrections the owner of my school gave me. I promise, going forward she's proofing all my facts! Sorry guys! Here's the skinny per Anne:
    One little correction: cambembert is a soft ripening cheese just like Brie. Examples of semi-firm cheeses are Fontina or Gruyère.
    Goat cheese can be made into every style of cheese, so for your fresh cheese examples, best to think of mozzarella and burrata.

    Nov 12, 2011 at 12:37 AM

  • Snooth User: awjrfam1
    513448 4

    If you can find a copy - look up "Madame Benoit's Microwave Cookbook" and go to her recipe for "True Hollandaise" - which is infallible and takes less than a minute to make!
    If you can't find it I can scan and copy it for you - much much easier than your complicated "normal;" recipe!
    AWJR -

    Nov 12, 2011 at 7:00 PM

  • Snooth User: Rona Lewis
    359096 115

    I always like shortcuts in the kitchen! Usually Hollandaise is a "special occasion" sauce. As a fitness and lifestyle coach, as well as a healthy chef, I can honestly say that making hollandaise is not an everyday occurrence-but if yours is as good as this one, have at it!!!

    Nov 13, 2011 at 10:45 AM

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