Intro: How to Make Beer-Washed Brain Cheese
Many of you have heard of 'head cheese'. Some of you may have even tasted head cheese. But no one has heard or actually eaten this kind of head cheese! In the following Instructable, you'll be making a 2-part silicone cast then using it as a mold for just-stretched mozzarella (or a hard, aged cheese which you can grow out into a moldy brain monster). Using a 2-part silicone cast to shape homemade cheese is a fun way to personalize a meal or make a holiday dinner extra memorable.
This Instructable was a collaboration between Instructables Artist in Residence Wei Wei (her website is here) and The San Francisco Milk Maid, a cheesemaking instructor and author of the cheesemaking book Kitchen Creamery.
Step 1: Make a 2-Part Silicone Casting of a Brain
Use this Instructable (Dangerous Popsicle: Two Part Silicone Casting) by Wei Wei to create a mold of a human brain. Poke several 2 mm holes throughout the finished silicone to allow whey from the just-stretched cheese to drain. Set silicone mold aside.
Step 2: Make a Cheese Recipe
Make one recipe for either fresh or aged mozzarella cheese. You can use other types of cheese to make Brain Cheese but the way mozzarella curds are stretched then formed makes them perfect for filling a silicone mold. The volume of cheese you end up with should be proportional to the volume of the brain mold. Here's one recipe you can use for fresh mozzarella curd though, if you are planning on aging your brain, you will need to make a recipe for aged (or cultured, 'Pizza Style') mozzarella. We'll get that Instructable in the near future!
Step 3: Heat, Melt and Stretch Curds
Once the curds from the mozzarella recipe have properly drained, it's time to cut, melt and shape them. For tricks on how to do that, check out this Instructable called How to Stretch Provolone. Work the curds by covering them with hot salty water until they are pliable and uniform. Add more salt if your cheese doesn't taste enough. Finally, gather all the melted bits into one large cheese ball and stuff it into the clean silicone brain mold.
Step 4: Submerge in Cold Water
After filling the mold, press lightly on the cheese with your fingertips to ensure the cheese mushes into the creases of the brain. Next, move the silicone mold (still filled with cheese) into a bucket of cold water. This cold water will stop the cheese from melting more.
Step 5: Remove From Mold
After 20 minutes in the cold water, remove the cheese from the water and the silicone mold. Your brain is now ready to eat! We like to present our fresh cheese brains to the dinner table by smothering them with extra virgin olive oil and coarse pink salt. Fresh mozzarella brains taste simple and milky. Aged brains (which we go over in the next steps) taste more complex.
Step 6: Use Aging Bins for Aged Brains
You can age your brain for as little or as much time as you like. To create a more interesting surface as well as more complexity of the flavor, age the brain for longer. Note that in order to age your brain, you need to be working with CULTURED mozzarella curds (and not the QUICK mozzarella curds that use citric acid).
The best setup for aging a brain is to place it in a bin (such as the Tupperware-style bin pictured here). Inside the bin, the brain should sit on top of a sushi or actual cheese mat. Close the bin loosely and keep it in a location that's anywhere from 38 degrees Farenheit (that'd be your fridge) up to 55 degrees Farenheit (that'd be a controlled cheese cave or a super steady and cold basement or root cellar). Regularly open the bin to make sure the cheese is neither too wet or too dry. Use paper towels to soak up excess moisture.
Step 7: Watch for a Bloom
You should start to see change on the brain's surface in as little as a few days to a week (depending at what temperature you are keeping the bin at). Likely these blooms will look fuzzy white or fuzzy blue initially. With time, the colors on the surface will change to grays, whites, browns then pinks or reds.
Step 8: Brush Brain With Beer Regularly
To knock back excessive rind growth and to encourage a robust pinkish rind, rub your cheese brain regularly with beer or mead. We use a (cheese only) toothbrush on the brain to reach deep into the crevices. After washing with beer, make sure the brain is not sitting in moisture (use clean paper towels). Once a reddish / pinkish rind establishes, you don't need to continue to use the beer. You can rub the brain with just the toothbrush or your hand. Rub brain twice weekly until ready to eat.
Step 9: Serve to Friends & Family
Finally your (aged version) Brain Cheese is ready to eat. The rind is robustly fragrant and mold covered. Serve this masterpiece using a scalpel and latex gloves for full effect.