This summer I took a dive into something I hadn’t done in a while: cheese making. A turophile (cheese lover) myself, I was anxious to get back to cheese making. Growing up, my dad always made mozzarella and cheddar. I liked the mozzarella better because it was immediate (cheddar has to be aged at least 6 months AKA too long for little me). But recently I’ve been seeing Ricotta Crostini on Instagram and Pinterest and I’ve been anxious to try it. It turns out making ricotta is almost as easy as mozzarella!
To make ricotta, you get a gallon of whole milk, mix in citric acid & salt, heat it to 195°, stir it until the curds and whey separate, ladle out the curds, and drain them in a cheese cloth. Considering how delicious the homemade ricotta was, it was a very simple process. It really is amazing to see how just a gallon of milk can transform so much. It’s such a weird process and it’s honestly a miracle cheese was ever invented. Legend has it that ancient merchants stored milk in animal stomachs while they traversed across the desert. The mixture of the rennet and the heat curdled the milk and made delicious cheese!
So! Making the Crostini! We went to Wegmans to get a baguette. While they do sell premade crostini, I wanted to make my own. To do so I got a baguette, cut it into little half inch slices, glazed them with olive oil, and toasted them for about 4 minutes. 4 minutes was enough to get the edges nice and golden but keep the center crispy. Another way I’ve made these before is mixing in a clove or two of garlic with the olive oil. If I were only doing the ricotta and tomato crostini, I would have done the garlic option. However, I wanted a sweet crostini option too. Garlic could complement the sweet honey well, but I wanted a purely sweet option. Using just olive oil gave me more options for what I was able to make.
I just love working with baguettes. I’ve tried a lot of baguettes and, honestly, Wegmans has one of the best ones I’ve had in a while. It’s not a real baguette unless it hurts the roof of your mouth. The inside of a baguette should be moist, light, and fluffy. The outside should be golden and painful. It is an art to perfect that crackly shell on the outside of a baguette.
While the crostini were toasting, I was preparing for the next step. I knew I wanted to make a couple different kinds of ricotta crostini. I’ve seen versions with tomatoes and basil and I’ve seen versions with honey. Both of those sounded good to me. For the tomato basil I just went out to our garden and picked some little cherry tomatoes. They’re nice and a bit sweeter than grape tomatoes. While I was out in our garden, I also picked up some basil to chop up and pair with the tomatoes. I also picked some calendula flowers and onion blossoms. They don’t add too much flavor- I was mostly going for texture and color. My final stop in the garden was the thyme plant to get some sprigs of thyme for my honey mixture.
Back in the kitchen, I mixed together the flower petals, thyme leaves, a little bit of salt, and honey. Now don’t add too much salt: a sprinkling will do well. What you’re trying to do is really accent the sweetness of the honey and the creaminess of the ricotta. Salt, when used appropriately, can be such a flavor enhancer. I usually add it to most things I make, but just be careful.
The final step was assembling all of my little crostini. I carefully put a little bit of ricotta on each one, then I topped each with either the tomatoes and basil or the honey mixture. This was just a sample activity for myself (everyone makes cheese when they’re bored, right?), but I learned a lot! As fancy as these look, they were pretty easy to do. Especially if you’re not making your own ricotta or crostini (but those were pretty easy too). So for my next dinner party, you can bet your bottom dollar that ricotta crostini will be on the menu under “appetizers.”