You Can Totally Do This: How To Make Burrata
Fresh burrata at home, with step-by-step photos
David Arias, Executive Chef at NYC Italian bistro Abboccato Italian Kitchen, has one of those great coming-up stories that starts at the dishwashing sink at 14 years old and stops at every kitchen position along the way before ending up mastering Italian cuisine with Todd English. Suffice it to say, Arias knows his Italian cheeses, and he learned how to make fresh burrata every day out of necessity. If you've never had it, it's just heaven: soft mozzarella shreds in heavy cream stuffed into a tender mozzarella shell. Break the shell and the filling oozes out.
"The burrata we were getting from Italy started down in quality a little and was hard to get for a while, so we started making it ourselves," he says. "Traditionally, nobody puts ricotta in burrata filling. We add it because the cream in Italy has a lot more fat than the cream you get here, so by adding ricotta you get that extra creaminess."
Besides being fresher and more delicious, making it yourself is also a lot more cost-effective.
"It's $10 per pound in a shop — if you get really good quality you'll pay up to $12 — but when you make it yourself, the whole process costs about $3 for the same amount," says Arias. "It's a big difference."
So we jotted down and photographed the process, step-by-step. You'll probably need to make it a few times before you get the rhythm right, but that's the hardest part. Sourcing the mozzarella curd is as easy as hitting your specialty Italian grocery store — and yes, Polly-O is the one everyone uses.
"Knowing when to add the filling can be tricky. If it's too early and you put the filling in, it'll stretch too much, the outer shell will be too thin and it could break," says Arias. So practice as much as you can. And either way, you'll still have something delicious to smear on crusty bread.
Here's what you'll need for 5-7 servings:
- 1 large pot to hold 5 quarts of water
- 1 small pot to hold milk and butter (do not use cast-iron or aluminum for any pot)
- 1 medium bowl for curd
- 2 medium bowls for ice bath to cool cheese when it is done and to cool your hands while stretching the curds
- A pair of scissors and rubber gloves
- 1 large pot to hold 3 quarts of water (again, no cast-iron or aluminum)
- 1 medium bowl for curd
- Bowl or container for ice water bath to cool cheese
- 1 medium bowl for ice bath to protect your hands while stretching the curds
- a 6-ounce ladle
- a small soup bowl for molding
- 5-7 nylon strings or plastic wrap string for tying the burrata
- 2 ½ lbs. Polly-O mozzarella curd, diced small
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1/3 cup whey (see step 3)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 quarts water
- ½ cup Kosher salt
- 1 ½ lbs. Polly-O mozzarella curd, diced small
- 3 quarts water
- 1/3 cup Kosher salt
Photos by Gabi Porter (click to enlarge)
Bring the water and salt to boil in a large pot. Place diced mozzarella into a bowl, pour in 2 quarts of boiling water and keep the curd submerged for 2-3 minutes.
Put on two or three pairs of rubber gloves and when the curd becomes heated and stretchy, knead it with your hands. Chill your hands in the ice water bath to prepare your hands for handling the hot curds.
Drain the liquid (whey) into a container and set aside. Pour 2 quarts of hot water into the curd and knead until the curds begin to melt and smooth out. Drain some of the water and add the remaining hot water. The goal is to gradually heat the curds until pliable. Reserve the whey for storing the finished burrata.
Stretch and fold the curds together for another 3 minutes. Do not overwork the curd. The more you work the curds, the firmer they become. After you’re happy with the texture, form the curd into a large ball, then cut into four pieces with the scissors.
Form your first quarter into a small ball, stretch it into a flat oval, then place the oval into ice bath. If it becomes too hard to stretch, add more hot water. When it is pliable again stretch into an oval shape. Repeat the process with the remainer.
Combine milk and butter in a small pot and place over low heat. Shred the oval mozzarella into a clean bowl, then add warm milk/butter, whey and ricotta into the shredded mozzarella and mix with your hands for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Now, burrata construction!
Repeat steps 1-4 with the second batch of mozzarella curd until you have formed a large ball. Cut off a ping ping ball-sized piece with the scissors, stretch into a 6-inch round (like a pizza) and place inside the small soup bowl. We used a mold, but a bowl will work fine.
Keep your tying string nearby. Using the ladle, add 6 ounces of the mixture to the middle of the mozzarella and gather the sides up top.
Gently tie the top with the string like a small purse and place in ice bath. (this will help retain the shape). Repeat with the second ball and remainder of the curd/mixture. If the curd begins to tear instead of stretch around the filling, it's too cool. A few seconds in hot water will help. If you are not planning to serve immediately, place them in a small bowl and cover with the remaining whey and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
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