What I Do with Short-Dated Milk

I am sure I’m not the only one whose heart beats faster when she finds short-dated milk at the supermarket.  Whenever I see those good jugs of fresh milk selling for less than 50 cents a litre, my mind goes through a million things at once.  I swear I cannot be spoken to for about ten minutes.

Yesterday was one such day, and I came home with four litres of Farmer’s Own Reduced Fat Milk.  All four litres of creamy goodness, for a princely sum of $1.32.  It has been a while since I made cheese, so I knew exactly what to do:  fresh homemade ricotta.

Making fresh homemade ricotta from fresh milk bought for next to nothing. I have had these Mad Millie vegetarian rennet tablets for about six months now, and I still have half to use. Maybe I should make cheese a lot more often…
Here are some of the things I do with short-dated, good quality, supermarket milk.

  1. Drink the same day, or freeze for about a month.  We go through about four litres of milk weekly;  often, a litre of milk can be used up in two days.
  2. Use it for baking.  Our white sandwich loaf recipe contains milk, and we sometimes bake three whole loaves at a time (one to eat, two to freeze).  A batch of twelve muffins usually uses up half a litre.
  3. Pancake or waffle batter.  We use up about half a litre for five to six pancakes;  the batter can be made up the night before.  Our usual waffle recipe calls for nearly a litre of milk and that makes plenty of waffles for eating and freezing.
  4. Homemade Cheese.  I have made paneer, ricotta, and mozzarella.  Hopefully I can graduate to the aged cheeses in time.  Any type of fresh milk can be used for paneer and ricotta, in my experience.  Mozzarella is entirely different, however.  I have only had good results with the Farmhouse Gold Unhomogenised milk so far.
    Milk heated above steaming, but not boiling. I stop at about 85 degrees Celsius but the actual temperature has a wide range. I keep stirring the milk over medium heat so as not to scorch the pan. The milk smells faintly sweet when it is ready.
  5. Yoghurt.  We go through about a litre of yoghurt every 10 days.  I don’t often use up the fresh milk for it anymore, though.
  6. White Sauce.  My daughter’s favourite snack is mac and cheese, using a bechamel- based cheese sauce.  Any leftover cheese sauce is usually frozen for a quick supper.
  7. Ice Cream.  We don’t often make ice cream, but when we do, it saves us a fortune making it from frozen, short-dated dairy.
  8. Smoothies.  We like smoothies in the summer when mangoes are in season.
  9. Cheesecake.  A baked cheesecake is a tradition at the Meagre house at Christmas time.  In the lead up to Christmas, I usually scout the dairy section to find marked-down double cream and sour cream.  Philadelphia cream cheese is bought on half-price specials;  if we can’t find it, the homebrand cream cheese more than suffices.
    When the milk reaches temperature, turn off the heat, dump the coagulant in and stir very briefly. I used a vegetarian rennet tablet dissolved in some water for this batch. I have also used white vinegar successfully — 1/3 cup for every two litres of milk. Let the pot sit undisturbed for about 10 minutes.
  10. Ganache.  We make ganache from milk (not cream) and butter.  I freeze the excess and bring it out when we want a quick frosting or filling for cupcakes.
  11. Custard or creme caramel.  For custard, I always whip out my Mrs Beeton cookbook.
  12. Soap.  I am due to make soap for the stash within the next week.  Fingers crossed I come across some marked-down goat milk to freeze into cubes.  I really want to make a goat milk / lavender soap batch.  The other one will have avocado oil and a bit of rosehip oil in it.

Drain the pot into a cheese basket or muslin-lined colander. The longer it is drained, the firmer the cheese will be. Four litres of milk made about three cups of firm ricotta, perfect for slicing onto freshly-baked bread.

What do you do with short-dated dairy in your home?  Do you actively search for it in the supermarket?


Misc Pics:  February

Here are a few photos of what I’ve been up to in the past week.

We’ve been picking a good mix of hot chillies from the garden. Clockwise from top left: Bhut Jolokia (a.k.a. Naga or Ghost Pepper) was the world’s hottest chilli for two years; Jalapeno (usually picked green and pickled); Rocoto chilli which survives our winter and gives an extended harvest of chillis with big black seeds; Rumba which turns from deep purple (almost black) to bright red when ripe; Bird’s Eye, popular in Thai dishes; and Cayenne Long Thin which is usually dried and ground for the pantry.

We went to the semi-annual Werribee Park Heritage Orchard grafting day. WPHO is a non-profit heritage fruit orchard run entirely by volunteers. They hold their major fund-raising event twice a year: a summer budding day in February (mostly stonefruit), and a winter grafting day in July (nearly all other fruits but notably apples/cherries/quinces/pears). This year I also saw a lot of established cutting-grown grape vines, and one-to two- year old grafted cherry trees, aside from the usual grafted apples, nectarines, apricots and plums.
Waiting in the queue for rootstock and scion. For the price of rootstock ($12) and your chosen scion ($3 per variety), you can ask them to graft a fruit tree to your specifications. I have seen them graft single varieties, two varieties (e.g., two Euro plums which will pollinate each other), and sometimes even as many as five on a single tree! Grafting is free and you can ask a lot of questions while they graft your tree on-the-spot. Seriously, where else can you buy a fruit tree for as low as $15 these days? Or you can just grab some scion to bring home and graft, and hang around to watch the grafting demonstrations.
A market stall selling fresh fruit and vegetables, books, and preserves, just beside the Old Homestead. This is what greets you at the grafting day. There is also a CWA sausage sizzle stand (it’s not an Aussie event without a sausage sizzle!), and a tour of the orchard.
Back home, I made up two batches of pizza scrolls for tea and the lunch box. I used my basic soft dough recipe, added about half a cup of flour, and reduced butter to 70 grams. The result is a supple dough that can be rolled out and filled. Great for the freezer too.

What have you been doing this past week?

Easy Peasy Ham & Cheese Rolls

It’s back to school week here and mornings are a mad scramble to get things done again.  I baked these easy bread rolls yesterday, and they were such a hit I had to make another batch.  There just wasn’t anything left from the first batch for today’s lunchbox.

This recipe is just an adaptation of the basic soft dough I use for American-style dinner rolls or any filled breads that don’t need to be shaped.  Unfortunately, I have been using it for so long that I have forgotten where it came from.  These rolls remind us of the Bacon and Cheese Rolls we used to buy from the shops, back when we still bought bread.  

The dough is very sticky so I would really suggest using a breadmaker or food mixer for kneading.  I used a breadmaker, and I am not ashamed to say that the machine has truly earned its keep.  It has allowed me to make fresh bread for my family every day, regardless of how busy I am.

Just like the ones my daughter loved to buy from Woolworths, at $4.50 for a 6-pack.

Easy Peasy Ham and Cheese Rolls

Makes 12 hearty bread rolls, enough to feed a hungry horde.


7 grams instant dry yeast

520 grams baker’s flour (or replace 100 grams with wholemeal flour for a denser, heartier roll)

10 grams salt

45 grams sugar

350 grams water

20 grams olive oil (or any flavourless oil such as canola or vegetable)

60 grams butter (or replace 20 grams with olive oil)


60 grams Tasty cheese, grated

40 grams sliced honey ham, diced

I used these because they were what I had on hand. We could buy everything in the photo (less than $9 total) with the money we saved, making our own rolls instead of buying them. Best of all, the bread is freshly baked with no added preservatives.

  1. Put all the dough ingredients in the pan according to the order suggested by your breadmaker.  Set the machine to run on the dough setting.
  2. Lightly grease and line a 9″ x 13″ x 2″ rectangular pan.  You may use any pan you have (e.g., a round Pyrex pie plate, or two 8″ x 8″ square pans.  Just ensure the sides are at least 1.5″ high, as the dough does not hold its shape as it rises and the high sides will keep it from spreading out.
  3. When the kneading has finished, allow the dough to rise in the pan for about an hour or so until it doubles.
  4. Tear out and roughly shape the dough into 12 equal rounds.  Space them evenly on the prepared pan.  Alternatively, take two large serving spoons and spoon the dough out into 12 rough circles.
  5. Leave the dough to proof for about 30 minutes, or until the rounds have squeezed into each other and filled the whole pan.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (conventional, not fan-forced).
  7. Spread the topping evenly on top of the dough.
  8. Bake 20-25 minutes.  The bread should be firm and the cheese should bubble and melt, and turn golden in some parts.
  9. Remove immediately from pan and cool on racks.  You can portion and freeze them once they have cooled. 
  10. To thaw, simply move to the fridge the night before.  Consume within a month for best results.
      The ham and cheese rolls, topped and ready to go in the oven. This is the healthier part-wholemeal version, with olive oil replacing part of the butter.

      The bread itself is quite versatile, and you can top it with whatever you fancy.  You can also bake them as plain rolls, just brush the tops with a bit of milk before baking.  I have also added poppy seeds and sesame seeds.

      I hope you try it and let me know what you think.

      Disclaimer:  I did not get paid by ALDI, nor was I given any of their items to review.  They do not even know I exist.  My children just happen to like their cheese and ham.


      Ensaymada (Sweet Cheese Brioche)

      On a recent visit to the library, I brought home a book called 7000 Islands.  The author, Yasmin Newman, writes about growing up in Sydney and being exposed her mum’s Filipino heritage by way of its cuisine.

      Getting everything ready.

      I started flicking through the pages today to see which recipe I can try, bearing in mind that I needed to fill the bread tin.  I could not have picked a better recipe to start with!  This buttery, sweet, cheese-topped brioche, fondly called Ensaymada, is a real star.  Here is her recipe.

      After the first rise.  Cutting the dough into 12 to fit my paper-lined cupcake tin.

      Filling the flattened dough balls with softened butter and grated cheese, and rolling them up like logs.

      Shaping like snails, and into the tin for proofing.

      Swirly dough balls have doubled, ready for baking!

      Cooling in tins.  Time to cream the butter and sugar, and grate some more cheese.

      Assembly time.  I might have licked the buttercream-filled spoon afterward.  Oops.

      Ta-daaa!  Ready to devour.

      Eating this today brought back memories from my youth.  I hope you give it a go.  Best with a cup of hot, black coffee and some company to chat with.