The Dairy Experiments: Mamia

After the fun we had with the petit suisse experiment, Helen and I decided to try another experiment together. When she asked me what I wanted to do this time, I instantly told her about mamia, a traditional Basque dessert, which Helen had tasted years ago in one of her trips to the French Basque Country. She mentioned she wanted to attempt to replicate her father’s favorite cheese, faisselle, which she said is very similar to mamia.

These experiments are very much driven by childhood memories and nostalgia. Here she was wanting to make her father’s favorite cheese and here I was, remembering the times my father used to take me up to the mountain of Gorbea to visit a sheep herder he knew.

Mamia, also known as gatzatua or cuajada in other parts of Spain, is a creamy dessert made from ewe’s milk. Very similar to yogurt in texture, but completely different taste. Mamia is mild and not acidic. It used to be a very seasonal product since ewe’s milk was only available during the spring months but nowadays, it is readily available in the yogurt aisle of many supermarkets. Although being able to eat mamia all year round is very convenient, I love the idea of waiting twelve months to enjoy something so precious. It was usually a neighbor or a close friend who brought us the ewe’s milk and my mom would make the mamia for us. Always a treat, given and received with great love and appreciation.

In theory, mamia is one of the easiest desserts one can make. Ewe’s milk is heated, cooled to body temperature, a few drops of rennet are added, then poured into clay jars and left to coagulate. When we decided to do the experiment, I really wanted to see if I could find sheep’s milk so I could replicate the dessert just as I remember it. I looked online and even called a couple of places but no one was selling it, so I settled for goat’s milk. But this meant that some adjustments had to be made because goat’s milk has a smaller milk solid and fat content than sheep’s milk. I wanted to start by using goat’s milk and rennet alone. Once I saw the result, I would be able me to make the necessary adjustments to compensate for the lack of fat and solid matter in the goat’s milk.

As I imagined, my first batch did not set properly. The milk was still fairly liquid after 12 hours, so I decided to add some dry milk and heavy cream to the goat’s milk and proceeded as before. This time it worked and the milk set beautifully.

Mamia is usually sweetened with honey or a bit of sugar and served with fruit compotes and nuts. This is exactly how I like it, simple and rustic. However, I wanted to reserve some to turn it into a more complex plated dessert using these traditional components as a basis. Mamia mousse, vanilla bean and apricot jelly, walnut nougatine crust and acacia honey ice cream.


500 ml goat’s milk
50 grams heavy cream
30 grams dry milk powder
pinch of salt
liquid rennet

Place the goat’s milk with the heavy cream, dry milk powder and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring it up to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and let the milk come down in temperature to 37C, which is about body temperature.

Place 3 drops of liquid rennet into 4 ramekins or glass jars. Divide the milk amongst the jars. Do not stir or move the jars. Let the milk set for an hour at room temperature until it sets and then refrigerate. They will stay good in the refrigerator for about 3 days.

Mamia Mousse

2 egg yolks
35 grams sugar
250 grams mamia
2 grams gelatin sheets
100 grams heavy cream, soft peaks

Whip the yolks with an electric mixer. In the meantime, cook the sugar with a bit of water to reach 240F. Pour the cooked sugar into the yolks and keep whipping until it thickens and it is cool to the touch.Fold in the mamia into the yolks.

Soften the gelatin in ice water for about 5 minutes. Melt the gelatin over a double boiler and add it to the egg yolk mixture while whisking so it doesn’t set right away. Fold in the soft peak heavy cream. Pipe the mixture into the molds and refrigerate until it sets.

Honey Ice Cream

750 grams milk
75 grams heavy cream
165 grams acacia honey (or any honey you have available)
75 grams sugar
8 egg yolks
pinch salt

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, heavy cream, salt and sugar to a boil. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks with the honey. temper the boiling milk into the egg yolks and whisk. Place the ice cream base back in the pan and cook until it thickens slightly or to 84C.

Strain through a fine sieve and chill over an ice bath. Refrigerate the ice cream base overnight and churn in an ice cream machine. Freeze.

you may also like…

45 Responses to “The Dairy Experiments: Mamia”

  1. These seems like such an amazing combination. It is so wonderful to see you playing upon memories and in return creating new ones. I love apricots, but even more I love anything with nougat and creamy goodness. I wish I could get my hands on this one.

  2. Peabody says:

    This looks so very creamy and delish.

  3. cindy* says:

    for a long time i thought dairy treats ended at yogurt…i was so wrong! this looks so wonderfully creamy.

  4. Tartelette says:

    Well dearie, it was fun for sure…not to mention we funded the dairy producers as well!! The mousse looks as soft as a pillow. Yum!!

  5. Christy says:

    If I dive head first into that mousse of yours, I’m sure I’ll end up somewhere among the clouds…Congratulations on another successful experiment; you guys always make me wish I grew up in Europe

  6. madelaine says:

    Wow, yummy!

    In the recipe for the mamia, do you add 3 drops of liquid rennet to each ramekin? (This is probably a silly question, sorry :)

  7. Aran says:

    Thanks everyone!

    Madelaine- yes, it’s 3 drops of rennet to each ramekin. It’s ok if you add 4 by mistake. nothing will happen to the end product, it will just be wasted rennet.

    hope you guys try it!

  8. Mobula says:

    OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Y yo que pensaba (por lo que había leído que la mamía era el recipiente donde se poní la caujada y resulta que es la cuajada en sí…. Tiene un aspecto delicioso, me encantan los postres tradicionales y lástima que se estén perdiendo, natillas, arroz con leche, flanes, cuajadas…

    Lo que no termino por encontrar es el cuajo líquido porque he intentado por dos veces hacer el queso para los petites pero aquello parecía un bloque de cemento.

    Supongo que la gelatina de albaricoque y vainilla se hace asándolos, haciendolos puré y gelatinizándolos, no??

    Las fotos maravillosas, me encanta todo lo que haces…

    Besos desde Canarias,


  9. No sabia que a la cuajada también se decia mamia. Las cosas sasonales tienen un encanto especial, pero también me encanta que se puedan hacer cuando nos apetezcan! Se ve muy rica Aran y el postre que has echo es divino!

  10. Aran…are you for real or am I dreaming? This is stunningly beautiful!! Delicious looking too…

  11. Michael says:

    Hi, can you give the recipe for the vanilla bean and apricot jelly. I couldn’t find it elsewhere on your site. Thank you.

  12. Aran says:

    Hi Michael, yes it is 100 grams of apricot puree, 1/2 vanilla bean, 20 grams of sugar and 2 grams of gelatin leaves. Warm the puree with the vanilla bean and sugar and add the soften gelatin. mix and pour into your molds.

  13. Ann says:

    You two have such a wonderful partnership going… I love reading about your recreations. Your mamia is beautiful– so soft and creamy-looking!

  14. nadia says:

    This looks heavenly aran. The honet ice cream…this whole recipe is dreamy…

  15. Eileen says:

    I can only imagine how wonderful this dessert tastes. It looks amazing. I love the fact that it was created through memories from your childhood.

    Eileen (passions to pastry(

  16. veron says:

    Outstanding experiment! Love the creaminess and versatility of this.

  17. amy says:

    yummy! those slices… oh i just want to dig in!

  18. Your mamia dessert sounds wonderful. Have you tried adding a tsp of vanilla before adding the rennet?

  19. grrrr i can’t beleive i spent a year in France, over a week in Portugal, some time in Spain, and i never bloody went to the basque region–what was i thinking!

    this looks like something to make for mothers day, mamia, maman, mamie, sounds like mommy!

  20. Aran says:

    Virginia- I can’t believe you own a cheese factory… that is such a dream of mine. too cool!! Mamia doesn’t traditionally have vanilla or any flavor other than honey or sugar so that’s why I didn’t add it but of course it would taste wonderful!

    Mallory- yes, do visit next time you go to France or Spain. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of Europe, if I may say so… and some of the best chefs are from there too. Did you watch Anthony Bourdain’s show last week about Spain? Have of the show was in San SEbastian in the Basque Country. I wanted to cry I was so excited!!

  21. Elizabeth says:

    Aran, mamia just sounds heavenly. I’m tempted to trek to a sheep farm in the mountains of the Basque region just to try some after this post.

  22. I love reading about your whole process for reduplicating a dessert…so interesting! This one turned out lovely…I love the colors together!

  23. just gorgeous aran! what is that site you had mentioned once before where we can order rennet again?

    heavenly photos–can i send you jewelry to photograph…you can keep it when it’s done if you send me the pictures–you are amazing!!!

  24. Esti says:

    Ayer mismo cenamos en un baserri y había mamia de postre… y flan casero que según los que lo tomaron era el mejor de la historia!!
    (¿Cuándo vienes, por cierto?)

  25. Aran says:

    Hola Esti! Que casualidad no? Puff… no hay nada como comer cuajada y flan en un baserri. Eso es vida!
    Llego a Bilbao el 29 de septiembre y estoy hasta el 11 de octubre asi que a ver cuando quedamos vale? Mosus!

  26. Mrs.French says:

    I love how your recipes connect so deeply to family…as always love the photos!

  27. eloise says:

    Hi, I am so looking forward to trying this!

    Can you give the recipe for the walnut nougatine crust. I couldn’t find it elsewhere on your site.
    Thank you.

  28. Alexa says:

    I love to read about Helen and your experiments… I can always relate to how far we are all willing to go to recreate those flavorful memories of our childhood and where we come from. That’s what passion is all about… inspiration pure and simple. :-)

  29. cindy* says:

    i just realized this must be the honey ice cream you mentioned. what a beautiful application!

  30. Ana says:

    Aran, I am new here and would like to say that your blog is Beautiful!!
    What wonderful pictures and recipes you have here!
    I will be visiting your space many times from now on!
    Thank you for sharing your talent!

  31. Camille says:

    Our tastebuds and noses often recall childhood so well! I will make a note to myself to start exploring more of my childhood favorites, although probably not quite as exotic and beautiful as yours.

  32. I must find some sheep’s milk, this looks so wonderful. I would love to try it in the original fashion you had as a child. If my co-op doesn’t have it, perhaps I need a trip to France.

  33. Ma-Mamia! That looks good!

    Lol, has anyone made that joke yet? I hope not.

    Seriously cool though.

  34. Venus ~ Vi says:

    Such tantalizing photos! The creations are absolutely fabulous!

  35. linda says:

    Pity you couldn’t find ewe’s milk but glad to hear you could more or less replicate mamia. The mamia mousse looks delicious and pretty :)

  36. Aran, te propongo para tu próximo experimento los pierogis polacos de los que hablo hoy en el blog. No he encontrado ni una sóla foto bonita, acostumbradas a las tuyas…

  37. Kim says:

    Just stunning Aran. The mousse looks as light as a feather and the creaminess is incredible. I especially love the soft colors and textures added using the peaches and nuts.

  38. nicisme says:

    I do love reading about your ‘experiments’, they are so delicious and beautiful!

  39. wow all your photos look wonderful. like this dessert . looks so creamy delicious

  40. Ginnypa says:

    Hi Aran,
    I just love reading your blog and your photos are luscious.
    Your spirit and energy is such an inspiration. Thank you

  41. ainara says:

    Desde Munguia tu blog me transporta al pasado, y la cocina antigua con un poco de frío fuera y calorcito dentro… ¡Qué bonito todo siempre! Mosu handi bat!

  42. pea & pear says:

    I was just wishing I had some lovely cheese moment from my child hood to experiment with, when I thought about all the beautiful food memories you are creating for your son. How lovely.
    Maybe I will have a family one day to make memories for ….

  43. Wow, how beautiful almost too pretty to eat. Thank you for the morning inspiration.

  44. vanessa says:

    j’adore les mamias, je les avais goûtés et adorés au pays Basque,on en trouve de très ressemblants sous le nom de “caillé de brabis basque”, c’est un délice avec un peu de miel !

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.