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
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.
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
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.