Every time I try to make homemade mozzarella, it never ends up shiny with a stretchy texture. Instead, it pulls apart like Play-Doh and has a squeaky texture. What am I doing wrong?
Squeaky mozzarella—and off textures in general—are almost always a result of overheating milk and/or curd. Take care to heat the milk and curd to the specified temps in your recipe. Do not let cut curd cook for extra time in hot, or heating, whey. (Keep in mind that this is kind of how Halloumi is made and that is a very squeaky cheese!) The bright side: If your mozz is extremely rubbery and squeaky, you may be able to fry it or grill it for an awesome Halloumi-like treat.
If you are using hot water or whey to stretch your curd, add warmer and warmer water to the curd in steps; I start with warm whey, then add water heated in a tea kettle bit by bit. You are essentially tempering the curd.
Dump out most but not all cooling liquid at first, then repeat, adding more and more hot water as you go until it’s too hot to touch with bare hands—or just barely manageable if you do this all the time. Fold a small piece of curd as you add hot water and try to stretch it. When the curd is ready, be quick about stretching and shaping each ball to retain butterfat and limit unnecessary heating. Drop into room temperature or barely cool water or whey, not iced, until all cheese is formed. Remove from liquid and enjoy right away.
If you are using the microwave to stretch curd, stop heating as soon as the curd holds together and gets shiny when folded (meaning, skip the last 30-45 seconds if the curd is showing you that it is warm enough and melty already). Making any cheese is a craft that requires practice and judgment beyond what a recipe says because slight variations make a difference. Mozzarella is picky about heat, but once you get a feel for what’s right, it’s a cinch!
Special thanks to Claudia Lucero, the cheesemaker and founder of UrbanCheesecraft.com.