You Say, “Tofu”,
I Say, “Curdled Soy Milk”
Tofu is made from the curds of soy milk. You got it, curdled soymilk. Not the bad kind of curdle, indicating spoilage, but the kind forced by a good chemical reaction. If you never really cared for tofu, that last bit of information probably just affirmed your dislike. It took me a while to come around to actually liking tofu. I found it to be bland and sometimes rubbery. I had to explore the many methods of preparing and marinating before I started to enjoy it. If done right, fresh homemade tofu has a subtle flavor and a nice light and fluffy texture.
Clearly I am not a tofu salesperson, as I probably would have started this post a little differently. I take delight in knowing how things are made and I love the challenge of trying, at least once, to make something myself. I have learned that tofu is easy and cost effective to make at home, requires equipment most people already have in their kitchen, and tastes great.
I followed along with this video from America’s Test Kitchen while making my first block of tofu.
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/-w4wQtYVl7k?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
What you will need:
- 8 oz. dry organic soybeans
- Blender or food processor
- Large pot
- Cheese cloth, muslin, clean lint-free towel, or nut milk bag
- Coagulant such as: nigari, Epsom salt, vinegar, or lemon juice (Check out this coagulant guide from Viet World Kitchen)
- Slotted spoon or skimmer
- Tofu mold or a strainer and a “lid” (perhaps a plate) with a weight on top (large can of beans)
One of the many kitchen gadgets my husband gave me for Christmas was a TofuXpress. This thing is great for pressing water out of blocks of tofu. Tofu is like a sponge and since it is stored in water it will retain that water unless it is pressed out. I have had many precarious set ups for pressing tofu. Stacks of plates or heavy cutting boards placed on top of a block of tofu wrapped in a clean lint-fee cloth are ok until they come crashing down when they slide off the tofu. Pressing tofu slices or cubes over a heated dry pan is another way to drive out water, but it takes a bit of time. The TofuXpress is just the right size for a block of tofu and its spring loaded lid does all the work by applying constant pressure to the tofu allowing the water to rise to the top. The water is then poured off, the spring loaded lid is released and removed. At this point the tofu can act like a sponge and absorb a marinade. The TofuXpress comes with a marinating lid that conveniently snaps onto the bottom of the container when it is not in use. Although not necessary for this process, the TofuXpress comes in handy when making homemade tofu.
Overview of Tofu Making Steps
- Soak 8oz of dried soy beans overnight.
- Using a strainer, drain soybeans, discarding soak water, and rinse well.
- Process the soybeans in batches. Add one cup of rinsed soybeans and three cups of water to a blender or food processor and blend well. Pour blended beans into a LARGE pot. Repeat this process with the remaining soybeans using a 1:3 ratio of soybeans to water.
- Warning!!! Watch the pot closely so it doesn’t boil over. Bring the soybean and water mixture to a boil. Immediately lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. In all of the directions I read there were reminders to keep a close eye on the soy milk because at first all the foam and bubbles on top don’t do much, but there is a critical point, right around boiling, where the mixture bubbles up and boils over in an instant. This is where a thermometer comes in handy. Mine is broken 🙁 . Boil over is a mess to clean up and I even had to pull the range out when I was done to get the soy milk that spilled down the side and onto the floor. Using a larger pot and stirring occasionally, my second attempt was mess free.
- Separate the bean fiber from the milk. Put a muslin or cheesecloth lined strainer into a large container or bowl . The yield will be about 8 cups of soymilk, so make sure the container is large enough to comfortably hold this much piping hot liquid. Pour the boiled soybean and water mixture over the cloth covered strainer. The pulp left in the cloth is referred to as okara. Okara can be used in other recipes, but at this point it should be set aside or discarded. The soymilk, gathered in the container beneath the strainer, will be used to make tofu.
- Return the soymilk to a clean pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat immediately and in a gentle figure eight pattern stir in half of the coagulant of your choice. Leave the mixture for two minutes. You will see the curds starting to separate from the whey. Gently pour the rest of the coagulant onto the mixture and stir it in trying not to break up the chunks of curds that have already formed. Cover the pot and let it stand for thirty minutes.
- The curds should be nicely formed, suspended in the clear yellow whey. It is now time to put the curds in the mold. Place a cheesecloth or muslin lined tofu mold in a sink or container. Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer the curds to the mold. Once all of the curds have been transferred, fold the cloth over the top of the tofu. Put the lid on the top and press with a weight. The weight of the lid will press the remaining whey from the tofu. Let the tofu drain anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on how firm you like your tofu. I found that leaving the tofu for 45 minutes produced the nice firm texture that I enjoy.
- Remove the tofu block from the mold. Congratulations! Try your tofu. To store, place the tofu in an airtight container and cover the tofu with water. Change the water daily.