How to make tofu at home: the healthiest and most convenient method
In the Western part of the world we know tofu only very recently (a few decades), but we must admit that it has a much richer history than many foods we call ‘traditional’: in China the bean curd is most likely used since the year zero!
A real companion of ”sustainable cuisine”, without a great environmental impact as well as affordable, protein-rich and can be combined with many different dishes ranging from desserts to main courses. It has very few calories and saturated fatty acids; it practically does not contain cholesterol, while it is rich in some nutrients of great biological value, such as proteins – complete with all the essential amino acids -, mineral salts, vitamins but also omega-3.
However, people who are entering the veg world often express a great, but fortunately unfounded, desperation: “now will I have to eat tofu for the rest of my life? Eww…”.
I can’t blame them, as on our first appointments with tofu I, too, was perplexed to “swallow” it without grimacing. Then I realized that it was because I didn’t know how to cook it, like all the other food we prepare for the very first times.
Certainly learning how to make tofu at home, in other words seeing with your own eyes how it is made can be a fundamental tactic to break down psychological barriers. At least for me it was so.
For making tofu we need soy milk, and we have two alternatives for it:
– make your own soy milk, I recommend you to follow this method which is cheaper, healthier and more ethical (read here how to do it easily)
– or use a purchased soy milk.
In the second case, I strongly recommend that you choose a product that has a percentage of fat greater than 2% and protein greater than 3%. Because coagulation occurs with precipitation of proteins, but also of fats. And I would like you to keep in mind that starting from the ready one is faster, but it does not always give the expected results. Sometimes industrially produced soy milk contains additives, added just to avoid the coagulation that we want to obtain. This is not because there is “a lobby of producers who want to avoid self-production of tofu”, but to prevent the milk from curdling in its most usual use in many countries latte or cappuccino: high temperatures and acidity coming from the coffee start the phenomenon of coagulation… imagine without these additives the vicissitudes of the poor barman who would get white hair at every attempt! So read well the ingredients label: it must contain only soya, water or at the most salt.
Ingredients (for about 200 grams of solid tofu)
1 l of soy milk ready or homemade (to see how to click here)
1 tablespoon of nigari to dissolve in 60 ml of warm water
With lemon juice
1 l of soy milk ready or homemade
60 ml of water
1,5 – 2 tablespoon of lemon juice
How to choose the coagulant to make tofu at home
Various coagulants are used in commerce:
Nigari – chemically it can be called magnesium chloride, the natural coagulant par excellence; it allows us to have a very compact tofu, ideal for grilling or to make cubes and stews. Traditionally, like gypsum, it is obtained from sea water, in particular from sea foam, which is dried to evaporate the parts not required; this is due to the fact that the sea is the source of various salts in different concentrations such as sodium, chlorine, potassium, magnesium, sulphate and is therefore not composed only of the famous ‘NaCl’. So the nigari can also contain small amounts of magnesium sulphate, potassium chloride and calcium chloride depending on how it is produced. This variability in its composition is a real challenge for the production of tofu on a large scale, which is why in industry it is usually preferred in its purified form, or directly the Gypsum.
Gypsum – chemically it is calcium sulfate. Gypsum is a Latin term for good old plaster, used in the Western part of the world for various food purposes for millennia. However, today many of us know it only as a basis for building uses, or more frequently, to indicate the typical orthopedic remedy for “misadventures”. The gypsum unlike nigari allows you to obtain a soft tofu; moreover, since it is free of magnesium, it does not have that taste classically known as bitterish, perceived by tofu haters. On the contrary, plaster unlike nigari gives tofu a sweeter taste. But, if I have to be honest, my taste buds do not notice any remarkable difference!
Lemon – As in the preparation of homemade ricotta cheese, the lemon juice thanks to its acidity is able to coagulate proteins and fats present in soy milk, also adding a note of citrus scent to tofu. A more granular consistency is obtained, perhaps ideal for making meatballs, fillings or creams.
The fact that we do not have to look in specialized stores for the above mentioned chemicals, which are not widely used in our kitchens, makes the lemon the supreme candidate.
However, if you live in a big city, or by visiting online shops, you will not have any difficulty in finding nigari or gypsum, objectively the best ingredients (among other things inexpensive) for a more “orthodox” tofu.
Of course there’s much more that can be used as a possible coagulant: for example other acidic substances such as vinegar or glucone-delta-lactone (GDL; the latter is mainly used in the industry to produce silken-tofu, or creamy tofu
- Turn on the heat and bring the soy milk to a boil. Do not close the lid of the pot.
- In the meantime, do not forget to monitor frequently the pot and its contents: removing the foam that will form on the surface is crucial; it takes a moment of distraction for the liquid to boil over and get wasted partially; it should also be considered that in this case you can no longer be precise with the amount of coagulant to put.
Boil it for 5 minutes over low heat, then turn off the stove and wait for the temperature to drop to about 80 C°. You may also use a food thermometer to be sure 100%, but normally waiting 5 minutes would give a quite accurate result. To speed up cooling ‘draw’ some Z’s on the surface with a wooden spoon, so as to avoid formation of the skin.
This heat adjusting phase is used to denature the soy protein, which will undergo the ‘precipitation’ necessary for coagulation. The recommended temperature for making tofu at home ranges from 60 to 90 degrees: the higher the temperature, the lower the yield of tofu (the resulting quantity at the end of the process), which will have a more compact and hard consistency.
Conversely, with temperatures just above 60 ° C you will get a higher amount of tofu, but soft and creamy consistency.
Dissolve/dilute the chosen coagulant in warm water and without wasting too much time add it to the soy milk, which is in the meantime cooled to 80°C.
Personally I do not pour the coagulant all at once, but in 3 stages. I start with one third, then I cover the pot with the lid and wait 3 minutes; I stir only the surface and add the second dose, close the pot and repeat the waiting and stirring and finally for the third time I repeat everything for the last dose of coagulant
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When you see that the soy milk is coagulating, now you can release your breath: the hardest part is done. I advise you to stir the liquid, which becomes denser and denser during the first 5 seconds of coagulation, in order to increase the yield (the amount of clots increases) of the tofu. If there is still no coagulation stir it again, if there’s still no movement, then turn the stove back on to bring the milk to boil and then turn it off whenever it boils, wait a few minutes and add a little more coagulant.
After about 15-20 minutes needed for the milk to coagulate, go on to the next procedure: pour it through a cheese basket, or a strainer. Before pouring completely the contents of the pot (whey and curd), with a ladle collect as much as you can the amber and limpid whey
(if you still see milk color, it means that it is not completely curdled, so repeat the step by adding a little more coagulant) and throw it away. Then transfer the curd always very gently into the cheese cloth or whatever you have chosen to pour it. Finally you can start to press it until it forms the tofu in the desired density. On the market you can find wooden or plastic presses to make the tofu; you can also simply use some weights to let the water out like I do. Normally 15-20 minutes are enough to obtain a soft tofu, ideal for creamy preparations; if instead you leave it longer under the ‘press’ (about 45 minutes) you will have a lovely compact tofu, ready to cut into slices or cubes.
- Finally, let it cool down to room temperature. Afterward you can consume it or immediately, keeping in mind that it will have a texture a bit grainy and therefore not recommended to cut, or you can store it in the fridge for further preparations in any required way.
After learning how to make tofu at home, now let’s see how to store it safely.
Put it in the fridge inside a container, immersed in water for 3-5 days, and then renew the water preferably every day. If you plan to consume it within 24 hours, there is no need to keep it in water, just refrigeration is enough to make it more firm. You can also freeze it, but keep in mind that after thawing, the structural characteristics (texture) of the tofu will change: the water in tofu during freezing, will produce ice crystals which will gain more volume than in liquid form; during thawing, the crystals become water again, creating extra space, giving to bean curd a spongy appearance and a more firm and more fibrous texture. Although it may seem like an undesirable effect, actually this new feature will increase its chewability, making tofu ideal for recipes where the crunchiness and a higher absorption capacity of a sauce is more appreciated.
Just so you know, these recommendations are equally valid for industrially produced tofu.
Good revolution to all
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