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How to Make Fresh Silken Tofu from Soy Milk

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: How to Make Fresh Silken Tofu from Soy Milk

[Photographs: Kumiko Mitarai]

Lose five pounds to fit in a bikini, learn to surfboard, get over a fear of bears and go camping—aren't these everyone's resolutions for the summer? Partway through my tofu-making trials, I wondered if maybe that's what I should have been doing.

But this summer I was determined to learn how to make tofu. In the end, I'm glad I did.

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It all started with a tofu press I had picked up at a flea market; the press ended up tucked back into the cupboard. It's not that the press didn't work. It turned out beautiful firm tofu on the first try. The Book of Tofu, what many people consider to be the tofu bible, took me through each step.

It wasn't particularly hard to make this type of tofu, but the process involved a lot of steps and a fairly elaborate set-up somewhat akin to cheesemaking. For all the effort, it wasn't deeply satisfying to end up with a block of firm tofu that's pretty much the same as a premium store-bought tofu. Firm tofu is a great ingredient that I like cooking with, but not something I was excited to make myself.

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Kinugoshi Tofu: Delicate, Elegant and Silky

What did excite me was the thought of making the silken, custard-like tofu that you can find at Japanese restaurants. That felt special. Fresh kinugoshi tofu is much more delicate than the silken tofu you find in stores (the kind with a long shelf-life that comes in aseptic packaging). Making this would be worth the effort, right? I flipped through this earnest and comprehensive tofu book and found a recipe for kinugoshi tofu.

This very elegant style of tofu is actually simpler than making firm pressed tofu. To make kinugoshi tofu you don't separate curds and whey, and you don't need a tofu press. Simpler, but not necessarily easier. Achieving that silky smooth texture, I soon found out, requires a delicate touch. I quickly accumulated several failed attempts in my fridge. I even named some of them: Lumpy, Weepy, Foamy, etc.

At first, I had followed the Book of Tofu's instructions and added coagulant (such as Epsom salt) to hot soy milk. The coagulant worked so quickly at this temperature that it started to curdle immediately. That's how Lumpy was born.

Then I tried lowering the soy milk to body temperature. Still pretty lumpy. And somewhere along the line Weepy showed up. I learned that agitating the tofu while it sets causes the whey to separate from the tofu. It wasn't until I combined the coagulant with cold soy milk and heated the mixture gently in a bath of simmering water that I got the right texture. (Foamy turned out to be not a big deal; he was easily defeated with a simple skimming.)

But don't worry: you can make kinugoshi without ever having to meet any of these tofu demons. It's all laid out for you in the slideshow and the recipe links. Take a look and see how you can make a refreshing, lightly sweet tofu that sets up like custard in individual serving bowls.

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Homemade Soy Milk

Even if you only make it halfway through the slideshow, you'll have already learned how to make your own soy milk. It costs a fraction of manufactured soy milk and is made with just soybeans and water. No additives or flavoring. The fresh, clean taste is delicious on its own and I don't even drink straight-up soy milk (or even cow's milk!) normally. But you can always add vanilla, almond extract, honey, or sugar.

But once you've made the soy milk, you might as well take the final couple of steps and make tofu.

Served chilled with a little freshly grated ginger, some scallion, and a drizzle of soy sauce, kinugoshi tofu is lovely in the summer. It's refreshing much like a chilled cucumber soup. Clean and light for a few moments, it almost makes you forget how hot and sticky you are.

Get the Recipes

Homemade Soy Milk »
Fresh Silken Tofu »

About the author: Kumiko writes the blog Recipe Interrupted. She believes that having a few cooking techniques under your belt can help make home cooking creative and easy, and is excited to share these basics here on her regular column Technique of the Week. A graduate of Brown University, the Institute of Culinary Education, and a mother of two hungry girls, Kumiko is always trying to keep her Brooklyn kitchen smelling of something good.

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