Cheese hits all the trends
Whether you want to build in low carbs, health benefits or ethnicity, cheese is a delicious formulation solution.
By Kantha Shelke, Ingredients Editor
Cheese is a powerhouse of nutrients and an ingredient with rich functional and textural properties, yet it is added to foods largely to augment flavor. Interestingly, when cheese is added to foods, the textures, viscosity, creaminess or chewiness it adds often become established in the minds of consumers as the de facto standard of quality for those foods. The power of cheese!
Advances in ingredient separation and processing technologies have helped cheese manufacturers create some incredible functionalities tailored for specific product and process applications. These include the stringiness of mozzarella for pizzas, restricted melt, sharp flavor profiles and controlled browning.
Processors incorporate cheese-based ingredients to efficiently and cost-effectively enhance flavor, aroma and viscosity, and thereby the creaminess, mouthfeel, texture and appearance of a wide range of food products.Cheese basics
In the U.S., most cheese is made from pasteurized milk. Pasteurization destroys disease-producing microbes and ensures food safety and provides greater uniformity of flavor and consistency. The process also inactivates enzymes inherent in milk and, therefore, some of their contribution to flavor.
|NOTE TO PLANT OPS|
Care should be taken when handling cheese-based ingredients. In general, temperatures should be maintained at the lower end of its tolerance range and processing configurations should be designed to minimize residence time at heated temperatures to prevent changes that are often irreversible and therefore costly.
Subjecting cheese to relatively high temperature or prolonged heating often causes the emulsification to break down resulting in fat and protein separation, the latter often denaturing irreversibly into a stringy, rubbery mess.
It is best to add cheese as the last ingredient when preparing sauces and to heat until only just melted. Curdling and grainy textures caused by overheating may sometimes be rectified by stirring or by the addition of small amounts of fat to bring the material together.
Care must be taken to maintain temperature and humidity with cheeses that have been diced, shredded or crumbled to hasten the melting process, because their increased surface area makes them particularly susceptible to the slightest fluctuations in temperature and humidity, and may result in clumping.
Some artisanal cheesemakers claim product made from non-pasteurized milk is more flavorful than its non-pasteurized counterpart. Government regulations require unpasteurized cheese to be aged for a minimum of 60 days, which satisfies the same safety requirements as pasteurization.
Food processors have long relied on aged Cheddar cheese, which, even in modest amounts, can help create powerfully appealing taste -- especially in low-fat formulations. The rich creamy taste that generations of Americans have come to love in their macaroni and cheese is now helping create low-calorie products for a nation that has just been advised to watch its fat and calorie consumption.
Which brings up form. Cheese can come in various-sized pieces or chunks, but also as cheese flavors, enzyme-modified cheese flavors, cheese sauces and powders.
A popular variety for cooking is process (or processed) or American cheese. It’s not aged but is an economical and practical way to add cheese flavor and other characteristics to many foods. American cheese is actually a blend of Cheddar, Colby and other cheeses.
“Advances in formulation technologies enable processors to utilize economical alternatives to traditional cheese ingredients, such as pasteurized process American or club Cheddar cheeses,” says Amy Loomis, Kraft Food Ingredients' senior business marketing manager of natural and process cheese. “Specialty pasteurized cheese products deliver flavor impact and functional characteristics associated with standard of identity cheeses. These ingredients contain real cheddar cheese as a primary component, yet offer increased price stability and the benefits of pasteurization.”
In the realm of sauces, Sargento Food Ingredients (www.sargentofoodingredients.com
), Plymouth, Wis., offers a line of IQF (individually quick frozen) cheese sauces that include cooked, blended and formed matrices and shapes â sized to meet processors’ precise specifications. The IQF sauces thaw quickly and provide manufacturers with variety as well as convenience, and they may be custom produced to meet formulation needs.
|Sargento's IQF sauces provide cheese in a form that is irresistably convenient.|
Of the various cheese-based ingredients, cheddar cheese is by far the most popular flavor in North America and has been employed to augment the profile of a wide range of food products including sauces, dips, dressing, savory snacks, soups and even bakery products. If created well, high-flavor cheese powders can greatly enhance the taste of otherwise bland products without the need for additional fat or seasonings.
DairiConcepts L.P., Springfield, Mo., expects greater demand in the coming months for its high-flavor cheese powder -- Supernatural Cheddar -- for more vegetable-based and low-calorie entrees. The ingredient is manufactured from natural cheddar cheese with the latest technology for pronounced flavor and less fat than its traditional counterpart.