As probably most of us know the variety of cheeses is huge, so I need to make it clear that this post will be dedicated only to those cheeses that take place in desserts and also how to bake with cheese.
Every kind of cheese has its own special flavor and taste, which are the result of many factors, but main categories are: the type of milk (relevant to the area where the animals are being grown) and the technology used to create it.
One important specific quality of the cheese is that typically it unlocks its taste when combined with food and beverages. The more suitable they are, the more tasty the cheese comes to the human palate.Therefore, it is extremely important to combine the right cheese with the right foods and beverages.
It is believed that cheese production began with the emergence of the first domestic sheep in the Middle East and Central Asia, 8000 years ago. The Turkic tribes began storing products by placing them in the belly of a slaughtered animal. This is how the curd, which is considered to be the first invented cheese, was discovered.
Cheese is rich in vitamins A, E, B1, B2, B12, D and PP, calcium and protein. The protein / fat ratio depends on the used milk. Differences can be really big. Considered most valuable in cheese are the amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, methionine, lysine, cystine, tyrosine, phenylalanine, thyreone, tryptophan and valine.
In almost most cases cheese has healthy, positive effects on the human body. Some of those are:
- It provides calcium for healthy bones and teeth.
- Lactic acid bacteria boosts the immune system and lowers the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood.
- Phosphorus is important fort he cardiac and kidney function.
- Choline (B-group vitamin) is needed for nerve impulses, normal function of the gall bladder and the liver. Without it, the memory function is broken. Its deficiency can cause various heart problems and high blood pressure.
- Cheeses can be an appropriate diet and are especially important for children, adolescents, pregnant women and people with diabetes, anemia, overweight, heart and joint problems. It is alleged that main reason for the French to be last in Europe in heart attacks is their love for “yellow cheese”.
Yet a food can be harmful if we do not comply with certain rules and its specifics. It is important to check the labels of cheese products for fat and salt percentage, and origin of the fat. In other words, combine the specified quantity with the necessary quality so we can be assured that generally considered beneficial product will have healthy effect on our organism.
If you are allergic to milk and lactose, you should avoid using cheeses or use only those recommended by your doctor.
Cheeses are divided into three main groups according to their consistency and the duration of maturing – solid, semi-solid and soft. Those, who mature for over half a year are solid and most often consumed grated. Semi-solid are cheeses that ripen for up to three months, and soft cheeses ripen quickly and are consumed fresh. Confectionery uses mostly soft cheeses, with some of the most preferred being the following:
One of the top rated cheese for desserts is the Italian mascarpone (“fresh cheese”). The native city is Milan. It serves as base for one of the most loved desserts, namely Tiramisu.
Mascarpone is a cream cheese, made not from milk, but from cream (first the cream if made of milk and then cheese is created from that cream). It is white, unsalted cheese with thick and sour taste and 75-80% fat.
Mascarpone is favorite cheese of many pastry chefs. It is suitable for fillings, mousses and decoration. Although soft and creamy, it retains its shape during piping. It is easily sweetened and colored, and you can sprinkle coconut, chocolate, nuts, candy, etc.on top of it.
I will briefly mention suitable drinks, since it is a fact that almost all desserts go with certain drink, particularly the ones with cheese. Beverages that pair well with mascarpone are chardonnay, champagne, liqueur and coffee.
Another Italian cheese, traditionally made from sheep’s milk. This is the Italian cottage cheese – a moist, smooth cheese with a soft, tender and natural flavor. Some brands even offer it slightly sweet. The ricotta has a faint yellow hue because of the sheep’s milk. It is not as greasy as mascarpone (25-31% fat), but also used in the preparation of mousses and fillings.
Appropriate drinks for dessert with ricotta are red wines with a fruity aroma like Malbek and Zinfandel.
As the name suggests, it is soft texture cheese, with pleasant and saturated milky flavor and almost no salt. Interesting technology is used for making this cheese – cream with lactic acid microorganisms. Its fat content is about 33%, with 55% of the cheese being water. Unlike many other cheeses, it is not left to ripen, and it is consumed as fresh as possible.
There are different types of cream cheese. The most well-known brand of cream cheese is Philadelphia. This is the preferred brand of cream cheese from the pastry chefs. Feel free to replace it with any other type of cream cheese, but be aware of the fat percentage and the ingredients. Try to avoid cheeses made from dry substitutes (unless you are allergic to milk and lactose).
Cottage cheese (Curd)
Curd is cheese produced by crossing milk proteins. It is a good source of about 20 essential amino acids and proteins (5-18% fat) and considered rich in methionine, calcium and phosphorus salts, group B vitamins. If you are looking for healthy nutrition or even weight loss, it is advisable to use cottage cheese when making cheesecake. This low-calorie protein is easily digested and it is high energy source.
All types of cheeses listed above should be kept in temperatures between 21-41° F (1-5° C) and for up to 45 days. Cream cheese lasts more than a month under proper storage, but you should always double check the labels for the shelf life of the products. Certain products shelf life may be twice as short – no more than 15 days from the date of manufacture.
As I have already mentioned, cheese in confectionery is used for mousses, fillings and decorations. Still, when talking about cheeses, we immediately associate them with a whole stream of confectionery, namely making a cheesecake. It is one of the most liked and preferred desserts, mainly because it is lighter and fresher than any cake or muffin.
Cheesecake was invented thousands of years ago, so long ago that no one remembers exactly when. Perhaps there was some sort of cheesecake when the first milk appeared. No one can say for sure, but professionals best guess is that the recipe originated from ancient Greece. Evidence suggests that the Greeks offered this temptation to their athletes before races to enhance their strength and agility.
There is also a theory however, that the Romans were the ones who made the recipe for cheesecake world-famous by using ricotta and honey.
Some research suggests that the homeland is the Middle East, and that this dessert finally made its way to the United States. Anyway, is there anyone who has not heard of cheesecakes now days?
What you need to make a cheesecake
No matter how old the recipe for cheesecake is, and how many thousands of recipes there are now and how many more might be created in the future, one thing will probably remain unchanged – the main ingredient, which is immutable – soft cheese. It is sweetened and laid on a base (usually from biscuits or dough), baked (or not) and garnished with fruit or jam.
It is also important in which pan you will put it. It must be deep (so the cheese does not leak out), and it must allow heat-treated (if the cheesecake is going to be baked), it is also recommended having a removable bottom (to preserve the integrity of the dessert).
Helpful tips for preparing cheesecake
It should be clear at this point that there are two types of cheesecake – one is baked, the other not. As you can guess, the real mastery is in baking. But if you have never made a cheesecake, first you can try my blueberry cheesecake without baking. If you want a real challenge, you can start with strawberry cheesecake with ricotta (post is coming soon as well).
As side note, I want to mention that on my final confectionery exam I had to make a cheesecake, which my bakery teachers called “Manhattan”. It is actually quite different from the published recipes under that name, so I intend eventually to write a post how to make it. Prior to that exam I tried to make that cheesecake twice during classes and twice at home. Only one of these four attempts was successful. To my delight, I had complete success on the exam, but my point is that even though it might look easy to make, cheesecakes can be a great challenge for any pastry chef. Now I don‘t have problems with “Manhattan”, it just takes some trial and error.
So, back to the tips:
- Whatever cheese you use, it should be with room temperature.
- The same is true for eggs if there are any in your recipe.
- Cheesecake must be baked slowly and evenly. If the recipe does not mention the temperature, try 320° F (160° C) and bake for about an hour.
- Try not to open the oven to prevent the dessert mass from decreasing or cracking. Now you are probably wondering how to check on the cheesecake? Do not open it for at least the first half an hour, after that just be very careful. If the color of the surface remains unchanged, close the oven immediately.
- Some cheesecakes are baked in water bath to provide the necessary moisture, which contributes to the unique flavor of the cheesecake. If you’ve never tried water bath, you just could put a pot with water one level down from the cheesecake. This should prevent any water getting in.
- After baking the cheesecake needs some time to chill. Every cheesecake requires time to tighten. Bakery chefs leave it for a minimum of 45 minutes in turned off oven, with the door open, but this is risky. If you are not sure about it, just leave it in room temperature until it cools off completely and then move it to the refrigerator for a few hours.
- The decoration, whatever it is, should be on a fully cooled cheesecake, unless the recipe says otherwise.
American people are quite the connoisseurs of cheesecakes, and National Cheesecake Day is observed annually on July 30. That date is approaching fast and if you are up for a challenge, you should surprise your loved ones with some homemade cheesecake!