It’s that time of year again: we have officially fall-en into the autumn season, which means sweater weather, knitted scarves, and maybe even an extra pair of socks at night. As you transition your wardrobe to match the changing climate, make sure you remember to stock your kitchen with seasonal essentials, too! Because as much as we’ll miss outdoor grilling and light summer salads, nothing is better than warm soup at the end of a long, chilly day. Add cheese to that soup, and you’ve got yourself one rib-sticking meal.
Whether you’re cooking up a classic, like French Onion Soup with Stout, or you’re trying something new, like Ginger Pumpkin Soup with Cotija Cheese, a dinner that includes rich, melty cheese is guaranteed to satisfy.
The beauty of a homemade soup is that it’s quite flexible for experimentation. Don’t have a particular ingredient that the recipe calls for? No problem! There’s always an equally tasty alternative, particularly when it comes to switching out meats or vegetables. However, when it comes to the cheese in your delicious cheese soup, make sure that you are using a substitute that will melt as smoothly as the type that your recipe calls for.
Unbeknownst to many, not all cheeses are magnificent melters. Although we tend think that cheese is always the ooey gooey component in a dish, there are actually a surprising number of cheeses that do not melt at all! Halloumi, fresh goat cheese, paneer, queso fresco, and feta are some examples of cheese that belong to the no-melt club.
The reason for this lies within the protein structure that makes up each type of cheese. As the temperature increases during cooking, the protein bonds give the cheese its original shape become loose and eventually break altogether, resulting in a delightful pile of melted goodness. If a cheese has more loosely packed proteins, its water content is higher, and it will be able to melt at a lower temperature more quickly. However, if a cheese has densely packed proteins, its moisture content is significantly lower and will not break down without a fight.
Although there isn’t much you can do about the cheese’s molecular composition, there are some tricks to help your cheese out during the melting process as you make your soup:
- First, bring your cheese up to room temperature before cooking with it, as this will speed up the melting process.
- Grate your own cheese! Rather than trying to melt large chunks, grate your cheese so as to increase the heated surface area. Also, avoid pre-shredded cheese from a bag. This type of cheese is usually coated in a powdery cellulose substance that is intended to repel moisture, giving the cheese a longer shelf life; however, this coating will ultimately prevent the cheese from melting properly.
- Rather than dumping the cheese into your soup all at once, add a small handful at a time so that everything has a chance to properly incorporate.
Want to go the extra cheese mile when preparing soup? Start with a parmesan-infused base. Happy cooking!Photo Credit: centercutcook.com