I am trying to make processed cheese (like Velveeta or Eden) to use as a topping on cakes and desserts. It’s not available here in the UK – the only type we have is soft and spreadable (Dairalea) or already sliced and packaged as ‘singles’.
In the UK , there isn’t much demand for it I guess – in the normal way we’d probably use a mild cheddar instead. Its only as I bake a lot of Filipino pastries and cakes that I have need for it: cheddar turns hard and brittle if left on a cake, but the processed cheese stays soft. It also adds a creamy element rather than a particularly cheesy flavour.
If I am going to get it, I am going to have to make it.
Originally, processed cheese like this started when left over bits of cheese were heated up, mixed with milk, oil, and an emulsifier – a smart way to use leftovers. It had the added benefits of a longer shelf-life, uniform behaviour, and more ‘meltyness’.
So, I found a recipe by America’s Test Kitchen Feed. By adding a milk and gelatin the rubbery texture can be replicated, plus it will melt at a lower temperature. It requires ‘whole milk powder’ which can be a little tricky to find. Serious Eats amended the recipe to use evaporated milk – to skip trying to find whole milk powder – in order to make the perfect burger slice.
The thing is, they don’t add extra oil. I can’t help but think the better stability (when sitting atop a cake) is down to the higher fat content as much as anything else. I think I need to add some margarine too. I therefore looked into which emulsifiers I could use and found an article on ModernistCuisine using sodium phosphate (in fact, they decide to use sodium citrate – as it is ‘easier to find’, but I have sodium phosphate because of sausage making). They don’t add extra fat, but at least they give a benchmark for how much phosphate to add – and I know it will help any extra oil to emulsify.
I found the result a little too salty – so I have reduced the salt in the final recipe to 1 teaspoon. I used a mild cheddar, as I only want a mild creamy processed cheese.
If I was only going to use it in burgers or sandwiches I would opt for a stronger flavour – maybe a more exotic cheese! It can be set in a thin layer to make ‘singles’, that is what Serious Eats were doing – aiming to create the perfect burger cheese (they used double the gelatin, which I would do too for slices).
So this is my merge of the different approaches:
- 2.5 tbs water
- 12 g powdered gelatin (1 sachet)
- 365 ml full fat milk
- 2.5 tbs (whole) milk powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 0.3 tsp cream of tartar
- 830 g cheese
- 12 g (1.5 %) phosphate
- 1/2 cup of margarine or butter
- Line a loaf tin with cling wrap – with plenty of excess hanging over the sides.
- In a small bowl, add the water to the gelatin and leave to dissolve.
- In a large pan, combine the milk, powder, salt and cream of tartar and slowly heat.
- When the milk approaches boiling, turn the heat off and add the gelatin, and the cheese, phosphate and marg.
- Return to the heat, and stir until well combined. Once the cheese has reached melting point, use a stick blender and blitz it until smooth.
- Pour into the lined tin (I can’t see why, if you have a non-stick tin why you couldn’t set it first and then wrap once set) wrap up and chill until set.
I will slice the loaf into about 5 blocks and freeze them until needed.