America’s Fastest Drive-Thrus

Source: Statista

 

 

 

 

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The Science of Melting Cheese

Niki Achitoff-Gray wrote . . . . . . . . .

Have you ever gotten all excited to make a grilled cheese and then…your cheese just doesn’t melt? Or maybe it breaks, separating into a tough, stringy mass surrounded by a pool of oil? Yup, it’s a crappy feeling. Luckily, there are ways to know what you’re getting into before that happens. Science ways.

Want to reliably tell whether the cheese you’re buying is gonna dominate the melting game or stay nice and solid for cooking or grilling? Wish you could make any melting cheese melt better? Here’s what you need to know.

On Curds and Whey

Milk contains a whole slew of molecules, from bobbing fat globules to dissolved sugars, vitamins, and minerals. But when it comes to cheesemaking, milk’s most crucial component is casein: a type of protein that clumps together in families called micelles. Picture them as little bumper cars, each holding several passengers. Calcium and hydrophobic (water-repelling) bonds act like the seat belts and doors of the cars, keeping everyone inside and secure. In milk’s liquid state, the micelles have a slight negative charge, which makes them repel each other, just like bumper cars.

Turning milk into cheese is a matter of changing the properties of those proteins, causing the caseins to coagulate into milky curds and leaving behind the cloudy, watery byproduct known as whey. There are two ways to effect this change: with rennet (an enzyme found in the stomach of unweaned grazing animals like calves and lambs) and with acid (typically lemon juice or vinegar), both of which do so in combination with heat.

When milk is heated and treated with an acid, the electric charge of the casein bundles reaches a tipping point. Instead of veering away from each other, the micelles all fall apart—those seat belts and car doors disintegrate and all the passengers huddle together, clinging to each other for dear life and squeezing out everything in between. This forms a curd that’s creamy but not particularly elastic, best-suited to fresh cheeses like queso fresco, chèvre, and paneer.

But when milk is heated with rennet instead, the effect is more nuanced: instead of the bumper cars disappearing altogether, they simply stop bouncing apart—the electricity shorted out and now the cars can get as cozy as they want. Our cars are in gridlock now, but instead of losing their cool, everybody’s reaching out the windows and holding hands. Isn’t it so sweet? Our caseins have formed a gelled network that traps fats and liquids in its web, rather than squeezing them out. These are the curds responsible for the vast majority of cheeses—the rest is a matter of aging, storage conditions, and the presence or addition of live cultures that help develop flavor and texture traits.

So what does all of this have to do with melting? Let’s get specific.

When Cheese Gets Hot

Technically speaking, cheese is an emulsion of dairy fat and water, held together by a network of proteins. In cooler temperatures, that dairy fat remains a solid; let it warm to around 90°F and the fat reaches a liquid state and the cheese becomes more pliable—you may even notice some cheeses begin to bead with “sweat” if they’re left out at room temperature. Raise the temperature by another 40 to 90 degrees and all the bonds that joined your caseins together start to break, allowing the entire protein structure to sag and stretch into an increasingly loosey goosey, lava-like puddle.

What determines a good melting cheese from a bad one has a lot to do with how well it can maintain its emulsion when that protein network begins to collapse, which in turn has to do with the ratio of water to fat, as well as the strength of that protein network.

First and foremost, the balance of water and fat has to be more or less maintained—otherwise the fat molecules will slip free and draw together. That’s why younger, high-moisture cheeses like mozzarella, Taleggio, brie, Gruyère, Emmental, and Jack are such reliable melters, while drier grating cheeses like Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano which have already lost much of their moisture to evaporation, often separate into clumps or even break.

Those aged cheeses have a further disadvantage: as cheese ages, its proteins tend to form tighter and tighter clumps, making them less effective at binding fat and water together in a smooth matrix. That’s why even some cheeses aged in a water-tight barrier (like gouda that’s aged in a wax shell or some types of waxed aged cheddar) will have a tough time melting smoothly, despite their high moisture content.

Even with excellent melting cheeses, excessive or long-term heat will gradually cook off and reduce their water content until the milk proteins shrink and brown and the fat molecules—no longer trapped by a firm protein network or suspended in water—escape and pool together. Suddenly, instead of a smoothly melted cheese, you have a tough ball of casein proteins floating in grease: the protein structure shrinks so much it simply can’t contain the fat. Think the greasy slick and tough curds on top of an overcooked pizza or a lasagna.

Which Cheeses Melt Best

Your most reliable melting cheeses will be young, moist, rennet-set cheeses that are easily sliced at room temperature. We even have a list of less-common, full-flavored melters that are perfect for pizza.

But what if you’re craving the intense flavor of a harder, aged cheese but want the melting capabilities of a young cheese? Well we’ve got some workarounds up our sleeves.

Turning Bad Melters Good

One of the most common ways to help cheese melt smoothly is to add starch: this is a process that works in sauces like mornay, or nacho cheese sauce. Starches and other thickeners will physically impede fat molecules from joining up into larger droplets, as well as making the water phase of the cheese more viscous. All of this helps to prevent fat from coalescing and breaking out.

Adding acid, like the tartaric acid you’ll find in a tart white wine, can also help prevent the cheese’s casein proteins from clumping together and turning stringy, like in a classic fondue (our recipe uses a touch of starch for further protection from breaking).

But when even that’s not enough, it’s time for the big guns: more liquid. This is where Kenji’s genius steaming technique comes into play. Steaming a cheese doesn’t just heat it more evenly and gently than, say, a toaster oven, but it reintroduces water that’s otherwise lost in more traditional heating methods. You can even go the whole nine yards and stir in a combination of milk or cream and starch like Gold Medal Wondra Flour—this method’s perfect for topping burgers or filling your next grilled cheese. Check out the full story or go one step farther and learn how to make American-style cheese slices from scratch out of nearly any cheese! (Hint: it involves a food processor, gelatin, and a whole lot of goo).

The Super Melters: Process Cheese

Process cheeses, including “American” cheese, are cheese products designed to be extremely meltable and nearly impossible to break. This is accomplished by starting with real cheese (usually a young cheddar-style), and blending it with extra milk (for the added water), extra milk protein micelles (for the strong protein structure), and some form of chemical salt that helps prevent proteins from tightening. Because American-style cheeses have so much excess liquid added to them, they have extremely low melting points, making for extra-gooey grilled cheese sandwiches or cheeseburgers. This meltability, of course, comes at the cost of less intense flavor.

Acid-Set Cheeses: The Grillers and Fryers

There’s one type of cheese that no amount of tweaking will melt: Acid-set cheeses, like fresh goat cheese, quick farmers cheese, paneer, queso fresco, and ricotta, just can’t do it. That’s because acid, unlike rennet, actually “dissolves the calcium glue that holds the casein proteins together in micelles,” explains McGee in On Food and Cooking. “So,” he continues, “when an acid curd is heated, the first thing to be shaken loose is not the proteins, but water.” Continue to heat an acid-set cheese, and its proteins will get closer and closer together and increasingly more water will be cooked off, but without that calcium holding everything together, you’re not going to get any melting action.

Sometimes that’s a great thing—just check out all the cheeses you can cook with and even grill.

Source: Serious Eat

 

 

 

 

5-course Lunch Set of Café Cross Yard in Saitama, Japan

The main dishes are Roasted Salmon with Herb-butter Sauce and Beef Hamburg with Mushroom and Cheese Cream Sauce.

The price is 4,500 yen (tax and service charges included).

カフェ クロスヤード

 

 

 

 

Low Physical Function After Age 65 Associated with Future Cardiovascular Disease

Among people older than age 65 who were assessed using a short physical function test, having lower physical function was independently associated with a greater risk of developing heart attack, heart failure and stroke, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.

The Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) used in this study is considered a measure of physical function, which includes walking speed, leg strength and balance. This study examined physical function, which is different from physical fitness.

“While traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking or diabetes are closely linked to cardiovascular disease, particularly in middle-aged people, we also know these factors may not be as predictive in older adults, so we need to identify nontraditional predictors for older adults,” said study senior author Kunihiro Matsushita, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Division of Cardiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. “We found that physical function in older adults predicts future cardiovascular disease beyond traditional heart disease risk factors, regardless of whether an individual has a history of cardiovascular disease.”

The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, an ongoing community-based cohort enrolled 15,792 participants, ages 45-64 years from 1987-1989, to investigate the causes for atherosclerotic disease (plaque or fatty buildup in the arteries). Yearly and semi-yearly (beginning in 2012) check-ins included phone calls and in-person clinic exams.

The present study evaluated health data from ARIC visit 5 (2011-2013; all participants were older than age 65) as a baseline, when the SPPB physical function test was first collected. The SPPB measured physical function to produce a score according to walking speed, speed of rising from a chair without using your hands and standing balance.

Researchers analyzed health data for 5,570 adults (58% women; 78% white adults; 22% Black adults), average age of 75 from 2011 to 2019. Using SPPB scores, the physical function of the participants was categorized into three groups: low, intermediate and high, based on their test performance.

Researchers examined the association of SPPB scores with future heart attack, stroke and heart failure, as well as the composite of the three, adjusting for major cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes and history of cardiovascular disease.

The study found:

  • Among all participants, 13% had low, 30% had intermediate and 57% had high physical function scores.
  • During the 8 years of the study, there were 930 participants with one or more confirmed cardiovascular events: 386 diagnosed with heart attack, 251 who had a stroke and 529 heart failure cases.
  • Compared to adults with high physical function scores, those with low physical function scores were 47% more likely to experience at least one cardiovascular disease event, and those with intermediate physical function scores had a 25% higher risk of having at least one cardiovascular disease event.
  • The association between physical function and cardiovascular disease remained after controlling for traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors such as age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • The physical function score improved the risk prediction of cardiovascular disease outcomes beyond traditional cardiovascular risk factors regardless of whether individuals had a history of cardiovascular disease or were healthy.

“Our findings highlight the value of assessing the physical function level of older adults in clinical practice,” said study lead author Xiao Hu, M.H.S., a research data coordinator in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. ”In addition to heart health, older adults are at higher risk for falls and disability. The assessment of physical function may also inform the risk of these concerning conditions in older adults.”

Falls and fear of falling in older adults are major health issues, and they are associated with high injury rates, high medical care costs and significant impact on quality of life. A 2022 American Heart Association scientific statement, Preventing and managing falls in adults with cardiovascular disease, advises medication adjustments, reassessing treatment plans, considering non-drug treatment options and properly managing heart rhythm disorders to reduce fall risks among elderly adults.

“Our study adds additional evidence to past research, which has demonstrated the importance of maintaining physical function at an older age,” Matsushita said. “The next questions are: what is the best way for older adults to maintain physical function, and whether interventions that improve physical function can reduce cardiovascular disease risk?”

The study had several limitations. The study population included only white and Black adults but did not include people from other racial or ethnic groups (ARIC began enrollment in 1985, when participation among people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds was more limited). The study also didn’t account for individuals whose lack of mobility might prevent them from getting assessed at a research clinic. Additional research will be required to confirm the findings in people from more diverse racial and ethnic groups and people who have even less physical function.

Source: American Heart Association

 

 

 

 

Grilled Fish with Ginger Sauce

Ingredients

12 oz tilapia fillets, firm
2 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper mix
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2-1/2 oz garlic, minced
ginger sauce

Ginger Sauce

3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp salt and sugar mix
2-1/2 oz ginger, minced
1-1/2 oz red chili, chopped
8 tsp bbq sauce, any commercial sauce

Method

  1. Rub salt and pepper mix into fish fillet and rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Dust underside of fillet only with cornstarch.
  3. Pan-fry fish until just cooked.
  4. Mix ginger sauce ingredients and spread thickly over each fish fillet.
  5. Serve with bok choy and halved cherry tomatoes, browned with garlic, and a bowl of cooked rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Streets – The Cookbook


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