7 Types Of Cheese And How To Use Them In Cooking

Cheese can make any dish more exciting.

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Avery Aames, author of the Cheese Shop Mysteries series put it best: life is great, but cheese makes it better. From appetizers and mains to pastries and desserts, cheese is a widely loved. Part of the fun lies in choosing the cheese and discovering how its creamy, salty, or mild flavor boosts the overall experience a dish affords. 

Are you a bona fide cheese lover? Do you want to become a master of cooking with cheese? If the answer is yes, this article is for you. We listed some of the world's most popular cheeses, plus how you can use them in a variety of recipes. 

Cheddar

Cheddar is probably the variety that first comes to mind when someone says "cheese." Named after a village in Somerset, England, this hard cheese is one of the most widely consumed in the world. Its color can range from an orangish red to white, and its flavor can range from mildly sharp to very sharp. 

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There are so many applications for this highly adaptable cheese, which is why it should be a regular item in your pantry. You can make classic gooey cheese recipes like cheese sticks, dynamite, and cheese pimiento with processed cheddar cheese that's adapted to the Filipino taste. You can also pair cheddar with other cheeses that have different flavor profiles, like in this four cheese pizza recipe. The slight sharpness and saltiness of cheddar goes well with the soft and mild mozzarella, the nutty fontina, and the hardy Monterey Jack. Lastly, you can make an out-of-the-box recipe like these mac and cheese balls. This entails whipping up mac and cheese like you usually would, but then freezing it into ball-sized portions overnight and deep-frying it. For best results, serve these bite-sized mac and cheese balls with a tangy sauce like marinara. 

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Cream Cheese

The US Food and Drug Administration's official definition of cream cheese is a cheese product that contains at least 33% milk fat. In addition, its moisture content should not exceed 55% and its pH range should be between 4.4 and 4.9. It's a cheese that's not naturally matured, and it's meant to be consumed as soon as the box or packet is opened. 

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Technical facts aside, you might already know that this cheese is crucial for classic cheesecake recipes like a New York-style baked cheesecake with blueberries. It is also a key ingredient for the frosting components of carrot cake and red velvet cupcakes. The secret is to use a lot of cream cheese to achieve a thick consistency, and to be generous in your use of powdered sugar and vanilla essence. When using cream cheese for desserts, as well as dips or pastas, don't scrimp and choose the varieties with higher fat contents. 

Feta Cheese

Feta is a crumbly cheese that is made out of goat's milk, sheep's milk, or a combination of both. It takes its salty flavor from being brined. The tangy, sharp flavor profile that you usually find in feta cheese makes it ideal for Mediterranean dishes. It pairs really well with grilled meats and fresh vegetables in particular. 

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This is the cheese that's used in the viral baked pasta recipe that's made the rounds on social media. In it, a whole block of feta is heated up with a pasta of choice, as well as sweet cherry tomatoes and fragrant basil. Feta cheese can also transform pantry staples like tuna, olives, and balsamic vinegar into a fancy treat, like in these cheese crostinis. If you want a simple and fancy meal, dress it up with cubed, blended, or mashed-up feta. 

Paneer

Paneer is a type of fresh cheese that is regularly consumed in South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. It's made of cow or buffalo milk that's set with a fresh acid like lemon juice or yogurt. It is similar to cottage cheese, but it differs from the latter in that the cheese curds are fully separated from the whey. Its taste, color, and consistency are not unlike that of our own kesong puti. 

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This cheese figures in many hearty vegetarian dishes like Indian shaahi paneer. The dish entails deep-frying cubes of the cheese and serving them in an aromatic tomato and cashew gravy with cumin, coriander, turmeric, and other spices. For healthy, but indulgent meatless meals, you can make your ulam out of paneer cheese and serve it with steaming basmati rice. 

Blue Cheese

The distinctive blue or blue-green spots on a wedge of blue cheese come from an edible fungus called Penicillium. The spore is also what gives this cheese its signature strong smell. Though some people aren't fans of the pungent and funky taste of blue cheese, some can't get enough of it. The great thing about blue cheese is that it can be blended down with milder ingredients, like cream cheese, or paired with equally strong-tasting ingredients like cayenne pepper sauce.   

You can use this ingredient to liven up a comfort food like beef stroganoff with blue cheese. Blue cheese will impart the creamy sauce with a strong-smelling, but deep umami flavor. It's also considered indispensable to recipes inspired by buffalo chicken wings, like this grilled chicken salad with blue cheese and these blue cheese chicken croquettes. If you want a variation for wings but still want the taste of everything that comes with buffalo chicken, use blue cheese in these recipes. 

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Gruyère

One of the fancier cheeses you can try out for your next big cookoff is Gruyère. The flavor of Gruyère varies according to how mature it is, but you will be able to pick up slightly bitter, complex, and grainy notes from it. Aside from being the most popular cheese in its country of origin, Switzerland, it is widely consumed across Europe. You may want to try incorporating it into sandwiches or salads, or eating it with grilled sausages washed down with beer. 

One new recipe you can try is the croque madame, which will make for an indulgent breakfast or brunch. It consists of Gruyère broiled on a toasted ham sandwich, then topped with a fried egg and mornay sauce. For occasions in which you want to wow your guests, try cooking with a cheese like Gruyère. 

Brie

Brie is a mild and soft cheese that goes just as well with fruit-based dessert dishes as well as it does with savory dishes. One thing you should remember about brie is that the waxy white casing it comes in is also edible. Don't throw the rind away and use it as part of your dish! 

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This cheese goes well in salads, pasta dishes, and sandwiches. However, we highly suggest ending your meal with it and making it part of your dessert. For example, you can layer brie cheese on bread with sliced tart apples and rich caramel sauce to make this brie, apple, and caramel sandwich. Or, you can make baked brie by enveloping the cheese in puff pastry with dried fruits and nuts, then topping it with a luscious combo of cinnamon and brown sugar. 

These are just some of the many ways that you can enjoy the world's most beloved cheeses. Which one of our cheese-laden recipes are you most excited to try? 

Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on Yummy.ph by submitting your recipe here.

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