Kids Cooking Activity: The Science of Flexible Cheese | living

Some types of cheese stretch. Others do not. Tighten your brain as you test the patency of cheese (and make grilled cheese sandwiches) in this edible experiment!

safety: uses the stove

fruit: Makes 2 grilled cheese sandwiches

4 slices creamy white bread or wholemeal bread

½ cup (2 ounces) extra sharp shredded cheddar cheese

½ cup (2 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

You can do this activity on your own or with friends and family.

Do not use low-fat or grated cheese here. You can substitute Monterey Jack, Swiss, or even light or sharp cheddar with extra sharp cheddar.

Place the bread slices on a cutting board. Sprinkle cheddar cheese evenly on one piece of bread. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the second slice of bread. Place one slice of bread on top of each sandwich and press down gently.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat, stirring to coat skillet evenly, about 1 minute.

Put the sandwiches in a frying pan and press gently with the spatula. Cook sandwiches until first side is golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Use a spoon to flip the sandwiches over and press gently again. Cook until second side is golden brown and cheese has melted, about 2 minutes.

Cooking tip: Slide the spoon completely under the sandwich. Make sure the spoon is large enough to hold the sandwich. Carefully place your fingertips on top of the sandwich. Lift the spoon and flip the sandwich, sliding your fingers out of the way as you flip the sandwich on the other side. Repeat with the rest of the sandwich.

Turn off the heat. Use the spoon to transfer the sandwiches back to the cutting board. Let it cool for two minutes.

While sandwiches look cold, expect: What cheese do you think will stretch the most when you unpack your sandwiches: cheddar or mozzarella?

Use your hands to gently break the cheddar sandwich in half. Hold the left half of the sandwich in your left hand. Use your right hand to gently pull the other half of the sandwich to the right. Stop pulling once the cheese is broken and you are no longer connecting the two halves of the sandwich. Repeat the test with the mozzarella sandwich.

How far does each cheese stretch before it breaks? Use a ruler to measure the length of the cheese pieces.

Eat your experience! Share grilled cheese sandwiches with a friend or family member while you read about why some cheeses stretch more than others.

food for thought

Does mozzarella cheese extend much further than cheddar cheese? At Young Chefs’ Club Lab, we’ve managed to stretch grilled mozzarella cheese 33 inches! This is the distance from one hand to the other when your arms are extended wide.

Why is mozzarella cheese so good at stretching? It has a lot to do with the way mozzarella cheese is made. Adding acid or enzymes to milk starts the cheese-making process – this separates the milk into solid curds and liquid whey. At the end this curd is polished together into cheese.

To make mozzarella cheese, the curds are repeatedly stretched and pulled. As you stretch and tighten, the proteins (cheese molecules) make their way into very straight lines. When mozzarella is heated, those straight streaks of protein loosen and can pull into long strands.

Many cheeses, such as cheddar, are not firmed after the curds are pressed together. This means that their proteins do not form straight lines. When this cheese melts, its proteins flow in different directions, so the cheese does not stretch much.

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