We've got a new partnership with the recipe, equipment, and product testing gurus at America's Test Kitchen. They'll be sharing some of their time-tested recipes and technical expertise with us weekly. Today, recipe developer and grilled cheese queen Yvonne Ruperti shows us how to make DIY American cheese; consider it an ooey, gooey, cheesy paean to the grilled cheese sandwich.
I'm not afraid to admit that I love American cheese (yes, like Kraft Singles) by itself, on a grilled cheese sandwich, on a cheeseburger, or even just slapped onto a plate until it's nice and gooey (a childhood pleasure that I never outgrew).
But what exactly is American cheese? I have to think it's the answer to that exact question that's given the stuff such a bad rap. The American cheese you find in the supermarket refrigerator case isn't cheese made in the traditional way (milk that's formed into curds and pressed). Instead, it's either a blend of cheese and additives, or it's a highly processed mixture of ingredients such as water, milk, milk fat, protein, whey, food coloring, flavorings, and emulsifiers. The result is a processed cheese with a mild flavor that melts incredibly well. I wanted to get as close as possible to the taste and texture of American cheese using only pantry ingredients and a food processor. A little tinkering proved I didn't need much; the key was quickly melting together a mix of milk, cheese, and a few other ingredients (including plenty of salt), then giving it a chance to set up with the help of a little gelatin.
By making your own American cheese, you will know exactly what went into it, and you can also include add-ins such as black pepper, roasted red peppers . . . you name it. As I concocted my version of American cheese in the test kitchen, not only did I draw a crowd of curious onlookers, I caused all of the snooty foodies to run for the hills. But that's okay with me; they can keep their Époisses and Robiola — I'm completely content eating my perfectly melty, toasted grilled cheese with American cheese any day of the week.
Keep reading for the recipe.