Easy to make, cheap and cheerful, pizza remains a favorite meal in many countries. But, as with many things in life, the pleasure comes with a price. Much of the flavour comes from the fatty cheese that melts so deliciously, and so temptingly for diet-watchers. Is it possible to make pizza less fatty?”
A low-fat pizza starts with low-fat cheese. Scientists working within a European research project made mozzarella-type cheese from skimmed milk, bringing fat content from 21% down to just 3% – the taste was still excellent.
Mariela Serrano, a molecular geneticist with CSK Food enrichment says the difference is evident: “We made cheese that contains 3% fat, produced with specially designed bacterial cultures. We can see that this cheese contains very little fat, because its texture and colour are different from what we see in regular mozzarella.”
But it is a problem for pizza makers: low-fat cheese doesn’t melt in the same way in the oven. It might be healthier, but if it doesn’t have the classy, chewy texture, customers might not necessarily like, as Serrano explains: “This cheese is much harder, and it’s not as easy to use for meals like pizza because it won’t melt in the same way.”
To make low-fat cheese melt as it should engineers have come up with a technological solution. The prototype device grates low-fat cheese, pours the shreds onto a conveyor belt and moves them into a spraying chamber.
Francesc Martínez, a manager, Boluda División Industrial in Spain explains how it works:
“Inside this machine there’s a spraying system that completely covers the mozzarella shreds with a coating in an absolutely uniform manner, so the final product has consistent quality.”
The coating emulsion is necessary because it makes the non-fat cheese melt properly. The recipe is kept secret, but Helena Bysell, of Sweden’s SP Technical Institute of Sweden says it is made of purely dairy-derived ingredients: “It’s a very simple composition, but I can’t tell you what it is because that’s confidential, unfortunately, but it’s all natural.”
The coating is based on milk fat; but it does not raise the total fat content significantly, as Bysell stresses: “You only add a small percentage of fat back to the product, because you only need the fat on the surface, not distributed throughout the entire cheese shred.”
We conducted a taste test, covering one half of a pizza with non-fat, additive-free cheese , and the other half with the same non-fat cheese, but sprayed with the secret coating.
Sampling the results Jason Clarke, project Manager of Pera Technology said: “The untreated mozzarella is hard, is brown, is burned, is stringy – whereas the treated mozzarella is fluffy, it’s light, it looks nice in texture.”
Researchers hope this technology will soon find its place onto the market, giving those who cannot resist a pizza a healthier option.