In cookery, curdling is the breaking of an emulsion or colloid into large parts of different composition through the physico-chemical processes of flocculation, creaming, and coalescence. Curdling is intentional and desirable in making cheese and tofu; unintentional and undesirable in making sauces and custards.
Cheese and tofu
Milk and soy milk are curdled intentionally to make cheese and tofu by the addition of enzymes (typically rennet), acids, or various salts (magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, or gypsum); the curds are then pressed.
In cold sauces like mayonnaise as well as in hot sauces, too large a ratio of fat to egg may also cause curdling.
Curdling can occur in different cooking processes. cheesecake is one such process. If water is added to the cream cheese during the combining period, it will curdle.
- Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen, 1984-2004.
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