What’s shape got to do with it?
Well, if you’re a cheese, lots. From log-shaped ashed goat to pyramid-shaped Mont Vivant, the cheeses we’ve been covering in recent weeks come in different shapes and, believe it or not, those structures have a lot to do with how they taste.
A cheese with less surface area is often also a dense cheese, and sometimes needs to be aged longer for the flavors deep within the structure to fully develop. Consequently, small chèvres, such as the disc-shaped Rond Vivant from Rainbeau Ridge Farm may be more pungent. As Lisa Schwartz from Rainbeau expresses it, “the differences in surface area produce more than subtle variations in flavor.”
This does not mean a disc-shaped cheese will always be more pungent than a pyramid-shaped cheese. Shape is only one factor in the maturation process. “The ripening and the storage can vary so much because of what else is happening in the cheese house,” states Schwartz. Nevertheless, several cheesemakers agreed that shape can play a crucial role. “I think that shape corresponds to texture first and taste secondly — although I would bet you could get a thousand different answers if you asked a thousand different cheesemakers,” adds Jessica Little, co-owner of Sweet Grass Dairy.
Shape especially affects the development of bloomy rind cheeses like Mont Vivant, St Pat and Camembert. “For a bloomy rind, the higher the ratio of surface area to total volume, the faster it tends to ripen, since it ripens from the rind inward,” says Wes Jarrell co-owner of Prairie Fruit Farm in Champaign, Ill. “You get a different mixture of ripeness permeating the cheese itself.” In other words, for bloomy rind cheeses, the distance between the rind and the center plays a key factor in the ultimate development of flavor.
When picking out chèvres, don’t be seduced merely by the aesthetics of a specific shape. Assuming two different sized goat’s milk cheeses are aged for the same period of time, know that the smaller one may be packing more pungency. But when in doubt, as always, if possible, ask your friendly cheesemonger!
I think taste has a great deal to do with the type of cheese as far as soft, or hard etc. Shape in my opinion has a little to do because of the rind and the fact that the size of a cheese wheel affects the taste depending how far inside the piece of cheese came from. I like the article but am biased for cheese so my opinion right.