PLANTCURD: Functional Plant Proteins for Cheese Curd
Milk production represents a significant contributor to green-house gas emissions and therefore there is an increased focus on producing food in a more sustainable fashion. PLANTCURD will address the challenge of producing plant based curds with diverse cheese-like functionalities.
Plant proteins are poorly functional due to their low solubility when compared to dairy proteins. In particular, plant proteins have very high molecular weights (>300 kDa) and tend to interact hydrophobically with each other rather than with water. Controlled hydrolysis of plant proteins will be performed using carefully selected proteases in order to make the proteins more functional (i.e. to increase solubility, water binding and oil binding). Proteases with selected specificities will be matched to their respective plant protein substrates in order to produce functional protein building blocks (MW 3-50 kDa).
In addition, the solubility of the plant proteins will be increased through the novel use of protein-glutaminase. Subsequently, transglutaminase will be used to “coagulate” the plant proteins by building diverse curds types from the plant polypeptide building blocks. Brittle and crumbly plant curd will be developed to produce a white-brine cheese, while elastic and rubbery plant curd will developed to produce a pasta-filata cheese. Plant proteins will be limited to those which can be grown efficiently in Denmark (i.e. grass, peas, lupines, hemp, rapeseed, linseed, faba beans and lentils).
Experimental approaches will consist of basic protein characterization (protein solubility, SDS-PAGE), functional analysis (Zeta potential, aggregation, curd syneresis, dynamic rheology, differential scanning calorimeter,), cheese trials (white brine and pasta filata) and product analysis (texture profile analysis, melting properties). The plant “cheeses” will be benchmarked against cheeses produced from milk. Furthermore, hybrid cheeses consisting of mixtures of plant and dairy proteins will be developed.
The objective of this project is to produce plant based curds with diverse cheese-like functionalities. Brittle and crumbly plant curd will be developed to produce a white-brine cheese, while elastic and rubbery plant curd will developed to produce a pasta-filata cheese.
This project has four key scientific elements.
Firstly, proteases and protein-glutaminase will be used to produce functional protein building
blocks from various plant proteins.
Secondly, transglutaminase will be used to “coagulate” the building blocks.
Thirdly, full cheeses recipes (white-brine and pasta-filata types) will be developed and the plant based “cheeses” benched marked against standard dairy based cheeses.
Fourthly, hybrid cheeses will be developed from mixtures of plant and dairy proteins.