||Ashkezary, MR;Bonanno, A;Todaro, M;Settanni, L;Gaglio, R;Todaro, A;Alabiso, M;Maniaci, G;Mazza, F;Grigoli, AD;
||A novel dairy product, namely "chocolate cheese", was produced with two typical Sicilian food products: Pecorino cheese, processed from ewe's milk, and Modica chocolate. The cheese, manufactured with 0%, 5%, 10%, and 15% (w/w) solid or molten chocolate, was evaluated after 0, 2, 4, and 6 weeks of vacuum storage for its nutritional and health properties. The addition of chocolate reduced the pH, protein, fat, and ash; the addition of 5% or 10% molten chocolate reduced hardness (N/mm2 ). The addition of either solid or molten chocolate resulted in a slight increase (P < 0.1038) in the total polyphenol content, a higher oleic acid content, and less oxidative stability. The microbiological profile showed that the total mesophilic count and the number of mesophilic coccus lactic acid bacteria (LAB) were approximately equal (about 108 CFU/g) in all cheese. The survival of the microorganisms was affected by both the chocolate added and the storage time. Chocolate cheese stored for 6 weeks had less Enterobacteriaceae than control cheese, whereas yeasts were detected at higher cell densities in the former cheese. Filamentous fungi were undetectable in some cheese. Differences were also observed in the number of mesophilic rod LAB, which increased progressively over time in all cheese, and in Enterobacteriaceae, yeasts, and filamentous fungi, which decreased during storage. Descriptive and hedonic sensory tests and principal component analysis showed that fresh cheese and cheese stored for 2 weeks, including 5% molten chocolate, were the most preferred by evaluators. Based on these results, chocolate cheese has the potential to be appreciated in the market for its nutritional, health, and sensory properties. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Chocolate cheese, made by combining two typical Sicilian foods, Pecorino cheese and Modica chocolate, is proposed as a novel dairy product. The highest sensory acceptance was obtained with the addition of 5% molten chocolate and storage for 2 weeks. Given its improved antioxidant properties, healthier fat, and sensory properties, chocolate cheese has the potential to be appreciated in the market, especially by young consumers. © 2020 Institute of Food Technologists®.