Cheese baskets are used to drain fresh, soft cheeses. They come in various sizes from small individual servings to large party-sized ricotta baskets. You can often use a sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth instead of a basket when making ricotta, however feta baskets give feta, haloumi and paneer cheese their classic shape (and can be lightly pressed by 2kg for example).
   Cheese baskets are flexible, softer plastic than cheese moulds and will be damaged if used in a cheese press. Cheese baskets make a pleasant pattern on the cheese when serving and can often be used to store your freshly made soft cheese in the refrigerator by covering with a lid or plastic wrap.
   Also known as cheese moulds, cheese hoops are used to form curds into a firm pressed cheese in the desired shape and density. They are firmer and thicker than cheese baskets and don’t flex as easily. Cheese moulds are sanitised, lined with cheesecloth or muslin and then filled with curds. Then fold over the cloth to cover the curds, add the follower (a plastic disk that covers the cheese surface) and press. The cheesecloth helps to wick away the moisture as the cheese is pressed. Excess whey is drawn out the sides of the mould through the numerous holes and through the base of the cheese. Removing the cheese from the mould, unwrapping and flipping the cheese between every pressing stage helps to remove the whey evenly.
   Historically, certain sizes and shapes are used for specific types of cheese. The height, width, surface area and weight of the cheese will affect the ripening, handling and final flavour of the cheese. i.e. a semi-hard cheese such as Colby that matures from the outside to the middle, may not age properly if it is too thick or too wide/too big to handle.
Plastic items should not be soaked in boiling water. Rinse with boiling water instead to sterilise and prevent warping. You can also use a commercial steriliser, but ensure the steriliser is rinsed off completely before use. Some brands of cheese hoops may be dishwasher safe, but hand rinsing is the best option to prolong the life of your cheese baskets and moulds.
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