Cheese

A Cheesemonger's Guide to Cheese Balls

Cheese Balls | www.hungryinlove.com
Comte + Blue Cheese | www.hungryinlove.com

A few years back my grandmother gifted me a cookbook, Fare with Flair. It was a collection of recipes submitted by members of her retirement community. It had flair indeed. But the fare was harder to discern. Perusing the retro recipes provided many hours of amusement. A few personal favorites include 'Avocado Salad' (avocado, lime jello, mayonnaise), 'Frozen Fruit Salad' (powdered sugar, mayonnaise, maraschino cherries, crushed pineapple, marshmallows), and 'Dried Beef Pie' (dried beef, cream cheese, milk, pecans). Hard to conjure the final results, isn't it?

It'd been a while since I opened Fare with Flair when the team from Better Homes and Gardens issued a call for recipes for a spread entitled 'Party Like It's 1965'. I knew immediately where to turn for inspiration. If I was going to find an idea anywhere it was within those pages. And I did. In the hor d'oeuvre section I found several recipes for cheese balls. Unlike dried beef pie, cheese balls have stood the test of time. They instantly signal an occasion and everyone loves them. 

I consulted my cheesemonger husband for his thoughts on how we might update the cheese balls of yesteryear. His guidance was simple. First choose salty, nutty, funk-forward cheeses whose flavors will shine through when paired with cream cheese, which is needed as a binder. Alpine style cheeses like Comte and Gruyere fit the bill as do bold blues. Second he recommended axing the spices, seasoning packets, and Worcestershire sauce common in many vintage recipes. When you're splurging on high-quality cheeses you don't want to mask their flavors. Lastly use your coatings to introduce a texture contrast. Nuts never go out of style but don't be hesitant to experiment with less traditional ingredients like seeds, fresh herbs, crumbled bacon, pomegranate, or as we did here, cocoa nibs. That's it. Just a few simple updates and you and your guests will not only be enjoying cheese balls for their nostalgic value, but also for being just plain delicious.

Cocoa Nibs + Pine Nuts | www.hungryinlove.com
Pine Nut Cheese Ball | www.hungryinlove.com
Cheese Balls | www.hungryinlove.com
You can download the recipe cards featured in this post here!

You can download the recipe cards featured in this post here!

Ingredients

Blue Cheese + Cocoa Nibs Cheese Ball

  • 4 oz cream cheese (Half of one 8 oz package)
  • 1/3 lb blue cheese (We used Fourme d'Ambert, a French cow's milk cheese widely available in the states. It's creamy, salty, and not too funky - a highly approachable blue!) 
  • 1/3 cup cocoa nibs (Cocoa nibs are dried, roasted, and crushed cocoa beans. They have a deep chocolate taste but are not sweet.)
  • Honey for drizzling

Gruyere + Pine Nut Cheese Ball

  • 4 oz cream cheese (Half of one 8 oz package)
  • 1/3 lb Gruyere 
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

For Serving

  • Crackers (For a retro-themed party Club crackers can't be beat.)
  • Green apple slices

Prep

  • Prepare your blue cheese - remove rind and roughly chop into small pieces
  • Prepare your Gruyere - remove rind and using a box grater, grate cheese on the medium fine surface
  • Place 4 oz of cream cheese in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat cream cheese until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add blue cheese and beat until well incorporated, about 20 more seconds.
  • Line a small bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap.
  • Using a rubber spatula scrap cheese mixture onto the plastic wrap. Wrap plastic around cheese and use your hands to shape into a ball. Place wrapped cheese ball in refrigerator to chill.
  • Repeat process for your Gruyere cheese ball. Clean stand mixer bowl and attachments and then beat remaining 4 oz cream cheese for 20 seconds.
  • Add grated Gruyere and beat until well incorporated, about 20 seconds.
  • Line small bowl with plastic wrap again.
  • Scrap Gruyere cheese mixture onto plastic wrap, shape into a ball, then place in refrigerator.
  • Chill cheese balls for a minimum of two hours or overnight.
  • Place pine nuts and cocoa nibs each on their own plate.
  • Unwrap each cheese ball and roll in its respective coating. You may need to use your fingers to press nuts and cocoa nibs into spots where they don't stick.
  • Let sit for 30-60 minutes before serving to come to room temperate.
  • Serve with crackers and apple slice. Enjoy!

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