crackers

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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Sea Food, Snacks

Smoked Bluefish Pâté + Olive Oil Crackers

Smoked Bluefish Pate | www.hungryinlove.com
Olive Oil Crackers | www.hungryinlove.com

Oh, summer! Where'd you saunter off to? I blinked and now the sun sets at 7 o'clock. I'll quit my belly aching though because we've got one weekend left. Three juicy days to be precise. Where's everyone headed? I hope your plans involve beach houses and camp fires and coconut sunscreen.

To bid adieu to summer I figured we must throw a party. A party with dip. The title says pâté because 'bluefish dip' sounds a bit frightening - like a dare I definitely want to pass on. But's let's be honest, this is pretty much dip. It involves a brick of cream cheese for goodness sake! And where there is dip, must follow crackers. A couple weeks back I suppose you could say I was dissing crackers. To redeem myself I decided to make a homemade batch just the way I like them - crispy, seedy, salty, and a tad sweet. If you're not off to the beach or the woods this weekend and up for a medium-effort project to tackle, this is a fun one. 

Happy Labor Day, y'all. (And Happy Birthday Mom!)

Bluefish Pate Mise En Place | www.hungryinlove.com
Seed Blend | www.hungryinlove.com
Lemon | www.hungryinlove.com
Seeded Olive Oil Crackers | www.hungryinlove.com
Seeded Olive Oil Crackers | www.hungryinlove.com
Seeded Olive Oil Crackers | www.hungryinlove.com
Smoked Bluefish Pate | www.hungryinlove.com

Ingredients

Bluefish Pate

  • 8 oz. smoked bluefish
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup. chopped chives
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 Tbs.)
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 8 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1 Tbs. capers
  • 1/4 c. creme fraiche

Olive Oil Crackers

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. fennel seeds
  • 2 Tbs. poppy seeds
  • 2 Tbs. sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil + 2 Tbs. water for brushing

 

Prep

Bluefish Pâté

Makes ~2 cups
  • In a food processor blend cream cheese, chives, lemon juice, shallot, Tabasco, and capers until smooth
  • Add bluefish and pulse until well incorporated (pâté will be thick)
  • Add creme fraiche and blend until smooth
  • Serve garnished with chopped chives and a dusting of cayenne pepper

Olive Oil Crackers

Makes about 50 crackers
  • In a food processor combine dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder)
  • With the motor running add water and olive oil through the feed tube
  • Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead a few times until smooth (dough will be soft) 
  • Shape into a square
  • Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes
  • While dough is chilling: mix seeds and salt in a small dish and set aside; mix 2 Tbs. each olive oil and water in a small ramekin and set aside; pre-heat oven to 450 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Unwrap chilled dough and cut square into fourths
  • Using a pasta maker, roll dough sections one by one into thin sheets (I rolled to setting 3 on a KitchenAid pasta maker attachment); alternatively roll out dough using a rolling pin
  • Lay dough sheets on a cutting board and pierce all over with the tines of a fork (to prevent bubbles)
  • With a pastry brush, brush dough all over with olive oil/water mixture
  • Sprinkle seed/salt mixture all over dough
  • Using a sharp knife cut dough into crackers (of any shape and size you desire)
  • With your hands or a thin spatula peel crackers off cutting board and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper (they won't expand too much; it's okay to place them close together)
  • Bake in a 450 degree oven for 5-7 minutes; crackers are done when the edges begin to turn golden
  • Using a spatula transfer crackers to a wire rack or plate to cool (crackers will get harder as they cool)
  • Store in a ziplock bag