Intern Jackie Roman knows that cheese is good, but she also understands that it explodes with flavor when paired with something else. In her blog series It Takes Two to Make a Cheese Go Right, Jackie explores the cheese-pairing spectrum, from sweet to savory and salty. Missed last week’s post on pairing cheese with fruit? Check it out!
Cheese can be salty and smoky and all sorts of savory, but what do those with a sweet tooth do? It turns out that cheese lovers who also enjoy an extra scoop of sugar don’t have to sacrifice one to indulge in the other.
It might seem a little weird to consider bringing out a cheese pairing for the dessert course at a dinner party, but if the match is made thoughtfully, it’ll be a hit. Think about other basic sweet and salty pairings like pretzels and peanut butter or bacon and chocolate. Why would the same match be unfit for a salty cheese?
I personally enjoy making dessert pairings by using smooth, runny dessert toppings rather than placing hunks of chocolate or cake on a cheese board. I would recommend sauces, drizzles, and jams of all kinds. With this method, you can use a spoon to better portion how much of the sweet stuff you want with your cheese. Remember, the goal is not to mask the taste of the cheese, but rather to enhance it with the pairing. As our cheesemonger guide from Formaggio Cheese in Cambridge, Mass., Rory Stamp said, “Avoid doing things like mixing a jam right into a cheese or kind of mashing things together or drizzling honey over a cheese to force that pairing. I think it’s much more playful to kind of separate them.” So taste your cheese alone, taste the topping alone, and then decide how much of each should be put forth in the pairing.
Let’s start out with what will probably be one of the most surprising pairings to people just starting out in the cheese tasting world: Blue cheese and caramel.
You read it, I said it, and it is foolproof. The tangy, salty, rich flavor of the blue cheese is almost destined to mix with the golden, sugary taste of thick caramel. This is the kind of thing you taste and then wonder how you lived without for so many years.
One classic dessert pairing that’s been circulating the cheese world for some time is apple pie and cheddar. Considering I’m not about slicing pie and placing it on my cheese display, I recommend creating the ooey-gooey apple pie filling and placing that on top of cheddar bits. The tangy, sweet, cinnamon flavors of the apple pie filling are a great match for the creamy, slightly sour, distinctive flavor of a cheddar.
Another delicious dessert pairing is a creamy cheese like camembert, brie, or even fontina with cranberry sauce. It’s easy enough to make a homemade cranberry sauce. The tangy, sweet pucker of cranberries alongside the creamy, nutty flavor of fontina just tastes so right. Place both on a whole wheat cracker and serve it after a holiday meal.
When I studied abroad in the Netherlands in the fall of 2014, I also discovered just how suiting gouda could be for a dessert pairing.
Since Gouda has a rich, buttery texture and a subtle sweet flavor, it works well with decadent chocolate toppings. Heat up a thick brownie sauce and serve it alongside a slice of Gouda for a match that’ll have you thinking about a new chocolate cake recipe.
I’ve also had people recommend pairing a triple-crème with nutty pies, like a pecan pie. To mix this up and have it fit our sticky topping theme, pick up a jar of walnuts or pecans in syrup. Warm up the sweet and salty topping, spoon it on the creamy cheese, and you’ve basically got a cheesy ice cream sundae.
The dessert pairing is a sure-fire way to leave your guests feeling satisfied and spoiled. “If you’ve had this wonderful seven-course meal or you’ve just had some hors d’oeuvres with friends, you want the lasting impression to be the most successful pairing,” said Stamp.
Remember to ensure that success by researching your possible pairings. It’s hard work, we know, but that’s the responsibility of every doting host.
Feature Photo Credit: “This homemade apple pie is served up with a chunk of artisanal cheddar cheese.” by Erika J Mitchell | Shutterstock