Cheese balls have the power to transport us back to days of feathered hair, fondue, and macramé. To Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. To Wisconsin or Grandma’s kitchen table. Fun to talk about, easy to make, and delicious with a variety of ingredients, cheese balls are infinitely adaptable, if you include a few key components.
The basic elements of a great cheese ball are:
- A smooth base, such as cream cheese, chèvre, or butter—or a combination of two or all three
- An accent cheese with punchy flavor, such as cheddar, blue cheese, or smoked gouda
- A few embellishing ingredients (such as spices, dried fruit, or olives) for the interior or exterior
- A colorful or crunchy chopped ingredient (toasted nuts, seeds, seasonings, fresh herbs) for the exterior
Consider the cheese ball a blank canvas on which to create your wildest appetizer or dessert dreams. It also offers the perfect opportunity to showcase your pairing skills and develop signature recipes. Making a cheese ball couldn’t be simpler, but don’t forget to allow base ingredients to come to room temperature before you begin; this helps various flavors and textures meld.
Makes one 8-ounce ball
- Food processor
- 4 ounces Colston Bassett Stilton
- 4 ounces cream cheese (we recommend Gina Marie brand)
- 2 tablespoons (about 1 ounce) dried figs, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted and chopped
- 1 tablespoon ground sumac (optional)
1. Allow Stilton and cream cheese to come to room temperature, then combine in a food processor. Blend at low to medium speed until smooth. Stir in figs, thyme, and pepper. Taste, and season with salt and more pepper.
2. Using a spatula, scrape mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap. Cover the cheese mass, and form gently into a ball. At this point, you may proceed directly to the next step or place the plastic-wrapped cheese ball in the refrigerator for a few hours to chill (which will make it easier to finish and plate).
3. Spread chopped almonds and sumac (if desired) on a plate or in a wide, shallow bowl. Remove cheese ball from plastic wrap, and place on top of the chopped almonds and sumac. Roll the ball, pressing gently to coat the entire exterior. Chill, if not serving immediately.
4. The ball will keep, refrigerated, for two to three days. When ready to serve, place cheese ball on a flat board alongside crisp crackers or sliced baguette.