I know all my posts are about food lately. Well, I can’t help it; Superbowl Sunday is coming up and I have ideas on my mind.
Recently I discovered a YouTube channel called Food Wishes, which is also a blog in its own right. Chef John is funny and lays everything out to where it looks easy, so I highly recommend checking that out if you have any interest in cooking whatsoever. His last video was on making a game day beer cheese spread.
Now I’m not a beer drinker but I’ve tried a beer cheese dip, in a restaurant, and didn’t like it for much the same reasons I don’t think I’d like drinking beer. But the concept of custom cheese balls lodged itself in my brain, and as I’m already well into Bad Idea Mode, I’m now obsessed with creating some cheese balls. (Yes, I’m still going to try the pancake thing first.)
Cheese balls are a source of frustration for me. I love the flavor of the cheese and I am entirely in favor of spreading soft cheeses onto crackers and pretzels, or dipping into melted cheeses. I do not, however, like almonds, and most commercial cheese balls are covered with almonds.
The only commercial cheese ball I ever liked was one intended for desserts. Hickory Farms made, for just a couple of years, a fantastic sweet cheese ball that was coated in mini chocolate chips. This would go well with graham crackers, and probably pretzels, but it turned out to be freaking awesome on animal crackers. I was sad when their cheese ball went away. Apparently this is not hard to replicate, as I found a recipe online, so eventually I’ll try it. But I’m on a savory kick and still have plenty of holiday sweets around, so that will not be soon.
Now as for the cheese balls I’d like to make, and how, I did some reading up. Apparently you do not need cream cheese, as most recipes call for; you can just mix grated cheese and a few teaspoons of the liquid of your choice, and keep it going in a food processor till it’s smooth. (2 cups cheese, about 3-6 tsp. of liquid, and I’m guessing 4-6 minutes if not a little more.) Aged cheeses however have fewer emulsifiers, and that’s a potential problem unless you mix in younger cheese as well—which is doubtless why cream cheese comes into these recipes so often, because it already contains emulsifiers. But I’m not afraid of molecular gastronomy, so when I make a cheese ball I know what my go-to friend will be: soy lecithin. Maybe also xanthan gum to firm up the ball a little. With those two little babies in my arsenal, I feel empowered. I feel like I could make a cheese ball right now if I had those handy. It probably only takes a very small amount of either to make a world of difference in something like this.
So with that in mind, I want to try making three distinct cheese balls, all cheddar variants. All amounts here are in flux because these have not been tried. When I do try them, I’ll try mixing in some of the ingredients a little at a time and pulse the food processor. Soy lecithin and xanthan gum will be added on an as-needed basis, in very small quantities; apparently you only need a very small percentage by weight.
- 8 oz. sharp yellow cheddar, grated
- 2-3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 tsp. lemon juice
- ½ tsp. lemon zest
- 1-2 tsp. minced garlic
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- ¼ tsp. MSG (maybe)
I’m thinking that will turn out awesome. As for what to coat it in, there I’m a little stuck. I don’t know that this would go with herbs, although parsley would probably be fine. I suspect MSG will help this a lot, but then again Worcestershire sauce already contains a number of natural glutamates.
Cheddar apple ball
- 8 oz. extra sharp New York white cheddar, grated
- 3-6 tsp. apple cider
- ¼ cup. finely chopped Granny Smith apple
- ½ tsp. malic acid (maybe)
- Dried apple (for coating only)
This one will definitely need the emulsifiers. I expect that I’ll also want to chop the apple in water to help prevent browning. I don’t know if the extra acid is needed or not, but if it is I’ll need to get some malic acid to have on hand, because I only have citric acid. The reason for this is, malic acid is what gives sour apples their tartness, and tart apples go awesome with sharp cheddar. And this is New York extra sharp, not Vermont, because New York sharp kicks Vermont’s butt any day of the week and twice on Sunday—three times on Superbowl Sunday. I don’t know what the difference is in how they’re made, but I can taste it.
I’ll have to mark this somehow so my brother-in-law doesn’t accidentally eat it. He has a bad apple allergy.
Cheddar bacon ball
- 8 oz. sharp yellow cheddar, grated
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 3-6 tsp. water
- 1 tsp. honey (maybe)
You know it, baby! This, I’m sure, will be one of the easiest to make, even though it’ll require two stages. Stage 1 is that the bacon has to go in first and get chopped up into some really small pieces: say a little bigger than cooked cous cous. A third of the bacon will be set aside for coating. The cheese, water, and emulsifiers get added to the rest. Honey is a maybe, depending on how the taste comes out. Again I need to consider my brother-in-law, in that I might have to make two of these; he’s an even bigger bacon fiend than I am.
Being a mad scientist at heart, I have other ideas too. I’d love to try something herby. I wouldn’t mind doing a mix of a really good muenster along with a mild cheddar. Something that’s strictly lemony would be very nice indeed, especially as a dessert ball. And of course I want to try my hand at making the chocolate chip cheese ball eventually (that one does require cream cheese).
Since this technique will need a field test, I need to plan accordingly. First I need to get my emulsifiers, and I’m thinking I want to have a little malic acid on hand. Once I’m set with those, I figure maybe next weekend I can try making the savory ball. This is the one that will need the most flavor tinkering and is also the one I most want to try myself. Once I’ve made that, I can adjust as needed and I’ll know what to do for (the day before) game day.
I’ll post the results of my first effort once I make it. In the meantime, feel free to beat me to it and let me know how it turns out.