Okay, I promise this will be my last cheese ball post till next weekend. [And to keep that promise, I made an update below.]
First, some lingering thoughts on the savory cheese ball. I think, in retrospect, it was too tart. When I make it next time I intend to cut back a little bit on the Worcestershire, add black pepper (which I forgot), and balance out the tartness with the addition of some fat. The only fat I can think of that will work in a cheese ball is butter. I think it’ll work better that way; it won’t need much.
Today (Saturday) I tried a test run of the cheddar apple cheese ball. As you may recall, the goal was to use New York extra sharp cheddar, part of a Granny Smith apple, cider, and soy lecithin as an emulsifier.
I started out with 4 oz. of cheese, this being a test run and therefore half size, but I went a little bigger on the apple: I chopped up about a quarter of the apple (peeled, of course, and with the nasty bits near the core excised). The cheese quickly formed a lump in the food processor, even after I added 2 tsp. of cider. Adding another tsp. of cider fixed the problem, and then I experimented with the soy lecithin to improve the emulsion: ultimately I added ¼ tsp. of it.
Now while making the cheese, I realized the sharpness of the cheddar was just overpowering everything, so I added in another 1/8 slice of the apple. This improved the apple flavor in the result quite a lot, but it came with a price: the excess liquid from within the apple ended up throwing of the cheese, which was probably already too soft, and the result was much less firm than I would have liked. After hours in the fridge, it did not firm up properly; it remained soft.
Long story short: the cheddar apple ball was a failure on the test run. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily plunk it into a dish and spread it on some Triscuits. But it’s not a proper cheese ball.
That said, I’ve learned a lot from the test run—which was the point, really—and know what I’ll change the next time around:
- Although I’m a huge fan of extra sharp cheddar, it’s still overpowering the result. I’ll balance this by mixing in some milder white cheddar, possibly regular sharp. Alternatively, I might consider a different mild cheese, perhaps even a brick of muenster. I hate buying muenster in bricks because it spits on everything that cheese stands for, but it’d be good for this purpose at least. Half extra sharp and half something mild should give me the balance I need.
- Trying this without malic acid on hand was a mistake! I probably could have improved the apple-ness of the result without adding more apple if I’d just used a dash of that.
- The extra apple content was actually one of the better changes, but it does call for less cider or even none at all.
- The full ball can’t use 8 oz. of cheese; it will just be too darn big. The bulk of the apple turns out to be considerable.
- I’m going to need to actually chop the dried apple coating for the outside with a proper knife, or do it in the food processor before anything else. My nice little chopper doesn’t do a thing to it, so I ended up tearing the dried apple coating into smaller bits by hand. It was not very successful. I underestimated the amount I’d need, too, but that didn’t matter much as I never had a proper ball to coat in it.
The soy lecithin turned out to be the thing that worked best out of the whole experiment. I think it did help the mixture even out a lot. Xanthan gum might have helped a ton, because it would have thickened the mix, but the next time around I’ll be smart and leave out the cider till I’m positive I need it.
Update: I retract everything. This was not a failure after all, but a resounding success. After having about a day to firm up, the cheddar apple ball was, while very soft, manageable enough that I think it could have been rolled in a coating. Meanwhile the flavor improved enormously during that time, punching up the apple and downplaying the extra sharpness of the cheddar. The texture was magnificent for spreading. I’m going to make the cheddar apple ball next weekend at exactly this same size and with the same ingredients, but the only differences will be to the coating. I’ll chop up the dried apple coating finely first, either with a knife or the food processor, and I’ll use at least twice as much if not three times. Then I won’t actually apply the coating until the ball has had its proper fridge time, so it won’t get “dressed” until just before I head to the party. To refrigerate the ball, I’ll just put it in plastic wrap and ball it up as best I can, and twist the wrap like before to hold that shape; little bits of cheese will stick to the wrap, but not enough for me to care.