Another writer on kboards recently floated the idea of some kind of group cookbook, which got me to thinking if there’s anything I could contribute. Most of my recipes are simply copies of other recipes that I’ve tweaked, but I can’t say they’re very original. That’s not to say I couldn’t write a cookbook of my own anyway; I’m given to understand the ingredients themselves aren’t subject to copyright, just the actual text.
But the most truly original recipe I’ve come up with has to be the cheddar apple cheese ball. Working from nothing more than a basic technique, I played around until I found something I liked. I’m very proud of it, and it’s darn tasty.
However, in hindsight I realize the recipe was never perfected. The cheddar apple cheese ball takes 36 hours in the fridge before it even thinks of holding a shape. It’s far too loose, even after the extended chill. This is a logistical problem that makes it very hard to work with. It comes about because there is a lot of liquid in the cheese ball, which takes several tablespoons of cider as well as 3/8 of a Granny Smith apple (to 6 oz. of sharp cheddar).
The solution, I believe, is probably xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is not only an emulsifier, but can give things a creamy texture. I’ve never worked with it, but I have to imagine this is the magic bullet. The only trouble is, I don’t know how much to include. My gut says I’m going to have to play around and try to get to what I think is a good consistency during the mixing process; if the end result is resistant to falling back into a mush, that’s a really good sign.
The outer coating is something else I’d like to improve. I used dried apple pieces, which took a while to cut up into tiny bits, and were all but impossible to work with without corn starch. But all my other ideas are terrible. Thin candy coating: unworkable. Pieces of hard candy: sharp shards. Chopped nuts: texturally repellant. Chocolate: inappropriate. And the list of bad choices goes on. I may have to resign myself to cutting up more dried apple bits when I try this again; it’s the best thing I can find.
If the xanthan gum thing works out, I really want to revisit my other cheese balls. The cheddar bacon ball was a smidge too firm and could have benefited from more water; xanthan gum would help balance that out. Likewise I thought the savory ball was too crumbly, so adding more water and something that would stabilize the result into a creamier finish would be best.