Thursday, December 15, 2016

Freezer Cheese Ball -- A Most Favorite

I reserve the last post of the year for a recipe (old or not) that I consider to be one of my favorites.  This one, a cheese ball that can be made in advance and stored in the freezer, is one I have been using since 1989.  Nearly 30 years!  My notes don't say where I originally got the recipe.  It is hand-written in the little green book that I started filling out in 1986, with just my favorite recipes.  (I am pretty sure my daughter covets it!)

Pretty and good to eat.
This cheese ball is simple and easy to make and tasty, too.  The important part is to have the ingredients at room temperature so they are soft.

Freezer Cheese Ball

8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup butter
1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed
2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans (almonds are good, too)

And your choice of nuts, when needed.
Allow cheeses and butter to stand at room temperature until soft.

Put cheeses and butter into the food processor or a mixer.  Mix until blended.

Add garlic and beat until creamy.

Cover and chill about 3 hours or until firm enough to shape into balls.  Divide into halves and shape each half into a smooth ball about 3 inches in diameter.

Wrap air tight in plastic wrap, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

When needed, allow to come to room temperature (about 3 to 4 hours).  Roll in 1/3 cup of nuts.  

Serve with crackers.

My Notes


The size of the garlic clove you choose is important.  Remember that mincing or pressing it (and running it through the food processor!) makes the garlic flavor more intense, so you need to decide how much you want the garlic to stand out.  If you prefer to taste more of the cheeses, pick a small clove.

This is creamy.
I don't always wait "3 hours or until firm enough to shape into balls."  Sometimes I just put half of the cheese mixture onto plastic wrap and use the wrap to help shape it.  It helps to use two spoons to scoop the mixture, so one spoon can be pushed against the other to remove the soft cheese.

Shaped but not yet chilled.
It is important to let the ball sit for a few hours at least before serving so the flavors blend and develop.  I like it better the next day.

As mentioned in the ingredients list, pecans and almonds are both good to use.  Sometimes I even use walnuts.  You can use toasted or raw nuts.  Just make sure the pieces are not too big!

I like to serve it with a little dried parsley sprinkled on the top.  It just looks prettier to my eye.

Wrapped and ready to travel.  
The Verdict

Recently I made a batch for a work potluck and it was well-received.  Of course that was just one ball.  I contemplated freezing the other but we had a dinner that needed a good cheese ball and that was just right.

This recipe is a favorite for a reason.  It is tasty!  It is easy to make!  And you can make it ahead of time to avoid the holiday cooking rush!

It has always been a success.  I haven't tried variations on the cheese flavors because it is so good as it is.  I get the sharpest cheddar I can find.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

EASY Chocolate Pots de Crème

Chocolate chips.  Lovely little morsels of semi-sweet chocolate that are so easy to eat by themselves and make amazing fudge and cookies.  But, it turns out, they are also very versatile in other recipes.  This book, In The Chips, was published in 1985 by Peggy Mellody and Linda Rosenbloom.

ISBN: 0-89256-288-9
It has sections on breads, cakes, candy, cookies, desserts like cheesecake and tortes, pies, beverages, and a special section just for Christmas goodies.

In that dessert section I found a recipe called "Easy Chocolate Pots de Crème" which was exactly what I needed for a quick yet scrumptious dessert for a special dinner guest.  It also fit the description of what I needed for a later-in-the-week dessert I was to take to dinner at a friend's house:  "a small chocolate something."

What was appealing about the recipe was the simplicity, that it could be made in advance, and that it was set up with small, individual servings.

Easy Chocolate Pots de Crème  (pg 168)

1 1/4 cups light cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
3 tablespoons brandy

Scald light cream in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat.  Meanwhile, combine the chocolate chips, egg yolks, and brandy in a blender.  Pour scalded cream into blender, and blend until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Pour mixture into crème pots or demitasse cups.  Cover and chill for at least three hours.

Note:  Dark rum or liqueurs may be substituted for brandy if desired.

My Notes

I used half-and-half for my light cream.  For the first time I made it, I used the three tablespoons of brandy.  The second time I used three tablespoons of brandy-flavoring as the friend does not use alcohol at all.

I wasn't exactly sure what the requirements were for scalding so a quick trip to The Joy of Cooking helped me out.  The original idea for scalding was to kill off germs but we don't need that with pasteurized milk products.  In this case it was to get the cream hot enough to melt the chocolate and lightly cook the yolks.  So the J of C book said to heat it until small bubbles appeared around the edges of the pan.

Bubbles from pouring in the cream

Bubbles at scalding
So while the cream was getting scalded, I put the other ingredients into the blender.

Once I added the cream, I clamped on the blender's lid and started the blender.  Big mistake!  The hot liquid quickly expanded and, despite my best (desperate) efforts, lifted the lid and squirted out.  My face, glasses, hair, shirt, and parts of the kitchen were drenched with warm, sticky chocolate mix!  Not hot enough to burn but very startling.

As it turned out the splash was more droplets than fountain, so I didn't lose too much to make the dessert.  But I did have to wash up afterwards and change my shirt.

The second time I made it I put the mixture into my food processor.  This time only a little liquid squirted out and, fortunately, not on me.

In both cases I blended until the mixture was evenly brown throughout.  This made it foamy but not in a bad way.

Then I poured the mixture into six individual glass bowls, covered them each with plastic wrap, and put them into the refrigerator.

In both attempts the pots de crème was firmly set up after about three hours of chilling.  I served it with a dab of whipped cream on top.

The Verdict

I loved it.  The foam firmed up on top and underneath was a very pudding-like chocolate dessert.  The whipped cream was a good touch although I am a big fan of lots of whipped cream with pudding.

The texture was smooth, the flavor was chocolate without being very sweet (notice:  no extra sugar added!), and I liked the brandy undertones.  I even liked the brandy flavoring undertones.

Guest taster reactions were mixed.  Everyone ate it but I did not sense that many were impressed or excited about it.  It was a small portion, as intended, so maybe it would have been better to serve some thin vanilla cookies with it.

So I would call it a success but maybe only to pudding fans.  It certainly was light while being rich enough to satisfy chocolate cravings.

I would make it again but maybe just for myself!