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A Guide to Dessert Cheeses
Do you eat and serve dessert cheeses? Many Americans love cheese, but most of us don’t usually consider serving it as a dessert course. This tradition has long been honored in Europe, and the practice is finally gaining traction here in the United States, especially in fine restaurants. Dessert cheeses make a simple yet elegant way to top off a great meal, just before dessert, after dessert, or as dessert. They can be paired with a wine, fresh fruit, coffee, jams, or honey. Some of the dessert cheeses come studded or encrusted with sweet spices, berries, or tropical fruits. Some cheeses, like Gouda, can stand alone as a dessert course. Most cheeses are high in fat, but they’re also good sources of protein, calcium, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. Cheese can be part of a healthy diet, as long as you don't over-indulge. Below are some tips for dessert cheeses.
Great Dessert Cheeses
The following cheeses make wonderful dessert selections. They come with fruits, nuts, honey, chocolate, berries, or spices already added - except for the Gouda, which is sweet and mild on its own:
Chocolate goat cheese
White Stilton with pear and apple
White Stilton studded with mango and ginger
Chevre encrusted with blueberries
Cranberry chevre with cinnamon
Cheese torte with nuts and honey
Wensleydale with cranberries
Great Cheese Pairings for Dessert
I've paired the following cheeses with fruits and other flavors that will compliment the cheese well. These are just some ideas to get you started - experiment on your own to find your favorite taste combinations:
Beaufort with dried apricots
Ricotta with raspberries
Asadero with diced papaya
Finnish juustoleipa with lingonberry jam
Comte with dried figs
Camembert with seedless green grapes
Danish blue with fresh strawberries
Marscapone layered with a sweet liqueur
French bucheron with Concord grapes
Fontina with dates
Brie with fruit chutney
Gruyere with dried cherries
Mature parmesan with fresh figs
Manchego with quince paste
Roquefort with honeydew melon
Italian pecorino with ripe pears and honey
Aged sheeps’-milk cheese with apples
Spanish San Simon with sliced peaches
Cheeses should be served at room temperature. Hard cheeses might take an hour or longer to reach the correct serving temperature, while soft cheeses might take only thirty minutes or so. When you offer cheeses for dessert, include toasted baguettes, raisin bread, or sweet brown bread. Nuts are another nice addition, including walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, roasted chestnuts, and toasted pecans.
Another idea is to make a cheese try for dessert. Include three or four cheeses, ranging from sweet to savory. Add several fruits, along with honey, nuts, and bread slices.
Buying and Storing Tips
You can find a huge selection of wonderful cheeses online, in specialty shops, and in gourmet and ethnic foods markets. You might also be able to locate some locally produced cheeses in farmers’ markets. A selection of common cheeses can be found in your local grocery store, of course.
If you purchase pre-packaged cheese, make sure the package is not torn or perforated. Be sure to check the expiration date, too. If the cheese isn't pre-packaged, smell the cheese. If it has an amonia smell, don't buy it.
To store your hard, semi-hard, and semi-soft cheese, remove it from its plastic wrapper as soon as you get it home. Cheese needs to breathe, and plastic can suffocate it. Wrap the cheese in cheese paper, parchment paper, or waxed paper, just like you would wrap a gift. Then place the cheese loosely in a plastic bag. Smelly cheeses like Limberger should be double wrapped to keep the odor from permeating the fridge. These types of cheeses should be stored in the warmest part of the refrigerator.
After the cheese has been cut, rub the surface with canola oil. For grey, white, and washed rind cheeses, rub only the cut face with oil. Don’t rub the blue at all.
If mold begins to form, don’t discard the cheese! Just wipe it off with a damp paper towel and re-rub the cheese with clean oil.
Hard and semi-hard natural cheeses will last for several months in the refrigerator.
Soft or fresh cheeses like feta and ricotta should be stored in their original containers. If mold begins to form, throw the cheese away. These types of cheeses have a shorter refrigerator life.
Freezing cheeses doesn’t work well. It can be done safely, but the cheese will lose some of its flavor and much of its texture. If you must freeze your cheese, use the thawed product for cooking only.
To learn more about cheeses, view the videos below.
For recipes using cheese, click the links below the videos.
Recipes using cheese:
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