In the dairy world, a cheese ball has about as much class as a Mr. Softee cone rolled in colored jimmies. And yet, who doesn’t salivate at thought? If the cupcake can make a comeback, why shouldn’t the cheese ball rise again?
Over at Cheese and Champagne, my digital compatriots have thrown down a tauntlet. It’s called the Cheese Ball Invitational, and anyone with a blog can dip this challenge in peanuts and set the globe spinning.
Let’s do it. Let’s make cheese balls. But let’s do it with intention. Let’s make cheese balls of integrity!
This demands forethought. Before you resurrect a cheese ball, consider your audience – pick a worthy recipient, someone who has an appreciation for clashing boundaries. Then, embark on your mission. Make a serious face in the mirror and start inventing. Why not a cheese trapezoid? A fromage rhombus?
For my minor opus, I present…the Point Reyes Pine Cone.
Oh, yes, this is a cheese ball, but as you can see by its teardrop shape, this "gobbet of gunk" has arisen. Note how crushed gingersnaps in this recipe replace the salted-nut dermis. There’s room for interpretation here, too – as with all high art. Is it a pine cone, you might ask, or is it a forest creation by Andy Goldsworthy?
To raise the cheese ball out of its puddle, I felt I needed to lob it at a person of quality. My friend the Blue Cheese Brit seemed like an ideal recipient for my re-branding campaign. As you can see, he’s wearing an ascot. This is not your average cheese ball consumer.
Serve your guests some gin’n tonics, and the Point Reyes Pine Cone turns a stale party into beautiful havoc. Watch as guests bypass your beautiful cheese board to grab a crumb, a twig.
The Point Reyes Pine Cone is the next generation cheese ball, friends. If we can’t save the planet, we can at least save the whipped dairy appetizer. Join me. Do it now.
The Point Reyes Pine Cone
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup purple onion, minced
1 cup crumbled Point Reyes Blue Cheese
2 tablespoons fig jam
½ cup toasted walnuts, loosely broken
Freshly ground pepper
1 box Anna’s Ginger Thins
1. Mix cream cheese, onion, blue cheese, fig, jam, toasted walnuts, and ground pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until well-mixed.
2. Pour the cheese mixture onto a large square of plastic wrap and form the glob into a ball. Refrigerate this little asteroid for an hour or more.
3. Use half of the ginger thins to make crumbs. You can use a food processor, or go old school: drop the cookies into a large Zip-loc and then use a wine bottle like a rolling pin.
4. When the naked cheese ball is cold, unwrap it and roll it in the gingernsnap crumbs. Use your hands to delicately mold the ball into a pinecone shap. Use the scalloped edges of the ginger thins to create bract scales.
Serve with crackers and thinly sliced pumpernickel bread.
Note: If you can't find Point Reyes, pick up a wedge of Maytag. It's a raw-milk cheese from Iowa, in the style of Roquefort. Point Reyes, from California, is ideal because of its sharp, salty kick, thanks to the seaside air that imbues the milk with a pleasant salinity.