A great, well thought out cheese platter can be as satisfying as a four-course meal, and is certainly much easier to prepare. Tia Keenan’s gorgeous, fun, new book (published by Rizzoli) The Art of the Cheese Plate, is an ideal guide (not to mention gift) for pairings no matter the occasion. We love this take on tea and cheese, perfect for a cozy fall day with friends. (Bonus: fudge is involved!)
This is a fanciful cheese-centric party for a buffet brunch or a light lunch, where guests are free to gorge on compact jewels of goat cheeses paired with sweet, floral accompaniments and blooming herbal teas.
Easy-to-love cheeses are key when serving a limited selection to a large group. Vermont Creamery’s Fresh Crottin and Bijou embody the bright, clean flavors of young goat cheeses, with plenty of tangy/grassy/herbal/citrus notes. They’re also perfect for a buffet: Finished in three or four bites, they’re elegant and approachable, and eaten succinctly.
Fresh Crottin and Bijou both pair well with floral accompaniments, which draw out their herbal/grassy notes. Guests can experiment with combinations, finding the pairings they like best. Spread a slice of baguette with Fresh Crottin with Macerated Peaches, or dip Bijou into a luscious pool of Spoonable Flowery Lavender Caramel, savoring a sweet, floral, tangy bite – or alternate between both cheeses while nibbling on white chocolate-laced Lemon-Chamomile Fudge. Whatever your choice, a proper cup of blooming white tea (which you could serve hot or iced, depending on the season) works its charm: comforting, soothing, and just tannic enough to keep everyone eating.
Fudge is most often associated with holidays, vacations, and down-home family gatherings. Flavored with lemon and chamomile and paired with a fine goat cheese, it’s transformed into an elegant companion yet retains its warm and fuzzy. The creamy, tangy/citrus/herbal notes of the fudge play into similar notes in Fresh Crottin and Bijou.
Makes about 24 squares
- chamomile tea
- cream cheese
- vanilla beans
- confectioners’ sugar
- white chocolate
- Oil a loaf pan and line it with parchment paper so that the paper overhangs the edges of the pan.
- Bring ¼ cup water to a boil in a small saucepan and turn off the heat. Add 3 tablespoons loose-leaf chamomile tea and steep for 20 minutes/ Strain the tea into the bowl of a stand mixer, pressing on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the tea leaves.
- Add 8 ounces softened cream cheese, the seeds from 1 vanilla bean, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt to the bowl with the chamomile concentrate. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed until completely smooth. Turn the mixer to low, add 3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, and mix until thoroughly blended.
- In a medium saucepan, melt 1 ½ pounds white chocolate. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly drizzle the chocolate into the cream cheese mixture. Pour the fudge into the prepared pan.
- Refrigerate for 1 hour, then cover and chill overnight. Lift the fudge from the pan using the overhanging parchment as handles and cut into 1-inch squares. Serve chilled.
Tightly wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Also yummy with Chabichou and Bucheron. Send your guests home with leftovers.
Spoonable Flowery Lavender Caramel pairs especially well with Bijou, whose dense, velvety paste is mirrored by the sumptuous pull of caramel. Lavender accentuates its delicate honey and herbal notes. A little goes a long way when pairing with Fresh Crottin, which is more delicate than Bijou. Wouldn’t kick Barely Buzzed or Casatica di Bufala out of bed.
Macerated Peaches with Orange Blossom & Basil
Makes about 3 cups
- liqueur such as Grand Marnier or curacao
- orange blossom water
- Rinse and dry 1 cup packed basil leaves.
- Finely chop in a mini food processor, add ¼ cup sugar, and pulse until combined.
- Transfer to a large nonreactive bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon orange liqueur, and 1 tablespoon orange blossom water.
- Fold in 2 pounds sliced pitted ripe peaches, cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. Serve at room temperature.
Also a great match with Brebis Blanche and Anton’s Liebe Blond. Needless to say, delicious spooned over vanilla ice cream.
Art of Tea “Halo” is a flowering white tea. It has a light body with notes of jasmine, vanilla, and white peach.
Tea can pair well with cheese; it’s comforting, flavorful, and, like wine, has tannins, which express a bitterness that’s soothed by butterfat. Fresh Crottin and Bijou are on the genteel end of the cheese spectrum, so a light, floral flowering tea like Halo is a good choice. It makes a beautiful presentation – like a corsage in a cup.
Excerpt courtesy of Rizzoli. You can buy the book here.