Looking for a satisfying, easy, elegant way to end your meal? Cheese might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it makes for a fabulous dessert. Europeans have long served dessert cheese, either after the salad or after the main course.
There are many options for dessert cheese, both savory and sweet. Goat cheese, aged Gouda, blue cheese, fontina, havarti, mascarpone, Emmentaler, pecorino, fresh ricotta and brie all make wonderful dessert cheeses. You'll find flavored varieties, too, such as chocolate goat cheese; white Stilton with pear, apple, mango, or ginger; and chevre with blueberries, cranberries or cinnamon.
Serve one special dessert cheese along with fresh fruit and nuts. Imagine a soft chevre with raspberries and roasted pecans, for example. Drizzle with a balsamic vinegar or a tiny bit of honey, if you like. For a more extravagant spread, choose a few cheeses, combining flavors (mild and strong) and textures (soft and hard). Again, add a couple of accompaniments to the plate.
Fresh fruit (grapes or pears, melons, apples, peaches, cherries and plums), dried fruit (figs or apricots), and nuts (spiced walnuts or roasted hazelnuts) are classic. Jams and preserves, chutneys, fruit sauces and chocolate also make terrific accompaniments.
Cut the cheese into wedges, slices, or serve with a scooper or knife. Make dessert cheese balls, or cheese tortes, with cheese, honey and nuts. Serve dessert cheese at room temperature with a sweet or semi-sweet wine, coffee, or Belgian beer.
Dessert cheeses and fruits also perform beautifully together in dessert recipes. Sweet ripe pears are stuffed with savory Gorgonzola and mascarpone, cranberries and pecans in Gorgonzola Stuffed Pears, for example. In this Cherry Trifle, mascarpone is layered with cherries, cake, shortbread and whipped cream. Elegant but easy to make, Grilled Apricots with Chevre and Honey works as an appetizer, salad or dessert.
Cream cheese makes a classic frosting. In Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting, the cheese is spiced with cinnamon and vanilla for topping rich, spicy cupcakes. And for a fun version of cheesecake, try Miniature Cheesecakes, crafted with cocoa and cream cheese in a graham cracker crust.