That Cheese Plate is a column by Marissa Mullen—cookbook author, photographer, and Food52's Resident Cheese Plater. With Marissa's expertise all things cheddar, comté, and crudité—plus tips for how to make it all look extra special, using stuff you probably have on hand—we'll be crafting our own cheesy masterpieces without a hitch.
The air is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and all I want to do is drink pumpkin beer while snacking on chocolate. Last time we paired potato chips with cheese, offering some delicious salty and savory combinations. Now it’s time to switch gears into the world of sweets. Halloween is approaching: It's the time of year when we all devour candy like nobody’s business.
I’m a big fan of sweet cheese pairings; the sweetness of chocolate adds another dimension to the overall tasting experience. However, it doesn’t stop there. Why not pair the marshmallow notes of candy corn or the salty, sweet crunch of caramel popcorn? The options are endless!
Mix & Match
When trying new pairings, think about the intensities of the two items on hand. Pairings are fascinating in the way they completely transform a bite. It’s like painting: You combine two colors to make a different shade. You’re mixing together flavor notes to create an entirely different experience.
Something like a strong, sharp cheddar can overpower a lighter flavored candy like candy corn. I know this because I tried the combo and it did not blend well. The sharpness of the cheddar almost made the candy corn taste sour instead of sweet. I then paired the candy corn with Brie, a much better choice. The marshmallow notes of the candy corn blended nicely with the creamy, brown butter notes of the Brie.
All of this to say: Don't be afraid to mix and match items until you taste something you like! Pairings are personal at the end of the day. And I’m here to walk you through five of the pairings that I loved, pulling together my favorite cheeses with my favorite Halloween treats.
Triple Creme + Kit-Kats
A triple creme cheese is a decadent delight. In the cheesemaking process, extra cream is added before the cheese curd is formed. This results in a creamy and buttery creation almost as lush as ice cream. Try pairing this with a Kit-Kat! The chocolate cuts through the milky interior while the wafer adds a nice crunch to round out the experience.
Aged Gouda + Caramel Popcorn
Aged Gouda and caramel popcorn surprisingly have many similarities. They both exhibit a beautiful amber color with flavor notes of butterscotch-caramel and salt. The popcorn has a stronger sweet aroma, cutting through the sharpness of the gouda. If you look closely, you can see the little amino acid crystals in the cheese, providing a nice crunch alongside the popcorn.
Manchego + Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
I’ll be honest, I had some hesitation pairing peanut butter with cheese, but this combination made it out as one of my favorites. Manchego is a milder sheep’s milk cheese, especially at a young maturation age. Some flavor notes include sour cream and cheesecake. Have you ever tried peanut butter cheesecake? That’s essentially what happens when you add Reese's in the mix. The result is sweet, nutty, and creamy.
Brie + Candy Corn
As I mentioned earlier, Brie was the right move for my candy corn pairing. Cow’s milk Brie is mild, nutty, and fruity. This adds a nice base for the candy corn flavor to shine. The two don’t overpower each other, yet blend together to make a creamy marshmallow flavor experience.
Blue Cheese + Twix
Blue cheese is bold, pungent and slightly spicy. The blue I used for this pairing was also washed with red wine, making the notes even more intense. For this, I needed something to hold its own next to the strong, fudgy flavor. A twix was the perfect solution, providing sweet caramel to bring out the notes in the blue, and chocolate to contrast the spice and kick.
Instead of putting out a big bowl of candy this year, add some sweetness to your cheese plate! It’ll make for a slightly spooky and highly satisfying snack.