And finally, Part 3 of the holiday centerpiece series. This is a great last-minute one because it takes little time and few ingredients. Cheese balls can seem old-fashioned, but they can easily be presented to be beautiful, modern and festive.
This is actually a trio of cheese balls, but they all start with the same base. You could use the base to adapt to your own preference if you wanted to.
For the base, you will need:
- 2 blocks of cream cheese
- 1/3 cup softened butter
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- You will also need toppings, seen below
The base for this could not be easier. Just combine all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. You can just kind of mash them together with a spoon. The butter just needs to be very soft to make it easy to incorporate with the cream cheese. I didn’t have a lemon on hand this time, but you can substitute in a little less lime juice if needed. Once the base is done, divide it into thirds in three bowls.
For one variety, I made a blue cheese version. Blue? Bleu? I’m a bit of a grammar nerd so I had to look it up. Apparently it’s more correct to say “blue” because it doesn’t make sense to use the french spelling immediately followed by the English word “cheese.” Fair enough.
Well, with that digression behind us, you’re here to learn about the cheese ball itself. For that one, just combine about 4 oz of BLUE cheese with the first bowl of base. If you want it to fully incorporate you may need to buy a softer variety. I don’t much care if it makes a smooth consistency or if it has crumbles of the blue mixed throughout, so I just use the plain crumbled kind. When it is mixed to your liking, you have a couple of options. The traditional method is to form it into a relative ball with a spoon on a sheet of plastic wrap, then cover it with the plastic and roll it smoother. I wanted a more modern presentation, so instead I put a piece of plastic wrap in one cup of a jumbo muffin tin, then spooned the cheese mixture in and pressed the extra plastic wrap down on top of it to cover it fully and to form it.
The next cheese ball I made was a smoky cheddar and bacon. To the second bowl of base, mash in about 5 oz of shredded sharp cheddar and 1 tsp of smoked paprika. You could probably add a tiny bit of liquid smoke or something if you wanted a smokier flavor. Form the ball in the same way as before.
The third type I made was a spicy goat cheese. So I used a soft spicy goat cheese sold locally around my hometown. Creative, I know. So if you can’t find something like that, you can easily substitute using plain soft goat cheese and a little minced jalapeño or hot sauce. I used about 4 oz of the goat cheese. Form that one as before, then put all 3 in the fridge to cool for at least an hour, preferably several.
When you take them out, it’s time to coat them. Again, you can alter these easily as you see fit. I chose to top the blue cheese with dried cranberries. I used the ones that are infused with cherry juice because they are sweeter, and, well, taste more like dried cherries. I won’t use the brand name, since no one pays me, but the one that you, as a human, probably buy? They make the cherry kind. The normal cranberry would work well too though. I used less topping than you will need if you made the more old-fashioned version, because I only covered the top of mine and not the sides. Roughly chop a handful or two and gently press or roll your cheese ball/cheese dome in the chopped cranberries, then transfer to your serving plate. If you have a long skinny plate, the trio will look best on that.
The smoky cheddar cheese ball gets topped with hickory smoked bacon. I crumbled 3 small strips for mine, but again, you might need more if you made the traditional ball. And finally, the spicy goat cheese got topped with roughly chopped pistachio.I used about 10 pistachios I think.
These are really simple, really adaptable, and make a great appetizer. Just remember, presentation is key for making these stand out as a centerpiece, and not just another 80s cheese ball. Give it a modern twist and it will definitely impress at your holiday party, or any other event.