Might you be close-minded to the thought of cheese for dessert? People tend to be pretty split on the matter: either they're on board, or they're not. For us believers, there's nothing better than ending a meal with a hunk of cheese and a sweet accompaniment. All that could improve the scenario would be a pour of some delicious dessert wine or sherry. If you're a skeptic, though, you may need some more convincing.
Here, to peruse: three different trios of cheeses, all fit-as-can-be for dessert. That's nine examples of cheeses that — even individually — could put any dessert platter to shame.
Why Cheese for Dessert?
Let's get right to it. But first, the top convincing arguments in support of cheese for dessert:
- Launching into something sweet after a delicious savory meal can somehow, at least for me, erase the palatal impression that the dinner left. It's almost as though a sweet dessert erases the meal, while continuing on with something savory — like cheese — further extends the experience of what came before.
- After dinner, sometimes something sweet can feel too cloying and heavy. And if you're left with wine after your meal, there's nothing better than cheese to help you finish your glass.
- Cheese is just plain good. Eating it before dinner can sometimes kill your appetite. Eating it afterwards is a better time to appreciate it in smaller, more mindful portions.
- Hey, cheese can be sweet, too! Think about super-aged goudas, mountain cheeses, fresh cheeses: They all have varying degrees of sweetness, with notes of caramel, burnt sugar, and sweet, fresh milk.
- Cheese makes a superb foil for other sweet things, making it one of the best ways to bring just a little bit of sweetness to the end of your meal. Honeys, jams, chutneys, mostardas, dried fruits, and nuts are all excellent things to turn cheese into an insta-dessert.
All right, already. Here are three go-to groups of three cheeses to try tonight for dessert. All three options are so different that you could easily have them tonight, tomorrow, and the day after. (Don't worry, we won't tell.)
Three is the magic number! Three cheeses give exactly the right variety and diversity of flavor, texture, and milk type without overwhelming. (And an odd number of cheeses always look better than an even number for some reason. It's kind of a rule of thumb in the cheese world.)
Classic Cheese Dessert Plate: A Creamy, a Hard & a Blue
Brillat Savarin: A triple creme cheese made of 100% pasteurized cow's milk.
• Brillat Savarin: A triple creme cheese made of 100% pasteurized cow's milk. It's sweet and lactic, and amazing with honey. Reminiscent of brie, but not as earthy.
• Aged Gouda: There are so many great options for aged goudas. Find one that's aged for longer than two years and you'll have something that's sweet like creme brulee or flan: caramelly, sugary, and even a bit crunchy.
• Roquefort: Stingingly strong and salty, but if you find a nice one, the balance of these two traits can be incredibly harmonious and satisfying, especially after dinner. There's nothing quite like a sharp, assertive blue to end a meal. If you experience it once, you'll crave it like you do sugar at the end of a meal.
The cheeses above are shown served with:
• Rosemary Pecan Raincoast Crisps (make them yourself with this recipe)
• Roasted almonds
• Prunes (even better when they're stewed in port wine)
• Honey, for drizzling over the Brillat Savarin
Two More Lovely Cheese Dessert Plates
1. A Goat, a Cow & a Sheep
• Chevrot: A lightly aged goat cheese from the Loire, with just a mildly funky flavor profile. The resounding note is tanginess, with a pleasantly chalky texture. Goat cheeses are notoriously delicious for dessert because of their bright flavors and palate-cleansing abilities.
• Taleggio: Creamy and unctuous, like custard. But so much better. Taleggio is a washed-rind cheese, so it's slightly stinky, but it's one of the more mild washed-rinds out there. Opposites attract! So pair taleggio with something heady and sweet, like brandied cherries.
• Petit Basque: This raw sheep milk cheese from the Basque country is the very first cheese I met on a dessert platter. And convinced, I was. Sweet as can be, all by itself, it's one of the best examples of how sheep milk can turn mellow and sweet when
2. A Trio of American Gems
• Nettle Meadow Kunik: Another triple creme (meaning that the butterfat content is over 85%!) option in our line-up. But this one is made with goat cheese, enriched with Jersey cow cream. And from New York! This is what you want for dessert. Think mascarpone, but with more character. So delicious, and more craveable than chocolate.
• Von Trapp Oma: A washed-rind raw cow milk cheese from Vermont, made by descendents of the Von Trapp family! Mellow, sweet, and redolent of fermented fruit.
• Rogue River Blue: From Oregon, made with raw cow milk. Wrapped in grape leaves that have been macerating in pear brandy. Boozy, sweet, and blue. Need we say more?
Read more about cheese for dessert:
• The Dessert Course.
And tell me: What are your favorite dessert cheeses?
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an Assistant TV Chef and food stylist on The Martha Stewart Show.
Related: How to Taste Cheese: The Cheesemonger
(Images: Faith Durand)