Cheese and Cookies Absolutely Go Together — These Are the Best Pairings, According to a Cheesemonger
Last November, in lieu of a Kitchn holiday party, a small group of editors attended a virtual cheese tasting hosted by our friends at Murray’s Cheese. As we went through a series of four different pairings, one in particular stood out: Fromager D’Affinois and a vanilla bean shortbread cookie. It was, by far, my favorite duo of the hour. Several other attendees also agreed, which had me wondering: Why isn’t this more of a thing? Also, what other cheese and cookie pairings should I be trying?
I chatted with Michelle Molier, an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and the manager of education and events for Murray’s Cheese, to get some general pointers and pairing suggestions. Of course, she had tons of both! Her pairings fell into three categories: regional (Italian cheese with an Italian cookie), resonance (buttery with buttery), and contrasting (creamy with crumbly). These 10 pairings are meant to be a starting point for your combos. As Molier points out, “Thinking about pairings unintentionally — just putting things together — is kind of the fun part.” Sorry, crackers. You’ve been replaced!
1. Triple Cream and Shortbread Cookies
Remember that vanilla shortbread? Shortbread was actually the first cookie that Murrays started pairing with cheese. “[The] cookies make such a wonderful pairing for cheese because of the high butter content,” says Molier. The butteriness of the cookies and that smooth, buttery, cheesy texture of cheese, like a triple cream, are natural partners. Butter and butter! “Also, shortbreads tend to be neutral, other than a little bit of vanilla or sweetness to them. So you’re still getting the purity of the cheese and the nuance of the cookie.”
2. Hard Italian Cheese and Italian Butter Cookies
“Regionally pairing your cookies to your cheese is a wonderful way to eat something tasty and celebrate culturally,” says Molier. She recommends pairing Italian butter cookies with Parm, Pecorino, or any other hard aged Italian cheese. “They’re going to be wonderful together because there are two crumbly things. One is sweet, one is salty, and they both have such ties to the Italian culture.” Just add espresso!
3. Blue Cheese and Danish Butter Cookies
Continuing on with the regional theme: You know that blue tin of Dutch cookies? “Those and Dutch blue cheeses — or blue cheeses in general — will be really good because a lot of them have that crystallized sugar on top,” says Molier. Any added sweetness to a cookie, you’re going to want added intensity with the cheese. “With a blue cheese that’s salty and funky, those extra sugar crystals really help out.”
4. Gouda and Chocolate Chip Cookies
“Anytime you have a cookie that has chips, candies, or caramel, remember to have a cheese that also has some additional flavor profile to it,” says Molier. Those complexities in the cheese help carry the weight of the chocolate. For a classic Chips Ahoy! cookie, she suggests Gouda — specifically Roomano, which is known for being called candy cheese. “Aside from the smoked ones, Goudas tend to have their own sweet-and-salty thing going on.” Generally speaking, she thinks they’re one of the best cheeses for pairing with cookies.
5. Goat Cheese and Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
“Oreos are interesting because they already have their creamy thing included in the center,” says Molier. “You could go for full-on decadence and pair it with another creamy cheese like a fresh goat cheese (her top pick) or a double cream Brie.” Either way, “we get that luscious cream filling on the inside and a little bit on the outside.” She also suggests pulling the Oreo apart and putting the cheese in the center to further enhance the filling.
6. Boozy Hard Cheese and Black & White Cookies
“Pull out an infused, firm cheese for this one!” says Molier when I bring up the classic black and white. “Because the black and white cookie is basically an iced sugar cookie, the neutral sweetness of the sugar can take on extra flavors.” She recommends some Bourbon Bellavitano for a boozy kick or Moliterno al Tartufo for an added boost of truffle decadence.
7. Soft-Ripened Cheese and Vanilla Wafers
“Wafers are really good with soft-ripened cheeses — or any of those cheeses that look like dips, but are actually cheeses,” says Molier. Some of them, like this Harbison she recommends, will be wrapped in spruce bark to help them maintain their shape. “And when left to temper on the counter, they will develop a consistency close to dip or fondue.” This is when you grab your Nilla Wafer and scoop away!
8. Gjetost and Oatmeal Cookies
Oatmeal cookies have a different texture than that snap kind of biscuit cookie that the English like, explains Molier, which is why it goes great with amazing Norwegian cheese called Gjetost. “It’s barely a cheese and more like caramel fudge!” she says. “It gets that caramel flavor and texture from extra heating and eventual caramelizing of the whey, which is usually discarded in most cheesemaking.” It’s whey cool!
9. Manchego and Fudge Striped Cookies
“The world is yours” with this pairing, says Molier, who points out this is actually more of a “three-way pairing.” That third element? Fudgy chocolate! “I feel like you get more chocolate with this type of cookie than you do with a chocolate chip.” Because of this, she recommends a Manchego — specifically a young Manchego, so it’s not as firm. “I refer to Manchegos or other sheep milk cheeses for decadent pairings because the sheep’s milk has more fat and protein content than cow and goat. That extra fat and protein creates extra flavor and it can take on a cookie and a chocolate!”
10. Cheddar and Oatcakes
Allow Molier to explain why this oatcake is “the hands-down, number-one cookie for pairing cheese.” Effie’s Oatcakes “have a really nice, buttery, flaky, crackable texture, but [are] still melt-in-your-mouth delicious.” (In fact, delicious is how she described all things Effie’s is cooking up.) “Is this a cookie? Is this a cracker? Or is this a piece of graham cracker pie crust? It has all of those wonderful textures in it and a little bit of saltiness.” While this very versatile oatcake could be put with “everything,” Molier recommends a block cheddar, which tends to be more creamy (cloth-bound cheddars tend to be more crumbly). “The result is phenomenal.”
Don’t see your favorite pair? Tell us in the comments below!