One of my favourite parts of my day job is getting to interview the MasterChef Canada competitors. While talking to top-5 home cook Christopher Siu about food trends, he brought up a recent trip to Tokyo and how innovative the culture is with their sweets. It got me thinking – not for the first time – about cheese for dessert.
I don’t mean a cheese board. Although that’s always welcome, I don’t see it as dessert, really, because the same spread would be at home during any course. Plus, I don’t want to wait for the end of the meal to dig into the cheese. I digress.
No, I mean cheese as part of a sweet dessert. After talking to Christopher, I started dreaming up ways to make cheese the centrepiece. First, I thought of a mascarpone parfait. I’d layer it with caramelized grapefruit and burnt toffee. I have no idea if those flavours would even go together, but my brain got real friendly with the idea, real fast. Then, further down the caramelizing route, I thought of flambéing halloumi, which, let’s be honest, is just a hilarious thought. But why not?
I settled on my third idea as a less out-there gateway dessert: bocconcini truffles.
If you’re thinking that bocconcini is too delicate a cheese to compete with semi-sweet chocolate, congratulations, you are two steps ahead of me! I had a bit of doubt but wanted to give it a go, anyway.
I soaked the bocconcini in buttermilk before turning it into a truffle, hoping it would add a touch more depth of flavour. It didn’t, but that’s why we do these drills! Right, kids? Then I popped them in the freezer for a spell so they wouldn’t get too melty during their chocolate bath.
Before making my chocolate, I did a quick jog on Google to see if anyone had already attempted a bocconcini truffle and succeeded more than I anticipated I would. Unsurprisingly, there were no bocconcini chocolate truffle recipes. But that did not deter me. No, that only made me think I must be onto something reeeeeally original.
Next was chocolate. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips with butter and maple syrup. Then I speared each cheesy little guinea pig on a fork, rolled them in as much chocolate as would stick (not much) and topped them with black lava salt I got in Iceland (which I figured would make it feel fancier, even if the experiment failed). It has the consistency of fleur de sel but isn’t as light.
I brought the truffles over to my friend (and #1 reader!) Christie’s, who gamely tried a few. We both agreed: not a great combo. Not a bad combo, but as I feared, the bocconcini’s delicate flavour was totally overwhelmed by the chocolate.
I’m not giving up on cheese and chocolate though – I know they’re delicious together, if only because Nadège did a much better job pairing the two in my favourite parmesan chocolate bar. I’ll try a saltier cheese next time.
Then I got my wish at Buca (which I accidentally oversold to another MasterChef Canada cook, nay, winner, David Jorge – sorry, buddy! You’ll understand why in a moment). I entered a new age “box” last week, and for my birthday, my mom and I went to the seriously-acclaimed restaurant’s King location. There was a cheese plate (pictured without much of the cheese, because you should never have to wait to dig in on your birthday), obviously.
The plate was jewelled with fresh buffalo ricotta, pecorino toscano and one of my all-time favourites, piave. Each was paired with a fruity partner: the ricotta with saskatoon berry (one of my favourite sidekicks), the pecorino with wine-soaked raspberries, and the piave with rhubarb.
Then it was time for dessert. I wanted something cool to offset the looming comatose fog rolling in, post-pasta with lobster (is there any better birthday dish?). Buca made all my wishes come true, even before I blew out the candle.
Gorgonzola gelato, topped with blueberries. Now that is how you do cheese for dessert.
I should have wished for the recipe. There’s always next year.