Sixth Annual Birthday Dinner: Apple Pie & Cheddar Cheese

I have a friend who was born and raised in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Even after he moved away, he made a point of returning every September to visit his parents and attend the Franklin County Fair. We joined him for almost a decade of those visits, which acquired the trappings of ritual: watch the pig races, check out the 4H club exhibits (reading judges’ comments on the backs of contest entry tags was a regular source of amusement), bet on the oxen pull, watch the cattle judging (“high shoulder points, deep brisket, overall correctness of form”), and end the day at the demolition derby.

And, of course, we would spend the rest of the time eating fair food, which, surprisingly, was not deep fried or served on sticks. There was yakitori from Myron, who parlayed a fair stand into a sauce empire, there was strawberry shortcake from one of the local churches, and best of all, homemade apple pie, served from a little red cottage on the grounds. Most people would order pie with the obligatory scoop of vanilla ice cream, but the true New Englanders among us knew that apple pie was meant to be eaten with a slab of sharp Vermont cheddar, which was made just a few miles away.

When I saw this recipe from Ideas in Food, I filed it away, knowing that I’d probably use it as a cheese course, and what better dinner to introduce a cheese course than the one I was planning for She Who Must Be Obeyed? I was already multitasking multiple meal components, adding a few more simple preparations wouldn’t create significantly more work. And, as an added bonus, I would get to work with a hydrocolloid I hadn’t used before. Science FTW!

Before I could make the apple pie ice cream, I had to make caramelized white chocolate, which was no more complicated than filling a mason jar with 200 grams of chocolate.

After 30 minutes in my new best friend the pressure cooker, the chocolate was ready, resembling toffee filing for banoffee pie.

While the chocolate cooled, I melted 220 grams of cream cheese, then stirred in the chocolate and three grams of salt.

To make the ice cream I needed milk, dried apple rings, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and the ganache.

I dumped everything into a pot, brought the milk to a simmer, then turned off the heat and covered, letting the mixture steep for thirty minutes. By the time it was ready the Belm Utility Research Kitchen smelled like apple pie – a good sign.

I puréed the mixture in batches in a blender, then let it sit overnight in the fridge.

The next morning I churned the thick base into ice cream.

A quality control sample of the result tasted like I had ground up an entire apple pie and turned it into ice cream.

While the ice cream set up in the freezer, I started on the caramel apple jelly garnish, which was made from sugar, salt, apple cider, hard cider (West Country Baldwin), and low-acyl gellan gum.

I cooked the sugar until it was a dark caramel:

I added the ciders and salt, then simmered to dissolve the caramel. I immediately transferred the mixture to a blender and added the gellan. In order to pour the gel into a dish without adding any air bubbles, I transferred the solution to a fat separator with a spout on the bottom.

The gel set at room temperature within a minute or two of my pouring it, but I covered it and let it rest in the fridge until needed.

A few hours before dinner I cut half of the jelly into quarter-inch cubes.

To plate, I dressed the jelly cubes with lemon-infused olive oil, topped them with a scoop of the ice cream, and leaned a few slices of Cabot clothbound cheddar against the scoop.

I served an Eden ice cider along with the cheese.

While texturally different than a slice of apple pie, the ice cream matched it for pure taste. The slices of musty, grassy cheddar (possibly my all-time favorite cheese) kept the dish partially in the savory realm, but the ice cream and jelly beneath established the transition to the dessert portion of the meal. The cold, crisp, sweet, non-carbonated cider was a perfect match.


Chocolate, cream cheese, cider, milk, cheddar: Whole Foods
Gellan: Belm Utility Research Kitchen
West Country hard cider, Eden ice cider: Central Bottle

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