A simple dessert cheese plate makes for an easy and deliciously elegant finale to a meal. And when you’re really trying to wow, a dessert platter pairing cheeses and caramels can be an easy-to-prepare yet mouthwatering end to a delightful home-cooked meal.
To learn how to create the perfect dessert and cheese platter, we gathered a variety of McCrea’s Candies’ caramel and headed to Boston’s North Shore and Shubie’s Market. Based in Marblehead, Shubie’s is a family-run gourmet food shop. The bright and bustling store is filled with delicious epicurean food choices, including baked good, salads, handcrafted sandwiches and freshly-prepared foods. The store also carries gifts, custom baskets, and a large craft beer selection.
When it opened in 1948, Shubie’s was one of the first shops in the area to carry fine wines. The owners and staff are more than just vino experts, they are true oenophiles. In a perfect pairing, they bring this same passion to all things cheese, making them our first choice for teaching the art of a beautiful and satisfying cheese board. We met up with Doug Shube, owner of Shubie’s, and Rachel Lazar, the shop’s cheese platter guru. Doug, who grew up behind the store’s cheese counter, is the third-generation of Shube’s to work at the shop. Rachel is a classically trained chef from Johnson & Wales.
To get us started in creating the perfect cheese platter, Rachel presented a variety of trays. We had our choice of silver salvers, china plates and, slate boards. Any of these would make for a beautiful platter; we went for the slate. From there, Rachel brought forth a variety of scrumptious decorative elements including candied ginger, beautiful flaked sea salt, some fresh rosemary, dried apricots and a sprig or two of lavender. All were selected with an eye to the cheese and caramel flavor combinations and were artfully arranged across the board.
Use your imagination when it comes to the accompaniments. You can fill up the plate will all kinds of ingredients that go with cheese and caramel. Nuts, honey, berries, fruit, chocolate, cookies, and figs are all great choices. Pair what you like with what you love.
Once we had placed the accouterments, cheese was added as were caramels, both wrapped and unwrapped. According to Rachel, keeping a few caramels in the wrappers alongside the unwrapped candy enables diners to recognize each flavor and provides a topic for discussion.
Deciding which cheeses and which caramels work best together is the fun part. Researching pairings is great and can provide a place to start, but our favorite way to determine what to pair is by taste testing (and tasting again) before the big night. One thing to note, diversity here is key. Rachel suggests at least one hard cheese, one soft and one specialty cheese.
To get you started, Rachel and Doug offer the following pairing suggestions:
- Pair a brie style cheese with Classic Vanilla and Deep Chocolate caramel
- Aged goat cheese goes marvelously with our Single Malt Scotch caramel
- Blue cheese and McCrea’s Candies' Cape Cod Sea Salt caramel are a match made in heaven
- Team up cheddar and our Ginger Fusion caramel for a wonderful mouthful
- Truffle-flavored cheese is ideal with our Rosemary Truffle Seal Salt or Black Lava Sea Salt
Cheeses and sweets go surprising well together and McCrea’s Candies’ caramel makes for an elegant addition to your cheese platter.