A short time ago, while fixing a roll-out cupboard, I found an unopened tin of powered, dark chocolate lost in the shadows of the ‘way-back’. Just a few feet away, in the refrigerator, sat a hunk of Manchego cheese my cousin had brought home that very same week and, there I was in a kitchen with a stove. Call it serendipity. Call it destiny. I was not going to let this moment of culinary kismet pass without attempting to make a candy, the idea for which had been hanging in the way-back of my mind for quite some time. Plus, Bagheera, the cat, was in high approval of any effort involving butter.
Dark chocolate and the nutty, sweet flavor of viejo Manchego. It’s a taste combination I discovered for myself while working in produce at a co-op in Minneapolis, and I’ve been in love with it ever since.
Back when the store was smaller, our Produce and Cheese departments shared two halves of the same, cramped kitchen. Camaraderie made it bearable and I came away with a few good friends. Another awesome benefit was an introduction to fine cheeses from around the globe. When new or trial items came in, there were always tastings; and then, of course, the bonus accumulation of snack-sized leftovers from the cutters’ table. Cow, goat, sheep, or nut; those cheesy nibblets were a lovely perk.
I grew a habit of wrapping the small and tasty chunks of goodness in a napkin, putting them in my apron pocket for munching while I worked. On many days, they were accompanied by a piece or two of chocolate. Thus began my great taste experiment to find as many cheese and chocolate combinations as I could. As you might guess, there weren’t that many and, strangely, the dark chocolate was more cheese-compatible than the milk. I had expected it would be the other way around.
I’ll tell you right off that the fudge didn’t exactly turn out, however it wasn’t the fault of ol’ Manchego but human error. I followed an unfamiliar recipe with a brash self-assurance as if I’d been making fudge my whole life. In truth, I’m pretty sure I hadn’t cooked a batch since high school.
Still, I gathered the ingredients, put them in place and started right in. I thought things were going great until the candy thermometer hit 220 degrees Fahrenheit. And there it stayed, for nearly fifteen minutes. I then spent about a half hour playing with the heat and hoping to get the mixture hotter without scorching. While the level of the liquid rose and fell, the mercury remained in place. Try as I might, I couldn’t push the temperature up to softball stage.
I continued on with the experiment; removing the pan from the burner, stirring and stirring and stirring the chocolate goo though it failed to loose its sheen (probably because it never got to temp?). I then added the fine shreds of cheese and let the ‘fudge’ rest. Once cooled, the consistency was thick though not firm enough to avoid melting when touched. Happily, it hadn’t crystallized.
I took my concoction to our family board-game night and we ended up spooning it on graham crackers. Consensus on the outcome was that I need to try again and, if nothing else, the result would make a great frosting or ice cream topping.
Surely, I will be trying this again but not before another making recipe I’ve had in mind, Dark Chocolate Chip and Manchego cookies. That’s one I know practically by heart.