Those of you who regularly read my blog know that this past week was dedicated to Pretzel Challah. It was a pretty big project, involving lots of testing to get the recipe exactly right. When I finally nailed it, I’d made a total of 6 pretzel challahs and a batch of pretzel challah rolls. Now, I love challah and I love pretzels, but that’s a lot of bread!! Normally I’d bake up a batch of my Challah Bread Pudding with all of that extra carby goodness, but pretzel challah is salty, so it won’t work in a sweet pudding. I gave away two of the challahs. Then I used the pretzel rolls to make mini grilled cheese sandwiches and served them with tomato soup, which was a yummy dinner. But I still had a lot of bread left over. What to do?
Fondue, that’s what! There is something perfect about the combination of melted cheese and a pretzel. It’s decadent dairy deliciousness. Trouble was, the whole fondue thing was kind of new to me. I’ve made it before, but not often, and never with great results. I spent a morning pondering the process. It’s a simple concept, but there are plenty of things that could go wrong. Cheese can get lumpy, overly cooked, or stringy. You need the right proportion and types of cheese, a certain amount of acid, and a thickener to get the consistency just right.
As luck would have it, that very afternoon I received an email from Brigitte of Natural Kosher Cheese, asking if we could meet up sometime. Talk about serendipitous timing! Brigitte has her own food blog, and she certainly knows a thing or two about cheese. After an exchange of emails, Brigitte sent me some tips for creating a great cheese fondue. After studying her advice and reading up on the fondue process, I was able to create a really, really tasty fondue. I also compiled this helpful list…
How to Make the Perfect Cheese Fondue
Tip #1: Use 1 pound of cheese for your recipe. The best flavor is usually achieved by blending two types of cheeses. You can experiment with flavor by combining various ratios of fondue-friendly cheeses. Some cheeses that work well for fondue include:
– Monterey jack
Tip #2: You will need wine, or some other kind of acidic liquid. Wine provides acid, which helps to break up the cheese’s stringiness. A dry white wine works best. Here are some good choices:
– Chenin Blanc
– Dry Vermouth
– Pinot Blanc
– Pinot Grigio
– Sauvignon Blanc
Tip #3: If you prefer to make the fondue without alcohol, you will need to add a non-alcoholic acid, like lemon juice. Proportions will vary depending on the recipe you’re using. I found that substituting milk for the wine and adding 2-3 tbsp of lemon juice seemed to work in converting recipes from alcoholic to non-alcoholic. You’ll need to experiment and see what works best for you.
Tip #4: You will need a thickener like flour or cornstarch. If you’re keeping gluten free, a certified GF cornstarch is a safe bet. If you’re not worried about the gluten, feel free to use flour.
Tip #5: Melt cheese in a pot on the stovetop before transferring it to the fondue pot.
Tip #6: Shred your cheese before melting it. This will make the melting process smoother and easier.
Tip #7: Dissolve your thickener into your wine (or liquid) in the pot before melting the cheese, mixing slowly over low heat. Make sure the liquid is smooth with no lumps of powder. I found it’s easiest to do this using a whisk.
Tip #8: Melt cheese very gradually. Low, even heat is best. Add the shredded cheese slowly, one handful at a time. It will take a few minutes, but your patience will be rewarded with a smooth, tasty fondue. Don’t let the cheese boil.
Tip #9: Before transferring the cheese from the stovetop pot to the fondue serving pot, rub the inside of the serving pot with a fresh garlic clove. This will give a garlicky essence to your fondue, adding extra flavor and aroma. For a more pronounced garlic flavor, mince up a clove or two and add it to the melted cheese.
Tip #10: Serve cheese fondue with a variety of dipping choices. Cubed bread (like French baguette) is traditional. Lightly steamed vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli work well. Boiled or fried potato pieces are delicious. You can even get creative and dip fruits that go well with cheese, like sliced apples or grapes.
These tips should help you create your own tasty cheese fondue. I created one this week that is holy-moly-creamy-melty-amazingness– I call it my Cheesy Roasted Jalapeño Fondue. Give it a try!