Peppermint Bark Is Weirdly Perfect With Alpine Cheese

With the holidays arriving soon, those of us who love to entertain are likely scrambling to arrange better cheese boards than the ones we served at our parties last year. A crowd-pleasing sweet treat is also a must for a holiday gathering. You can combine these party must-haves into one by pairing your cheeses with all sorts of seasonal sweets. For an unexpected yet delicious combination, try adding chocolate peppermint bark to your cheese board.

Food Republic spoke to Chad Galer, vice president of Product Innovation and Food Safety at Dairy Management Inc., on how to pair holiday sweets with cheese. Galer explains that minty chocolate bark can be paired with cheese to great effect, so long as you use a "deep and complex flavored cheese." He recommends an alpine cheese, as its "subtle sweetness, savory, and grassy or floral flavors" provide a balanced complexity. Rather than the flavors of the cheese and chocolate fighting each other for the spotlight, peppermint bark and alpine cheese can complement each other for a delicious seasonal appetizer.

How Alpine cheese complements peppermint bark

Alpine cheeses have origins in the Swiss Alps. Historically, these mountains provided the best area for local cows to forage, and as such, Alpine cheeses take on the flavors of whatever the cows eat during each production season. For instance, Beaufort cheese tastes more floral, while Fontina has nutty undertones. These flavors pair well with peppermint and chocolate, as the mint adds a contrasting freshness, while the chocolate can also have floral or rich, nutty, and sweet flavors, enhancing the cheese.

What's more, Alpine cheeses are traditionally aged. The time and effort it takes to transport them from the mountains down to a village makes fresher cheeses a riskier product. The sharper flavor of an aged cheese echoes the sharpness of peppermint, and a firmer, sometimes crystalline texture can emerge in these cheeses, making them somewhat similar to a hard chocolate bar, but then they contrast with the creaminess as the chocolate melts in the mouth. If you ask us, Alpine cheese is truly the perfect complement to peppermint bark, providing harmonious flavors and textural contrast.

Pair Alpine or aged cheeses with peppermint hot chocolate

Now that we've established the link between peppermint, chocolate, and cheese, you should experiment with pairing cheese with hot chocolate. With a peppermint hot chocolate, an Alpine cheese is yet again an excellent choice, but other aged cheeses provide a similar sharp flavor. Chad Galer suggests gouda, which takes on rich, nutty, and caramel-like flavors as it ages. Because gouda tends to crystalize over time, it also provides a slightly crunchy textural contrast to the smooth and creamy hot chocolate.

You can also choose cheeses that enhance the richness of your minty hot chocolate, rather than providing contrast. According to Galer, a soft Brie offers a luscious creamy texture to go with hot chocolate, while still maintaining an "earthy complexity [that pairs] with the peppermint flavor." Brie is sweet, rich, buttery, and sometimes nutty in flavor, so it makes just as tasty of a pairing as any of the aforementioned aged cheeses.