Cheese is a wonderful human discovery. As delicious as it is nutritious, it also acts as a vehicle for human creativity. Although the exact origin of cheese isn’t known, historians say that as a food, cheese dates back several thousand years. In fact, cheese making vessels recently discovered in Poland provide evidence that people made cheese as long as 7,500 years ago. Apparently, humans started making cheese as a way to preserve and prolong the nutritional value of milk: a very efficient way to conserve a source of food. The variety of types of cheese available today is due to the geographical resources and climate particular to the various societies that make cheese. Although traditionally cheeses from particular regions draw their characteristics from those particular regions, reflecting the creative use of resources by the people who develop those cheeses, contemporary cheese makers are freed from geographical and other ancient restrictions to create new cheeses by combining traditional cheese making with ingredients they can gather from all over the world. I recently tried one such new cheese: Barely Buzzed, a coffee-lavender rubbed cheese created by the folks over at Beehive Cheese. This cheddar cheese is made in Utah, with coffee roasted in Colorado. What can be more interesting and creative than a cheese hand-rubbed with coffee and lavender?
Before I discuss this cheese, however, I must mention the Beehive Cheese company itself. It’s a family-owned artisan cheese company. The owners, brothers-in-law Tim Welsh and Pat Ford, even let their children help make the cheese. According to the company website, the milk Tim and Pat use for their cheese making is not standardized, which means they must adjust their cheese making to the seasonal changes in the milk. I don’t know much (or really anything) about cheese-making, but this seasonal adjustment sounds pretty traditional to me. The milk used to make Beehive cheese is supplied by a family-owned dairy located near Beehive Cheese company. The small, local nature of this cheese-making business makes me all the more happy to have purchased and tried its Barely Buzzed cheese.
Barely Buzzed is a cheddar cheese with a nice texture. It crumbles some when cut, but it feels creamy once one bites into it and feels it on the tongue. The dark colored coffee and lavender rind is more subtle than I expected it would be. The coffee’s presence is more obvious than that of the lavender. I didn’t catch an assertive essence of lavender in every bite; it presents itself unexpectedly from time to time. The occasional occurrence works well; lavender ‘s presence in a dish is best when it’s unassuming. The lavender makes itself known in one bite, then its floral note lingers even as it fades in the next bite, much like the note of a church bell hangs in the air for moments after the moment it actually rang out. The nuanced presence of the coffee and lavender enhances the over-all effect of the rind’s flavors with the cheddar, which itself is has a buttery, with a touch of nutty, flavor. If the coffee-lavender rub were any more pronounced, it would overwhelm the cheddar. My family and I really enjoyed eating this cheese. It was definitely worth the cost of purchase.
The lavender in the rub on the cheese is what I think of as a seasonal ingredient (spring). To accompany the cheese, then, I decided to serve fresh strawberries and a gluten-free lemon avocado oil cake: two dishes that also make me think “spring.” The flavors complemented each other, with the strawberries adding a bit of sweetness and the lemon avocado cake adding a bit of tartness.
I recently purchased a large bottle of pure avocado oil from Costco (I LOVE Costco!), and I was eager to experiment with it. I decided to pair it with some pistachio flour (or meal) I had on hand, to make the following cake to accompany our Barely Buzzed cheddar. For inspiration, I used this recipe for lemon olive oil cake; I substituted avocado oil for the olive oil, and adapted the recipe to make it gluten-free.
Although pistachio flour is all but transparent in flavor, the nutty character of the pistachio flour adds richness and density to this unusual but flavorful cake.
Gluten-Free Lemon Avocado Oil Cake
4 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1 cup organic raw sugar
½ cup pure avocado oil
62.5 g pistachio flour (finely ground pistachio nuts)
31.5 g tapioca flour
31.5 g potato starch
1 tsp aluminum free baking powder
½ tsp salt
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of two lemons
Powdered sugar (for dusting finished cake)
-Preheat oven to 350. Butter or oil an 8-inch cake pan.
-Beat together eggs, egg yolk, and sugar until light and fluffy.
-Slowly pour the avocado oil and lemon juice into the egg / sugar mixture. Mix or stir well.
-In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients and lemon zest together.
-Stir or mix the dry ingredients into the egg / avocado oil batter until well mixed.
-Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake’s center comes out clean.
-Cool in pan for about ten minutes.
-Remove from pan, let cool.
-Dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar before serving.