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Eric Akis: No trick to making this cheesy Halloween treat

The right ingredients and a little creativity put a seasonal twist on cheese and crackers.
Halloween Party Cheese Ball A pumpkin-shaped cheese ball served with crisp, baked tortilla crackers.

Halloween is just around the corner and folks of all ages will dress up and attend parties to celebrate the occasion. Food will often be served and if you’re going to such a party, or hosting one, I’ve got something very cheesy you could make.

It’s cheesy because it’s a cheese ball, and to fit the Halloween theme, it’s shaped and coated to look like a pumpkin. To make it, cream cheese is beaten and combined with grated, tangy, aged cheddar cheese, crunchy walnuts, minced green onion and zesty flavourings, such as Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce.

You then lightly dampen your hands with cold water, which should prevent the cheese ball mixture from sticking to your fingers, and use them to shape it into a pumpkin shape. A stem from a bell pepper is then set in the centre of the cheese ball, creating a pumpkin-like stem. The outside of the cheese ball is then coated in crushed orange-coloured crackers.

Once chilled and set, you can serve the cheese ball with store-bought or homemade crackers, such as the tortilla crackers below.

Halloween Party Cheese Ball

A full of flavour, pumpkin-shaped cheese ball — perfect to serve at a Halloween party.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: none

Makes: 1 large (five-inch) round cheese ball, about 10-12 servings

2 (250 gram) bricks firm cream cheese, softened

150 grams aged cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 cups)

1/4 cup finely chopped green onion

1/2 cup walnut pieces, finely chopped

1 Tbsp horseradish

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

2/3 cup orange coloured crackers, finely crushed (see Note 1)

1 stem from a bell pepper to use as a handle (see Note 2)

Place cream cheese in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (see Eric’s options). Beat one to two minutes, until smooth and lightened a bit. Add the grated cheese, green onion, walnuts, horseradish, Worcestershire and Tabasco and beat well to combine. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and beat again.

Line a dinner plate with parchment paper. Spread the crushed crackers on a second plate.

Dampen your hands lightly with cold water, and then use them to form the cream cheese mixture into the shape of a five-inch round pumpkin. Coat the cheese ball with the crushed crackers, and then set on the parchment paper lined plate. Create ridges on the sides of your pumpkin with the back of a wooden spoon.

Stick the bell pepper stem into the top centre of your cheese ball to create a pumpkin–like stem. Now, as needed, use your hands to press on the cheese ball to remove any bumps or overly uneven spots and put on any crushed crackers that did not adhere.

But the cheese ball in the refrigerator and let it firm up, uncovered, two hours. When the two hours are up, carefully transfer your cheese ball to a decorative plate.

After you do, press on any crushed crackers that may have fallen off the cheese ball during the process. Tent cheese ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. It can be made a day before serving. When ready to serve, let the cheese ball warm at room temperature 30 minutes, and then enjoy.

Note 1: I use cheddar-flavoured Goldfish brand snack crackers. They are all sold in the cracker aisle of most grocery stores. Other cheese-flavoured crackers will also work here. I crushed the crackers in a food processor. You’ll need about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of crushed the crackers to coat the cheese ball.

Note 2: Buy a large bell pepper to get the stem for your pumpkin-shaped cheese ball. To remove it, with a sharp paring knife, cut around the outside of the base of the stem and carefully pull it off the pepper.

Eric’s options: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you could vigorously beat the cream cheese in a bowl with a sturdy wooden spoon and then thoroughly mix in the other ingredients need for the cheese ball.

Tortilla Crackers

Easy-to-make crispy tortilla crackers you can serve alongside the cheese ball.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: seven to eight minutes

Makes: About 60 crackers

3 (10-inch) soft, flour or flour and corn blend tortillas (see Note)

1 Tbsp olive oil

• Cajun spice or seasoning salt, to taste (see Note)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut each tortilla into 1 1/2-inch-wide strips. Now cut each strip, widthwise and at a slight angle, into 2 1/2- to 3-inch long pieces/crackers. Set the crackers on the baking sheets not touching. Lightly brush the top of each cracker with olive oil, and then lightly sprinkle each one with Cajun spice (or seasoning salt.) Bake the crackers, one sheet at a time, in the middle of the oven for seven to eight minutes, or until crisp and golden.

Let crackers cool to room temperature and then store in a tight sealing container until needed. They’ll keep at least a week.

Note: Soft tortillas, made with flour or a blend of flour and corn, what I used, are sold at most supermarkets, often in the bread aisle. I used Grimm’s brand flour and corn blend tortillas when testing this recipe. Cajun spice, also called Cajun seasoning, and seasoning salt, such as Lawry’s brand, are sold in the bottled herb/spice aisle of supermarkets.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.