Cranberry-Orange Cheese Ball with Candied Pecans and Sugared Cranberries
This festive cheese ball is filled with bright flavors from fresh orange zest, tart dried cranberries, and crunchy candied pecans. Decorate the outside with sugared cranberries to give it the appearance of a holiday ornament! You could also purchase your favorite candied pecans as a shortcut if you’re pressed for time.
1/2 cup sugar plus 2 Tbsp, plus extra for rolling
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. Organic Valley Salted Butter, melted
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt, to taste
2 cups fresh cranberries
16 oz. Organic Valley Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 Tbsp. orange zest
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
Fresh thyme springs, for garnish (optional)
Crackers for serving
Combine 1/2 cup sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the simple syrup to cool for about 10 minutes. Add the cranberries and stir so the berries are fully coated. Place a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the berries to the wire rack. Some of the smaller berries will likely fall through the rack, but that isn’t a problem. Let the berries dry for about an hour until they’re very sticky to the touch.
While the berries are drying, place the pecans in a skillet over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the nuts are toasted. Combine the melted butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, cayenne pepper, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Transfer the toasted pecans to the butter mixture and stir until all the pecans are evenly coated. Spread the pecans in a single layer on a cookie sheet or cutting board to cool for about an hour (line the cookie sheet with waxed paper or foil for easier clean up).
When berries are dried and sticky, put some sugar in a shallow dish. Working with about a dozen berries at a time, gently roll the cranberries in the sugar until they’re fully coated, then transfer them back to the cooling rack to finish drying for another hour.
Place the softened cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and beat until smooth. Add the orange zest and dried cranberries and mix until combined, then using a spatula, fold in the candied pecans. Shape the cream cheese mixture into a ball on your serving plate.
Gently press the sugared cranberries onto the surface of the cheese ball so it looks like a holiday ornament. Before serving, garnish with fresh thyme sprigs, if desired, and serve with crackers of your choosing.
If you’re not serving the cheese ball immediately, cover and refrigerate the undecorated cheese ball, and store sugared cranberries at room temperature in an airtight container. Before serving, allow the cheese ball to soften for about 20 minutes before adding the sugared cranberries.