Grilled Cheese Winners: Ooey, Gooey Goodness for a Cause

Two things we like at King Arthur Flour: excellent food and leaving a positive mark on the world. But there’s nothing we like more than combining the two. And who wouldn’t jump at the chance to eat good food, and do good at the same time?

Our annual grilled cheese contest does just that. The Grilled Cheese Challenge took place at our café in Norwich, VT on March 12. For a $5 donation, visitors could sample four different grilled cheese variations (each created by King Arthur employees!) and vote for a winner. We donated the proceeds to WARMTH, a program that provides emergency heating services to families in Vermont.

The overall winner was dubbed the French Melt: a gooey, savory combination of extra-sharp cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, maple-mustard spread, and Vermont Creamery salted maple butter on a tangy King Arthur sourdough.

The sandwiches were so impressive this year that we knew we had to spread the love with you all. Here are the four finalists, plus a few tips to ensure grilled cheese success:

 

The Sweet and Shallot Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese via @kingarthurflour

The Sandwich:

This sandwich pairs sweet and savory. Creamy herb chèvre and mozzarella melt into caramelized shallots. A bit of boiled cider adds a touch of sweetness to balance out the cheese.

To Make It:

Thinly slice a few shallots. Cook them over medium-low heat in some butter, stirring occasionally, until they soften and caramelize. This will take about 10 minutes. When they’re almost ready, pour a tablespoon or two of boiled cider into the pan and stir to combine.

Spread a slice of buttered bread with herb chèvre. Top with slices of fresh mozzarella. Heap a tangle of caramelized shallots on top of the cheese. Cook!

Grilled Cheese Tip 1: Cover the Pan

At our Grilled Cheese Challenge, our employees showed off a clever bakers’ trick. They covered their pans with baking sheets. If you don’t have a lid to fit your pan (it happens!), this is a smart option. Covering the pan traps the heat, cooking the sandwich from all sides – which helps melt the cheese evenly.

 

The Hog Wild Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese via @kingarthurflour

The Sandwich:

Go hog wild with your lunch! Crisp bacon, Vermont Farmstead Whistling Pig ale cheddar, and caramelized onions combine to make a crunchy, savory grilled cheese.

To Make It:

The ale cheddar has a fantastic hoppy finish. If you can’t find it near you, any good sharp cheddar will do. Be sure to make your bacon on the crispier side: The crunchy texture is excellent with the melted cheese. Here’s a great technique to cook your bacon without a mess.

Grilled Cheese Tip 2: Low and Slow

We’re all impatient when it comes to grilled cheese. But cooking your sandwich slowly on low heat will ensure it browns uniformly and doesn’t burn.

 

The Green Mountain Special Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese via @kingarthurflour

The Sandwich:

In honor of our gorgeous state, this sandwich highlights some of Vermont’s finest ingredients: Grafton smoked maple cheddar and our very own pizza seasoning! Roasted tomatoes, sliced avocado, and mozzarella round out the sandwich.

Reminiscent of a slice of pizza in the best way possible, this sandwich gets an herb-y, savory kick from the pizza seasoning (a blend of oregano, garlic, onion, and more herbs and spices).

You can use any sharp cheddar (Cabot extra-sharp, pictured below, is a great option).

Grilled Cheese via @kingarthurflour

To Make It:

Spread tomatoes (we like using cherry tomatoes here) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle salt and freshly ground black pepper on top. Roast at 450°F until the tomatoes release their juices and begin to caramelize.

Layer thin slices of cheddar and fresh mozzarella on a slice of bread. Sprinkle generously with pizza seasoning. Top with a handful of roasted tomatoes and a few slices of avocado. Cover with the second piece of bread and cook.

Grilled Cheese Tip 3: Butter Them Up

Liberally buttering both sides of your bread will yield a gorgeous golden toasted crust. If you want an even better brown, use a combination of butter and mayonnaise on the outside of the bread.

The French Melt Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese via @kingarthurflour

The Sandwich:

This sandwich stole the show, for good reason! Two kinds of maple give an addictive sweet edge to an otherwise savory sandwich. The base is extra-sharp cheddar and caramelized onions. We used maple-mustard spread and Vermont Creamery’s cultured butter blended with sea salt and maple sugar to elevate the sandwich to new heights.

To Make It:

You can replicate this easily at home. Blend together 3 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard with 1 tablespoon maple syrup. In a separate small bowl, blend together 3 tablespoons softened butter with a pinch of sea salt and 1 teaspoon maple sugar (or maple syrup if you can’t find maple sugar).

Butter the outsides of two slices of bread (or spread with mayonnaise). Spread the inside of one slice liberally with the maple-mustard mixture. Add a layer of sliced cheddar and caramelized onions. Spread the inside of the second slice with the salted maple butter. Cook!

Grilled Cheese Tip 4: Bread Matters

Choose your bread wisely. We like a sturdy, easy-to-slice loaf. Pick a bread that doesn’t have too many holes and isn’t too fragile, so it can support the filling. We love our Rustic Sourdough Bread, our Classic Sandwich Bread, or our No-Knead Bread for grilled cheese sandwiches.

 

Are you hungry yet? Break out that skillet, and start cooking. We know it’s hard to choose from so many good options, so we suggest inviting over friends or family to host your own grilled cheese challenge! Make all four sandwiches, do a taste test, and tell us which wins in the comments below!

If you have another brilliant grilled cheese combination, we want to know that too. Grilled cheese for everyone!

comments

  1. waikikirie

    Haven’t even read the complete blog and my mouth is watering…..OMG….Can’t wait to complete the read and make some of these……YUMMMY

    Reply
  2. Julia

    In my house, we make grilled cheese sandwiches when we have tons of leftovers. The After-Christmas Grilled Cheese consists of goose, red cabbage and crunchy pieces of leftover bread dumplings (can you tell we’re in Germany?), all glued together with Comté. Add a side of dark, strong gravy for dipping. I actually prefer that over the actual Christmas dinner. Another favorite, the one we make after most Jewish holidays, is brisket on homemade challah. With gravy. We like our gravy around here!

    Reply
  3. Margy

    We have a local mini-franchise called “Grilled Cheese and Company” that specializes in…wait for it…a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches as their main menu!. They have a couple of salads and soups, one of which, of course, is tomato (because who can have a GCS without tomato soup?!), but the grilled cheese is the star of the show.

    Reply
  4. Erin R.

    Just be sure you get enough cheese leaking out the sides to touch the pan and make a nice cheese skirt. That is my best suggestion.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Erin, thanks for introducing me to the term “cheese skirt”! It’s my new favorite kind of skirt. Barb@KAF

  5. Mme Hawk

    Seedy pump. rye- lightly toasted, 1 sliced entire med. onion – caramelized, 3 or 4 crispy rashers, thick sliced swiss…salamandered or torched to melt cheese, cup tomato soup, wrist-wraps + bib –nirvana. Read others w/ interest for fondue party selections.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I love the wrist wraps and bib! Definitely necessary for a grilled cheese overflowing with goodness! Barb@KAF

  6. EL

    Mine is a leftover one as well. I generally make this as a toasted cheese sandwich, but it would probably be just fine grilled. Turkey (yes, too USA Thanksgiving), Peppadew Havarti and avocado. When I make this as a toasted cheese, I toast the havarti and then add the turkey and avocado afterwards (the avocado is the only cool item and adds a nice contrast). I also only use one slice of bread and use a couple of leaves of lettuce to help hold it all together.

    If I were going to do grilled cheese, I’d probably do a combo of mayo/dijon on at least one of the insides and (of course) use two slices of bread. Right now I use a rosemary foccacia and I don’t see why I wouldn’t continue to do that. You could use a panini press to grill it if necessary or Cut off the rounded top a bit to make it work. As for the holiness (ha ha!), you could think of it as “Cheese skirts are us”. Anyway, havarti doesn’t take long to melt. Soup? I’d probably still go with a good tomato, but make that creamy with chunks of tomato and possibly basil or chard. . .

    I only eat this after Thanksgiving or I’d gain way too much weight!

    Reply
  7. Mary

    On a recent cruise, grilled cheese sandwiches were served in the dining room. Before grilling, the buttered sandwich was coated with Parmesan. A double whammy of cheese–and, delicious!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Absolutely! Whole wheat sounds fantastic with these winner recipes. Elisabeth@KAF

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *