Joseph De Leo
With its whimsical presentation and addictive flavor, this is a dish that deserves a platter all unto itself. Smaller beehives can be made for individual servings using small bowls or ramekins and are a fun way to dress up cheese boards, but the drama of a large beehive can’t be beat.
This is an inspired creation of my mentor, Carlo Middione. His version calls for bûcheron chèvre, but I have found that the fresh goat cheeses from upstate New York or Napa Valley, Calif., serve well for this dish and are far less costly.
Bennington Potters in Vermont makes a batter bowl with a shape that’s perfect for creating a beehive appearance.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Spread out the garlic on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Bake on the middle rack for 35-40 minutes, or until deep golden brown with burnt spots here and there. Being careful not to burn your fingers, give the garlic heads a pinch. They should be very soft. Remove from the oven, let cool to room temperature, and cut each head in half horizontally with a serrated bread knife.
Squeeze the roasted garlic pulp into a bowl, removing any garlic peel that may fall into the bowl. Mix the garlic pulp with a whisk until smooth. (Save the peels to make a delicious roasted garlic stock for soup.) Line a 1-quart bowl with cheesecloth or muslin with plenty of overhang. Bring the goat cheese to room temperature.
Using clean and slightly damp hands, press a small amount of the cheese into the cloth-lined bowl. It should be a layer about 1-inch-thick. This will be the top of the beehive. Add enough garlic purée to make a layer about 1-inch-thick; repeat with the goat cheese, forming it into a disk 1-inch-thick and of the same circumference of the mold. Continue with the alternating layers of goat cheese and garlic, ending with the cheese. Cover with the overhanging cheesecloth or muslin and refrigerate overnight.
An hour or so before serving, peel back the cheesecloth or muslin. Place a cake stand upside down on the bowl and then invert them together. Remove the bowl and peel off the cheesecloth or muslin to reveal the beehive. Any cracks in the goat cheese can be smoothed with a wet finger or spatula. Drizzle the beehive with honey to complete the beehive theme and balance the aromatic garlic.
Serve with crostini, crackers, or plenty of crusty bread.