2(8-ounce) packages reduced-fat cream cheeseat room temperature
6–10dasheshot saucesuch as Tabasco (I like this little hotter, so we go closer to 10, but if you’d like a sweeter cheese ball, stick to the lower end)
1cupfreshly shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1cupraw pecan pieces
2tablespoonschopped fresh parsley
Crackers or baguette slices(I like buttery Ritz-type crackers or town house crackers)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and preserves until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the bowl, then beat in the garlic powder, salt, and hot sauce, and then the cheddar cheese.
Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Scrape the cheese mixture into the center in as circle-like of a mound as you can. It will not be a perfect ball at this point. Wrap the edges of the plastic around it to seal and encourage it to form a round ball. Place the wrapped cream cheese in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Toast the pecans: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread the pecans onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, stirring once or twice, until they are deeply toasted and fragrant. Watch very carefully toward the end of the baking time to ensure the pecans do not burn. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into small bits. Let cool completely to room temperature.
When ready to serve, remove the cheese ball from the refrigerator. Place the chopped pecans on a plate. (I find it’s easiest to use a plate with edges that curve up a little. A pie dish works well too.) Add the parsley and lightly mix with your fingers to combine. Unwrap the cheese ball and place it on the plate with the parsley and pecans, coating well. The cheese ball won't roll like a true ball. Gently lift and turn it, patting the pecans and parsley all over the outside. Carefully lift it onto a serving plate. Serve with crackers or baguette slices.
Cheese ball can be prepared up to 1 day in advance and will last 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. For the best taste and easy dipping, let stand at room temperature 15 minutes prior to serving.