I do not have much of a sweet tooth – given the choice between a slice of cake and a slice of cheese, the cheese will win every time. But I am also not big on making choices – so in an ideal world I would want something sweet AND some cheese. So I am always keen for new suggestions as to how to combine sweets and cheese. Brian at Kisch’nZinc recently posted a corker of a recipe – it’s the ideal recipe for a choice-phobe like me as it combines the best of both worlds – sweet yet cheesy.
As the recipe calls for a round of Brie, I thought I’d delve up a few Brie facts. Traditionally, Brie a French soft, mold-ripened cheese made of unpasteurized cow’s milk and strictly speaking, to be called Brie, it must be made in the Seine-et-Marne area south of Paris. Neither of these statements is strictly true these days. Many countries now commercially manufacture a similar cheese which is sold as Brie (South Africa being one of them – see Simonsberg and Fairview for example) – I wonder if this will survive the EU’s attempt to legislate out of existence all use of area-specific names outside of said area, e.g. port and sherry, which SA winemakers may no longer use on their labels? The use of unpastuerised milk also creates problems. For example, if you want to import cheese into the USA, cheeses made with raw milk must be aged for at least sixty days in order to qualify for US importation – this might make Brie too overripe for consumption! So today, Brie is neither exclusively French, nor made exclusively with unpasteurised milk.
Brie made of unpasteurized milk develops a natural, off-white mold on the exterior of the rounds. The white moldy rind is quite edible and is usually eaten. Those Bries made of pasteurized milk must be sprayed with artificial spores to grow the mold. The cheese takes anywhere from one to three months to ripen, depending on the size of the flat discs. Ripening progresses from outside in, so when testing for ripeness the centre rather than the outer rim should be gently pressed with a finger. Underripe Brie will feel hard, while overripe Brie will feel too soft and runny to the touch. The exterior should be firm, while the center should be springy but not watery. Brie stops aging once it is sliced, so if it is not properly aged when you cut into it, it will not improve (but ripe, uncut Brie may be frozen up to six months). Brie should be brought to room temperature or warmed before eating – which brings be back to Brian’s fabulous recipe.
Go ahead – try it! You know you want to…