How to Bake the Perfect Wheel of Camembert
France is known for its astounding array of cheeses — more than 300 to date — but Camembert remains an offering of international prestige. It’s a popular choice for dinner party fare, adding a rich note to before- or after-dinner palate pleasing dishes. Baked Camembert cheese is redolent, savoury, and pairs well with a number of other flavours, keeping it a popular choice with roots of deep tradition. True, baking a cheese is a task that can be done by almost anyone. However, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the hints and techniques used by experts in order to produce a perfectly baked cheese, gooey and decadent.
What’s Cheese Without a Bit of History?
Camembert is a small town in Normandy, France, which has been famous for its cheeses for centuries. Reports of delicious cheeses from the town market were recorded as far back as the 1600s. However, one lady dairy farmer takes the cheese when it comes to creating the iconic flavours we associate with this type of cheese today.
In 1791, when the country was embroiled by Revolution, Marie Harel introduced her cheese-loving compatriots to a particular interpretation of the regional pride. Since that time, cheese makers have attempted to remain true to her version and techniques for producing a sublimely redolent and creamy cheese with a bloomy rind produced by a specific profile of microorganisms.
Cheese itself represents a sophisticated system of cultivation and fermentation—some of our earliest human tools of food preservation. The original template for Camembert cheese as we know it was likely developed within the context of the religious community—one of the first purveyors of fermented food and drink as a way to extend, preserve, or transform food surplus from local farms and fields. Harel secreted a man of the cloth during the Revolutionary period, and cheese scholars believe it is from him that she derived the original concept for her famous cheese.
The Quality Inside the Rind
Camembert is less bound geographically than some other types of cheese, and can be reproduced or adapted by local artisan cheese makers, today. What is vital is that you select the best quality cheese available. Shopping local is just one of the added benefits of using this variety.
When you bake your cheese, it’s important to note that you can ruin your beautiful dairy creation with over or under-baking it. Experts recommend baking the wheel for ten to fifteen minutes and checking the inner consistency by touch. It should be like a waterbed within the confines of the rind, so a touch test in the centre of the top surface should yield this impression. The cheese pairs well with fig or citrus. Earthy notes from truffles and honey or woody herbs such as sage also compliment Camembert’s natural creamy texture and delicate, fruity aromas. Below, we’ve included a recipe that is both easy and a perfect expression of this lovely cheese that is sure to please any dinner guest.
To bake your Camembert (finished with nuts and fig relish), preheat your oven to 180C. On a circle of baking paper two centimetres larger in diameter, centre your cheese. Score the top of the cheese rind with a sharp knife. Bake approximately 15 minutes, keeping a close watch on it. When it has begun to caramelise and the inner cheese is melting, remove and promptly top with the relish described below. Serve with sourdough bread rounds.
120g dried figs, coarsely chopped
250g fresh figs, chopped
15g fresh ginger, finely grated
4 medium pears, chopped, peeling optional
1 chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 red onion, diced
2 tsp salt
200g brown sugar
250ml balsamic vinegar
juice and zest of 1 small lime
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Then, remove the lid and continue simmering for 1 hour. This should result in a thick, glossy mixture.
75g dried, unsweetened cranberries
75g coarse sugar
½ tsp salt, or to taste.
Lightly oil the nuts and toss until thoroughly coated with your salt and sugar. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 100C oven for ten minutes. Allow them to cool fully before chopping them roughly and mixing with the cranberries. You may store these in an airtight container and use as needed.