Brie is undoubtedly one of the most famous cheeses in the world, greatly beloved for its soft texture and mellow but distinct flavor. In the article below, we’ll be answering the most frequently googled questions about Brie cheese regarding its origins, uses, storage, and more, with no fluff to keep the simple answers easily accessible in one place. If you have any questions regarding Brie cheese, you will likely find them here.
What is Brie Cheese?
One of the oldest and likely most seminal among soft French cheese varieties, Brie is thought to have first been made in the early middle ages, possibly as early as around the 7th century.
Brie is traditionally made with cow’s milk, though goat milk is used sometimes. Initially made with unpasteurized whole milk, with the increase in Brie export, the production has almost entirely switched to pasteurized milk. Largely, due to complex rules associated with exporting unpasteurized cheese varieties. Nowadays, it’s primarily certain protected varieties with PDO status that have stuck with original guidelines.
Brie cheese has a very soft, creamy, and smooth texture, only a little firmer than spreadable cheese like Chevre or Ricotta. It’s because of the high butterfat content: authentic Brie cheese is supposed to have no less than 60% of butterfat and can go as high up as 75%. This latter type of Brie cheese is called Triple Creme Brie and is made with adding extra cream to the cheese paste.
On the outside, the cheese is covered with a grayish-white, powdery soft rind. The rind is actually a form of edible mold called Penicillium Candidum. The cheese paste is darker, ranging from creamy white to pale yellow.
What Does Brie Cheese Taste Like?
Brie cheese taste is complex and multilayered, mostly buttery and creamy, but also sweet, somewhat fruity, and distinct earthy and savory notes, which become more pronounced as the cheese ages.
Brie cheese has a distinct flavor profile that quickly sets it apart from other soft French cheese, even those that closely resemble it visually (ex., Camembert, Reblochon, Coulommiers, etc.). Brie cheese taste is mellow but rich. At first bite, the leading flavor notes are creamy and buttery, but strong mushroomy and earthy undertones start coming out soon after. The more mature the cheese, the stronger the umami undertones. Brie also has a distinct sweetness and slight tang to it, with sweetness more noticeable the younger the Brie is.
What is the Coating on Brie Cheese Made of? Should You Eat Brie Skin?
Brie cheese is covered with a grayish-white soft rind. The rind is not just an outer layer of hard skin protecting the cheese paste but a type of mold called Penicillium Candidum, an edible fungus.
A white powder in its raw form can be mixed with the cheese curd before its transfer into the molds or added to the outside of the cheese once it’s already been formed and is removed from the molds. In the latter case, the cheese is sprayed with the solution containing mold spores right before its stored for aging.
Once the cheese is placed in a room with a carefully regulated humidity level that’s supposed to encourage the mold to bloom on the outside of the paste; the mold is then patted down again and again over the course of 4-6 weeks (standard duration of Brie cheese aging) until it forms a proper soft powdery rind.
Penicillium Candidum rind is very thin, soft, and entirely edible. In fact, it protects the soft insides from developing harmful bacteria. While you can cut off the rind if you don’t like the powdery texture, it’s encouraged not to take the rind off, as its flavor adds depth to the overall Brie cheese taste.
What Is Brie Cheese Best for?
Brie cheese is a versatile cheese due to both its taste and texture. The complex flavor profile works well with both sweet and savory flavors.
Being mild but distinct, it can be paired with multiple ingredients without either overpowering them or being overpowered. Its excellent melting capabilities make it an easy addition to more complex dishes that require baking or broiling, from an easy filling for a hot panini or pizza topping to gratins, quiches, and pasta sauces.
How Do You Eat Brie Cheese? Can You Eat Brie Cold?
While baked Brie is likely the most famous way to serve Brie, it’s not necessary to bake or even warm Brie up to enjoy it. You can eat Brie cold, as is, either adding it to a sandwich or as an appetizer with some fruit, bread, or crackers. A bite of Brie to savor, followed by a bite of white bread to cleanse the palate, is apparently considered the best way to eat Brie cheese.
What Goes Well with Brie Cheese?
Brie cheese goes well with both savory and sweet ingredients but is traditionally paired with fruits and nuts more often due to its mellow flavor.
Fruit: sweet stone fruits like figs, apricots, peaches, and plums are considered to be the ideal pairing, but Brie goes well with most fruit, including more tangy berries (cranberries, blackberries, etc.) and grapes.
Jam: jams from the same sweet fruit are often paired with Brie, but tarter jams do balance with Brie cheese the easiest. Cranberries, red currants, blackberries, and like.
Nuts: hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, and walnuts are a classic pairing, but other sweet nuts like cashews and Macadamia nuts also work well.
Cured Meats: Brie works well with both robust, savory cured meats like Chorizo, Jamon, and Bresaola and sweeter, more delicate cured meats like prosciutto, mortadella, and Genoa salami. In the first case, Brie’s mellow flavor cuts through the savoriness, while in the latter, the delicate sweetness in cured meats accentuates Brie’s own.
Can I Microwave Brie Cheese?
Well, you can, but it’s not ideal. When melted in the microwave, cheese runs the risk of becoming dried out, rubbery, or greasy. But if you don’t have an oven available, you can make do with the microwave if you’re careful.
Score the top side of Brie cheese as you would for the oven, and microwave on high for around 45 seconds. Depending on your microwave's strength, it may already be enough, but if not, start adding time in 15-second increments. 2-3 additional increments should be enough.
How Should I Cook Brie?
Baking in the oven on a cast iron skillet is considered an ideal way to make Brie. 350F for 10 to 20 minutes (depending on how wide and thick your Brie is) is what most recipes settle for.
When added to more complex dishes, the primary indicator should be how ready the main ingredient is.
Combined with other ingredients, you run a lesser risk of Brie turning rubbery or dry, but keeping its cooking time under 20 minutes is what most recipes aim for. Brie melts quickly, so if you’re just adding it as a garnish on top of something (say pizza or a pasta bake), even 5 minutes before the dish is done should be enough.
How Do You Cut Brie Cheese?
The warmer the cheese is, the harder it will be to slice it since its paste will start sticking to the knife, and you’ll have trouble separating them. Chilled, it maintains the structure better, so start cutting as soon as you get it out of the refrigerator.
There are rules to cutting Brie, depending on the form the cheese is in: a small wheel in its entirety or a wedge of a giant wheel.
The small wheel should first be cut into halves, and then each half should be cut either in triangular wedges (more appealing for a cheese platter) or horizontal slices (for sandwiches, toppings, etc.).
The large wedge should be cut into long pieces from tip to rind. Cutting the tip of the wedge off is frowned upon as it’s regarded as the most flavorful part.
How Long Does Brie Last?
Commercially packaged and vacuum-sealed Brie lasts for months and can go up to a year, depending on the manufacturer. The packaging will very likely have a “best by” or “expiration” date printed on the label, and you should be fine by that point, as long as the Brie in question has been appropriately stored. Check the packaging for any damages (tearing, broken seal, etc.), as that would considerably shorten its shelf life, rendering the date on the packaging null. If any damage has occurred, contact the manufacturer immediately so they can assess the damage and give further instructions on whether to dispose of the cheese or not.
Once the packaging has been opened, Brie's shelf life drops considerably. When properly stored, it lasts for about two weeks on average, +/- a few days.
How Can You Tell If Brie is off? Is Brie Supposed to Have Brown Spots?
The first sign that Brie cheese has started to go off is its appearance: the moldy rind will start to go darker, developing dark gray patches. When you cut the cheese, you’ll notice that the paste inside has gone hard and almost brown near the edges, close to the rind, and dark opaque yellow in the middle.
Another telling sign is that spoiled Brie smells very strongly of ammonia.
Some faint brownish spots on the rind are fine, they occur naturally during the cheese ripening process, but if they weren’t already there when you opened the packaging, later development might also be indicative of spoilage. The texture will be another clue: if the spots are wet or slimy, then they point at cheese gone past its prime.
How Do You Store Brie? Does Brie Cheese Need to be Refrigerated?
Whether it’s in vacuum packaging or has been opened, Brie cheese needs to be kept in a cool and dry place, with a refrigerator being the best option.
Once the Brie has been unsealed, it should be transferred to an airtight container or wrapped in parchment or wax paper at the very least. A two-layer wrapping of parchment and aluminum foil will also work. The idea is to preserve the soft cheese texture, protect it from absorbing other odors that will ruin its delicate aroma, and stop it from spreading its scent onto the rest of the refrigerator.
Can Brie Be Left Unrefrigerated?
Brie cheese can be left unrefrigerated for around 4 hours without danger of going off. But since Brie is a perishable product that’s highly sensitive to temperature, that timetable isn’t exact: in extreme heat and humidity, it’s advisable not to leave cheese unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours (a standard guideline for all perishable products), while in colder temperatures, the cheese can last unharmed even longer. But generally, if the temperature in your house is regulated, 4 hours seem to be the mark.
Can You Freeze Brie Cheese?
Yes, you can freeze Brie cheese to prolong its shelf life, lasting up to 6 months. However, if Brie was already open for more than two weeks, it likely won’t keep for very long, even frozen.
There’s also a matter of its quality to consider: while defrosted Brie will be fit for consumption, its quality will significantly decline. The texture will no longer be as soft and silky but will become drier and a bit crumbly. The best way to defrost it would be to keep it in the fridge overnight instead of trying to speed it along with the oven or microwave.
Frozen Brie is better for cooking than a cold appetizer. You can add it to dishes still frozen, letting it thaw during the cooking process.
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