Yummy Bazaar is continuing the article series about the most frequently asked questions about gourmet ingredients and traditional foods. This time we’ll be answering the most searched questions about Camembert cheese.
What is Camembert Cheese?
Camembert is one of the most famous soft French cheese varieties. It’s often mistaken for its more popular ancestor, Brie cheese, due to similar visuals and texture.
Local Normandian folktale claims that Camembert cheese was created sometime in the 18th century by a local cheesemaker, Marie Harel, who was given the original soft cheese recipe by an Abbot from Brie and refined it using local Norman soft cheese traditions.
Camembert cheese has a soft and buttery texture similar to Brie, but it takes less time to ripen. If it takes Brie 4-6 weeks to properly mature, Camembert is considered ready for consumption in as little as three weeks (though it can be left to age for longer). Camembert is sometimes soft enough to act as spreadable cheese when that young.
Visuals are another similarity between Brie and Camembert: the color of the rind from stark white to off-white with a light grayish shade that can sometimes look a bit fuzzy. That famous fuzzy soft rind is, in reality, an edible mold (Penicillium Camemberti). Inside, the cheese is usually a tone or two darker, the shade varying from cream white to pale yellow.
Camembert cheese is most often molded into miniature wheels, at the about 4-inch diameter and weighing around 9oz (though it’s not uncommon to encounter large wheels cut into wedges these days). Camembert cheese wheels are packaged and sold whole when produced in their traditional shape.
Despite all the similarities with Brie cheese, Camembert has its own distinct identity that firmly sets it apart, primarily due to its more intense flavor and more potent aroma.
What Does Camembert Taste Like?
Where Brie is mellow with complex and delicate undertones, Camembert cheese has a more rustic and savory flavor.
It’s more robust and savory, with more prominent nutty and earthy undertones that often dominate the creamy and buttery flavor notes that take the leading part in Brie’s flavor profile.
Camembert is traditionally made with unpasteurized milk, though in recent years, production has been slowly but steadily switching to pasteurized milk.
Unpasteurized Camembert is said to have an even more distinct flavor, with strong grassy and fruity undertones adding depth and more complexity to its taste.
Can You Eat Camembert Cheese Raw? Are You Supposed to Eat Camembert Rind?
Not only can you eat Camembert cheese raw, as is, but you’re supposed to eat it together with the rind.
Some find the fuzzy mold that acts as the cheese rind unpleasant to the touch and may be tempted into cutting it away but bear in mind that rind is considered to be an essential flavoring element for the cheese itself, having a distinct taste of its own.
Cutting the rind away from Camembert before serving would be viewed as ruining the cheese.
How Should Camembert Cheese Be Eaten? Do You Cut Camembert Before Cooking?
Camembert can be eaten as is, right out of the package, or cooked. Traditionally, Camembert isn’t sliced before cooking, as baking it whole is the most common way of cooking it. Unless you consider using Camembert slices as a filling for paninis or grilled cheese as cooking, in which case yes, you cut Camembert before cooking.
Is Camembert Better Cold or Warm?
Camembert cheese is often served both ways, but when served on its own, it’s best to be at least a bit warm, if not fully melted. Baking Camembert is widely considered to be the best way to serve it: in this form, the cheese gets gooey and stretchy, with warmth bringing out the undertones and highlighting the nutty and earthy notes in the cheese.
Baked Camembert is an excellent dish for any party table, a quick and easy way to make it seem like you’ve put more effort and time into setting up than it requires in reality. Baked Camembert is a perfect dip for multiple ingredients, from fresh bread to crackers to veggie sticks.
Do You Put the Lid on When Baking Camembert Cheese? How Long Does it Take to Bake?
When baking the Camembert cheese, make sure to use a proper dish (preferably a cast iron skillet, but most heat-resistant vessels will do, especially when lined with parchment paper) and score the top of the cheese. Scoring is necessary to prevent the cheese from bursting and help it maintain its form, as, unlike Brie cheese, Camembert has trouble keeping its initial shape when baked.
Putting the lid on Camembert when baking might help it bake faster but it’ll also make it harder for the cheese to maintain its shape. Better leave it uncovered and wait for it to bake through a little longer; it won’t take much time anyway: around 10-15 minutes at 350ºF, 20 at most (the process length depends on how mature the cheese is).
Can You Cook Pasteurized Camembert? Does Pasteurized Camembert Melt?
Yes, despite what you might’ve heard, pasteurized Camembert cheese has the same excellent melting qualities as traditional, unpasteurized one.
There’s a kernel of truth behind the belief that pasteurized Camembert may not melt. Pasteurized milk cheese has a higher coagulation capacity, so if not cooked properly, it may not produce the desired gooey center. But, in my personal experience, I’ve yet to experience any trouble with melting pasteurized Camembert. Just keep the proper temperature of the oven, and check the center after 15 minutes of baking. If it’s not baked through, keep it in the oven for a few minutes more.
Why Does My Camembert Not Melt?
There are definitely instances when Camembert fails to melt, but it has less to do with whether it’s made with raw or pasteurized milk and more with the aging process.
The more mature the Camembert, the better it’ll melt. Fresh, young cheese with a chalkier texture just won’t melt as smoothly. That said, unless you’re shopping artisanal cheese from a small creamery, there’s likely no need to worry about your Camembert cheese melting capabilities: the vast majority of commercially packaged Camembert cheese is perfectly fit for melting.
Can You Reheat Camembert After It’s Been Baked?
Well, technically, yes. Eating reheated Camembert won’t make you ill or anything. But the cheese simply doesn’t lend itself well to “double cooking.” If you reheat baked Camembert, instead of becoming gooey and stretchy again, it’ll become dry and mostly flavorless.
Slicing the hardened baked Camembert and then slightly warming the slices either in a pan or on a grill, but keeping a close eye on the cheese to ensure it maintains proper texture.
Can You Microwave Camembert Cheese?
Microwaving Camembert cheese runs the same risk as microwaving Brie cheese: the cheese can quickly turn dry, rubbery, or greasy.
But if that’s the only option available, it can be done with proper caution: start by heating Camembert for around 40-45 seconds, check on it, and if it’s not enough keep heating it for additional 10-second increments.
Why is My Camembert Hard in the Middle? Why is My Camembert Watery?
A faulty texture usually indicates the cheese hasn’t been stored properly during the maturation process.
If Camembert is hard in the middle, it’s likely that either the temperature it was stored at the early stage was too high, or it was kept in the cave for too long and wasn’t moved to the required lower temp fast enough.
On the other hand, if the Camembert is watery, it means the cheese has been left to mature for too long. Camembert ages fast, and if left unattended for too long, it can quickly become overripe and runny.
What Food Goes Well with Camembert Cheese?
Classic cheese pairings of cured meats, fruits, nuts, and honey are all often paired with Camembert cheese, and its robust, versatile flavor allows for more freedom in choice than many other soft French cheese varieties.
Cured meats: Camembert is frequently paired with prosciutto; its delicate and tender flavor is considered an ideal pairing, but don’t be afraid to take a risk with more robust and savory options. Salami, Chorizo, and Bresaola all pair with Camembert quite well.
Fruits and jams: crispy, moderately sweet fruit like apples and pears are a standard option, but sweeter fruit like figs, apricots, and peaches, sweet but zesty berries, and even moderately tangy citrus (ex., ripe oranges) go well with Camembert cheese. Try to avoid overly sweet jams and go with those with a bit of tartness.
Nuts: pretty much any nuts you can think of work well with Camembert, but walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios are probably the ones that highlight its flavor the best.
Which is Better: Camembert or Brie?
Brie and Camembert aren’t rivals. They’re both delicious in their own right, and any attempt to elevate one while decrying the other will be largely biased and determined by the reviewer’s flavor preferences.
If you prefer rustic, robust, and savory cheese, then Camembert would suit you better, while lovers of mellow but complex cheese varieties would pick Brie.
How Long Is Camembert Cheese Good For?
Commercially packaged and vacuum-sealed Camembert will have its expiration date (or at least best-by date) on the label. Soft French cheese is an easily perishable item, but depending on the production and packaging method its shelf life can be significantly expanded. Don’t be surprised if the expiration date varies wildly between different manufacturers: it can be as little as just eight weeks and as long as 12 months.
As long as it’s stored correctly in a refrigerator.
Breaking the packaging dramatically reduces the cheese’s shelf life: Camembert is considered fit for consumption for about two weeks. It should be stored while wrapped in wax or parchment paper or in an airtight container.
Can You Freeze Camembert Cheese?
Yes, you can freeze Camembert cheese, but not without detriment to its texture and taste quality. Most cheese experts advise against freezing Camembert altogether, but since its shelf life is so short, freezing is still a better option than discarding it.
Expect the texture to become dry and a bit crumbly and the flavor to lose robustness. The best way to defrost it would be to keep it in the fridge overnight, as the oven or microwave will further dry it out.
Freezing can prolong Camembert cheese shelf life for up to 6 months, but it won’t work if the cheese has already reached the end of its optimal consumption period, so if you intend to freeze it, do so within ten days of opening the package.
Visit Yummy Bazaar’s Online French Grocery Store for More:
You’ll easily find authentic Brie cheese and other gourmet-quality French cheeses at Yummy Bazaar’s online French grocery store. All you need to do is add your favorites to your cart, and we’ll ensure it gets delivered right to your doorstep ASAP.