Saturday, 18 February 2012

Baking Camembert.

Baked Camembert seems to have very quickly become very popular. Every pub and restaurant have one on their menu in some form, ranging from the sublime to the, well, horrendous. As with any food trend, the quality of the dish can suffer with its popularisation, and can be subjected to horrendous and quirky interpretation. Or at best, punches below it's weight and falls to mediocrity. Surely putting a cheese (with comes usefully in a wooden box for baking) into the oven and cooking until molten is fairly fool proof? Sadly it wouldn’t seem so – I can vouch for this having recently been subjected to a nasty version of what should be the simplest and most delicious of cheese dishes.
A firm, cold cheese (mistake number one) had been cut in half horizontally (mistake number two, I didn’t order “half a baked Camembert), dipped in truffle oil (mistake number three, truffle oil is almost always rank), nuked for 2 minutes (mistake number four), and served with cold tomato bread and cranberry sauce (mistakes number five and six: what cuisine puts cranberries, truffles and tomatoes on the same plate? A confused one apparently).

Don’t get me wrong, I adore a dish full of molten, gooey cheese, but not if its been buggered about with.
A decent Camembert isn’t too hard to track down. For a real cheese, choose a Camembert de Normandie Appellation d'origin contrôlée, and look out for the phrases “moule a la louche” and “au lait cru” - hand ladled and made with raw milk. A cheese whose box bears these words should be good, but always inspect the cheese inside before buying – the rind should be delicate, not too thick or with too many brown areas. A little brown is fine, a good indication the cheese has developed well and is ready, but too much and the cheese could be eye-stingingly sharp and full of ammonia flavours.

Before baking, let the cheese come to room temperature for an hour. This will help the cheese cook more evenly, and not leave you with a cold, uncooked centre.

Remove the cheese from its wooden box, and take off the waxed paper. Carefully place back into the box and make a small cross in the centre of the cheese. Lightly crush a clove of garlic and bruise a small sprig of thyme, and push them deep into the cheese.

Place the lid of the box over the cheese and wrap the box in foil – to catch any escaping cheese as it melts. Cook for 15 minutes, at 180ºC until the cheese is molten and collapsing.

Eat as soon as the cheese comes out of the oven, with toasted chunks of chewy sourdough to mop up the liquid cheese, a fruity chutney to cut through the richness, and a glass of soft and buttery Burgundy Pinot Noir.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After many a night searching Stratford-Upon-Avon for a decent baked Camembert I whole heartedly agree. Simple and Delicious.