Arguably one of the most beloved of imported cheeses, Brie has a winning buttery flavor and texture that even picky eaters adore. It’s also one of the most versatile cheeses to enjoy in everything from cheeseboards to sandwiches, quiches, and more. Here’s a quick primer on how Brie is made plus some fun new ways to enjoy it!
♥ What is Brie?
Brie is a soft, creamy, off-white or pale yellow cheese typically sold in rounds. Authentic Brie Cheese is made from cow’s milk, but some small dairies produce goat and sheep milk varieties too. Originating in France in a town called Brie where it earned i’s name, Brie is now made worldwide. It is one of several soft-ripened kinds of cheeses with what’s known as a “bloomy rind”.
♥ That Signature Rind
The classic soft, white bloomy rind of Brie is actually a form of penicillin! Brie develops a natural, white mold (usually Penicillium candidum), which gives it that characteristic fluffy white rind on the exterior of the rounds. The rind of Brie is entirely edible and usually an enjoyable part of the cheese although they may be removed for cooking. For more on cheese-making and aging check out our Cheesemaking 101.
♥ Soft Ripening
This live rind breaks down the fats and proteins of the cheese, causing an increasing creamy or even runny texture over time. Soft-ripened cheeses like Brie ripen from the outside, closest to the rind, first and then slowly ripen towards the middle of the cheese. If you’ve ever cut into a wheel of brie that is soft and runny around the edges and firmer in the center, you’ve seen an example of this. Once a wheel of Brie has been cut into, it no longer continues to ripen.
♥ Brie vs Camembert
While they share a similar flavor profile Brie and Camembert cheeses are not the same. Both are soft-ripened cow’s milk cheeses with one key difference. During the cheese-making process heavy cream is added to Brie giving it it’s signature rich, thick finish and a higher % milk fat than Camembert.
♥ Purchasing and Storing
When purchasing Brie, the rind should feel firm, while the center should be springy but not wet. Underripe Brie will feel hard when gently pressed with your finger, while overripe Brie will feel mushy to the touch. Hard, underripe Brie won’t ripen much once you get it home. It should have a sweet odor too – an overripe Brie rind will often smell like ammonia and should be passed by. Any wet, slimy or brown spots on the rind are also indicators of a Brie gone past its prime.
As with all imported cheeses, you should always take Brie out of the refrigerator about an hour before serving to come to room temperature for the best flavor and texture. After you cut into a round of Brie, it begins to lose quality immediately. So plan to eat it within five days. Store it wrapped in wax paper in a glass container to retain its quality.
One of the best things about Brie is how many different ways you can serve and enjoy it! Whole rounds can be baked in the oven with or without a pastry, it can be slathered onto flatbreads as in our Blueberry, Balsamic, and Brie Flatbread, melted into a luscious Fondue for Two, or even enjoyed for dessert as in our Brie Cookies with Port Cherry Jam or Caramel Apple Baked Brie. So the next time you visit your favorite cheese counter be sure to pick up a wheel of Brie to enjoy in one of our fun and unexpected ways!