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TIP OF THE DAY: Get A Heart-Shaped Cheese

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Coeur de Bray, a heart-shaped Neufchâtel
cheese. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.
 

Different heart-shaped cheeses appear at this time of year, especially goat cheeses. But the first heart-shaped cheese, created in the 14th century, was Neufchâtel (NU-shah-tell), a soft-riped cow’s milk cheese with a white rind.

Note that French Neufchâtel is different from the American product of the same name, sold as a lower-fat alternative to cream cheese. American Neufchâtel has been disappearing over the last decade, as cream cheese manufacturers have marketed their own lowfat and nonfat versions.

Authentic French Neufchâtel is one of the oldest cheeses in France and the oldest cheese in Normandy, dating back as far as the sixth century. Soft and crumbly, its dry, white rind is velvety and edible.

Its buttery, pale paste has a salty, somewhat sharp flavor has soft mushroom notes, like Brie. Like Brie, the cheese develops an earthy character as it ages.

 
Serve it with crusty bread, cherry jam, fresh berries or dried fruit.

Neufchâtel pairs nicely with a crisp, dry white wine. Murray’s suggests Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc or Rosé. We prefer Champagne. And if you’re a red wine drinker, bring on the Burgundy.

 

WHY A HEART?

It is available in various shapes, the famous Neufchâtel heart shape is a tradition begun by young Norman women, as the story goes, to discreetly express their feelings of affection for young British soldiers during the 100 Years’ War*.
 
COEUR DE BRAY

This particular Neufchatel heart comes from the Pays de Bray, an area in northern Normandy. The name is AOC protected.

It is “made from buckets of cream” from the famed dairy cows of Normandy, according to Murray’s Cheese, which sells it at retail and online for $15.99.

  neufchatel-heart-paper-cheesesoffranceFB-230
A Neufchâtel heart, slightly aged. Photo courtesy Cheeses Of France.
 

MAKE COEUR À LA CRÈME

You can make your own heart-shaped cheese, the famed Coeur à La Crème (heart of cream).

This luscious mascarpone creation (that’s the same cheese used to make tiramisu) is served with berries or a sauce of raspberry purée for dessert.

Here’s the recipe.

 
*A series of conflicts from 1337 to 1453 between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France for control of the French throne. The war is commonly divided into three phases separated by truces, which together comprise the longest military conflict in history: the Edwardian Era War (1337–1360), the Caroline War (1369–1389) and the Lancastrian War (1415–1353), which saw the slow decline of English fortunes after the appearance of Joan of Arc in 1429. The French kept the throne and the cheese.
  




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