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TIP OF THE DAY: Brie For Dessert

Here’s an idea for Mother’s Day for moms who don’t want cake or other sugary dessert: Brie.

Brie and its cheese brothers are known as bloomy-rind, soft-ripened or surface-ripened (i.e., ripened from the outside) cheeses. These terms refer to their their downy, edible white rind.

The cheesemaker creates the rind by adding a powdered form of mold (Penicillium candidum, Penicillium camemberti), yeast, and/or a yeast-like fungus, Geotrichum candidum.

These microorganisms bloom on the exterior of the ripening cheeses, ultimately forming the rind. They break down the fats and proteins of a cheese, creating the creamy texture. The result: lush, creamy, unctuous cheese delight.

The longer the cheese ages, the runnier it gets. Cheese Trivia: An older cheese will develop an extra creamy, custardy layer just under the rind, which is called the creamline. It’s an extra layer of texture and flavor.

Can you eat the bloomy rind? Any serious cheese lover will: It’s delicious!

It’s easy to confuse Brie and Camembert. They are similar recipes, made in different parts of France with different terroirs. They are different sizes. Here’s the difference.

Some other bloomy rind cheeses found in the U.S., both domestic and French, include:

  • Brillat Savarin (France)
  • Chaource (France)
  • Cotton Bell (North Carolina)
  • Coulommiers (France)
  • Devil’s Gulch (California)
  • Fromager d’Affinois (France)
  • Humboldt Fog (California)
  • Moses Sleeper (Vermont)
  • Mt. Tam (California)
  • Pierre Robert (France)
  • St. Andre (France)
  • St. Agur (France)
    However, the French cheeses are made in larger wheels and sold in wedges rather than in smaller rounds. Go for the American varieties; and if you need advice, don’t hesitate to ask your cheesemonger.

    To bake or not to bake? In the warm weather, there’s no reason to bake a Brie—especially when it’s going to be sliced for individual portions.

    You can use all of these as a top garnish (photo #2), or serve some on the side (photo #1).

  • Caramel sauce or fruit purée
  • Chocolate bar or bark pieces (dark is better)
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Berries
  • Figs
  • Nuts
  • Orange zest
  • Preserves (especially fig or quince) or chutney
  • Sweet herbs*
    For a savory touch, add some olives. Red cerignola olives are especially nice for the occasion.

    Instead of baguette slices and water biscuits, go for flavorful choices such as:

  • Artisan graham crackers
  • Fruit and/or nut crackers (see Raincoast Crisps)
  • Fruit and/or nut bread
  • Ginger snaps
  • La Panzanella Croccantini
  • Oatmeal or wheatmeal biscuits

    Brie Cheese Board
    [1] You can top the cheese with one fruit and let guests select from other accompaniments (photo courtesy The Almond Eater).

    Brie Dessert
    [2] Bring the cheese to the table cut into slices, for easy serving (photo courtesy Baldor Specialty Foods).

    Cranberry Pecan Brie
    [3] For fall, consider chopped nuts and dried fruits. Orange zest is a nice added touch. You can also top the cheese with chunky cranberry sauce or chutney (photo courtesy Damn Delicious).

    Brie With Compote Topping
    [4] You can top the cheese with homemade compote. Here’s a ginger-pear compote recipe from Eat Wisconsin Cheese, and our guidelines for making fruit compote.


    Some people enjoy a cheese course instead of a sweet dessert; and some like it with a bit of salad.

    Mesclun (mixed baby greens) with a light toss of vinaigrette is the way to go here. To avoid an acid clash with the sweet complements to the cheese, we make a balsamic vinaigrette.

    White wines and rosés pair better with bloomy rinds than red wines. Fruity whites are better than dry whites. We like a good Pinto Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

    Champagne or other dry sparkling wines (Cava, Crémant, Prosecco, etc.) add a festive flair, as do sweet sparklers such as Asti Spumanti, Brachetto d’Acqui (a rosé), or a dry Prosecco (in wine terminology, “dry” means sweeter).


    *Sweet herbs include chamomile, lavender, lemon verbena, licorice, mint, rose geranium and tarragon.

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