We plan on eating a whole lot of cheese this fall, and then we’ll talk abut it here. Sarah kicked off the cheese-fest with a nut crusted brie, and while there are many different cheeses in the world, I couldn’t help but share another delicious brie idea. Next time a hard cheese, we promise.
I love the flavor of truffles, and whenever there is a truffled this or that on a menu, I’m going to order it. My last truffle indulgence was the delicious Lamb Bolognese with Truffled Ricotta Gnucchi at The Pullman in Glenwood Springs, CO. So good! And what a great guy Calder is by indulging my truffle love – he hates the flavor (thinks it tastes like gasoline!), but he knew that a jar of truffle honey would be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.
Truffle honey is made by adding shaved truffles to honey and then heating it to speed up the extraction of the truffle flavor. You should be able to find some at gourmet cheese shops, but it’s also easy to buy online. It’s not cheap, but a single jar goes a long way. The jar I have has an intense flavor, so just like dishes that use truffle oil or real truffles, this may not be for everyone. Of course, if you know a truffle lover, I guarantee you that they will love this!
Until receiving this gift, I never had or heard of truffle honey and wasn’t sure what to do with it, but quickly discovered that it’s commonly paired with cheese and bread. But what cheese? It seems that everyone has their favorite pairing, some swear by a hard and strong cheeses like parmesan or cheddar while others gush over a soft and mild brie. I decided that I didn’t want to pair the honey with a strong flavored cheese, so I went with a relatively mild and rich brie. Once I had my cheese, I knew that the soft cheese/honey combination was calling out for a chewy bread that wouldn’t crumble with each bite. So I threw a baguette into my cart and we had the makings for a perfect appetizer.
Bries are soft cheeses from France. They’re made from cow’s milk and surrounded by a hard, moldy or “bloomy“, edible rind. The mold will have a white to light yellow color (not the blues of the molds that come to mind when talking about blue cheese). The mold is essential to creating the cheese as it works to break down the fat and proteins of the milk and cream. Bries vary by the amount of cream used to make them, you may see “double” or “triple” on the label signifying increasing amounts of cream. Increasing the cream level increases the richness and buttery-smooth texture of the final cheese.
When picking a brie you want to look for a “ripe” cut. When brie is perfectly ripe, it won’t be runny or pungent (there are other soft cheeses that are made to be purposefully pungent, brie isn’t one of them). As a brie ripens, you may notice that the wheel of cheese will bulge slightly, especially when cut. You’ll likely buy a wedge from a larger wheel, which makes picking easier. Look for a wedge with a uniform interior consistency that is slowly falling out of the rind. For comparison, an unripe wedge will have a firm interior (or combination firm and soft) that is the same shape as the wedge, i.e. not expanding beyond the original cut.
There are a variety of bries on the market, and I think Supreme is a great, basic example that’s affordable and readily available at many grocers (including Trader Joes if you’re looking for a source).
Once you have your cheese, honey, and bread, serving is easy. We placed everything on a marble board with utensils for self-service. A bread knife for the baguette, a spreader for the cheese, and a small spoon for the honey. That way everyone could personalize their serving. Calder could skip the honey, I could pile it on (and then eat it straight from the spoon), and our civilized guests could take as much or little as they wanted with each slice.
If you have the opportunity, I hope you’ll give truffle honey a try. And with the upcoming holiday/entertaining season, this makes a fantastic surprise to any cheese plate or gift for your truffle-loving friends!