Why does Camembert refuse to melt sometimes?
Answering the foodie questions you didn’t even know you had
So how do you know if Camembert is ripe? Photograph: Getty
Imagine the scene – you’ve gathered some of your nearest and dearest around a wheel of baked Camembert. Expectations are high, crusty bread is at the ready. Then, to your horror, when you rip at the rind you find a limp and lumpy hot mess, not the gooey magic of molten cheese you were hoping for. What gives? Was this Camembert too cheap to melt? Will only the finest quality Camembert deign to ooze once heated?
Having fallen foul of this cheesy tragedy recently, I contacted Kevin Sheridan of Sheridan’s Cheesemongers (sheridanscheesemongers.com) to get some expert advice on baking Camembert. “It’s not actually about the quality of the Camembert,” he tells me, and explains that it’s all about ripeness. “The riper the Camembert, the better the melt. If you try it with quite a young, chalky Camembert, you will not get a smooth liquid melt.”
So how do you know if a Camembert is ripe when buying? According to Sheridan, the Camembert should feel soft to touch, but another good indicator is the best before date. Generally the cheese is at its best with about 10 days or less of shelf life. “Camembert continues to ripen in the store fridges and in our own fridges at home,” says Sheridan.
Usually (though not always) the better the quality of cheese, the yummier the taste experience. Sheridan recommends the Baking Cooleeney made from pasteurised cow’s milk from the Maher family’s Friesian dairy herd on their farm in Tipperary (cooleeney.com). He also recommends the Swiss or French Mont d’Or which truly makes Christmas the most wonderful time of year for cheese lovers. “The stronger the original cheese, the stronger the resulting baked cheese. The flavour is always intensified when heated which is why a milder cheese is often better. That is why Mont d’Or is so good; it’s mild but at the same time has depth of flavour.”
So this Christmas you can be sure to melt Camembert, Mont d’Or and other melty cheeses for Santa. Just make sure you give them time to ripen.