Friday, May 30, 2008


"A similar cheese to brie, Camembert is formed into smaller wheels and may have a slightly more robust flavor than its larger cousin."

I'm a huge fan of Camembert. Most cheese-lovers are, except for my friend Kristin. Like the quote above suggests, it is similar to Brie, as in it is super runny when room temperature, but it has a more distinct taste than most Bries. (Brie cheeses are misleading though- the good ones from France are smelly and more strong in taste than the ones we can purchase in the USA.) While living here, we've managed to try a small variety of Camemberts and a couple Bries. The Caprice de Dieu is really easy-going and a favorite of mine. It doesn't have the real Camembert taste, though. Its appeal is its wonderful creamy texture and ability to go with any meal. Most recently, we tried le Rustique de Printemps, which just means it's made with milk produced in the springtime. It was pretty good and had more flavor than the Caprice. If you're after a true Camembert, it's best to get one from a fromagerie or somewhere with special cheeses. In the US, this kind won't be available because it's not pasteurized. C'est dommage! You will just have to try the real thing in France!

Truly Dave's opinion: "Camembert makes your fridge stink!! In order to prevent the smell from affecting your taste buds, it's best to eat it fresh. I prefer firmer cheeses, cause they're more processed (what an anti-cheese person!) and remind us less of the original source, aka 'cow extract'."

Dali's famous painting, The Persistence of Memory, was supposedly inspired by the runniness of Camembert cheese:

After his [Dali's] meal he noticed some half eaten Camembert cheese and how runny it had become on account of the heat of the sunny day. That night, while he had been searching his soul for something to paint, he had a dream of clocks melting on a landscape. He went back to the unfinished painting he had been working on, which had a plain landscape with rocky cliffs in the background and a tree on a platform. Over two or three hours he added in the melting pocket watches which made this the iconic image it is today." -Wikipedia

This makes me love Dali and Camembert even more!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Corsica Brebis and Cake

"The taste of this brebis attests - as its name suggests - to its creation on the island of beauty." (translated from French)

I apologize for not having written in over a month. No excuses: I've been lazy.

We've been having a lot of cheese lately. Camembert, Brie, Roquefort, Brebis Basque, Corsican Brebis. I haven't written about most of these cheeses, so I'm going to start with the last one. I might do Camembert and Brie together since they're so similar. We shall see...

When we tried Corsica Brebis a few months ago, we weren't impressed. That's why I didn't write about it before. It had little flavor; it paled in comparison to the Basque Brebis that I regularly enjoy. We decided to give it another go; this time using it on sandwiches more than as an aperitif (we can't seem to bother with cheese after we eat, so we have it as an appetizer). It's really nice on a sandwich because it's soft and delicate. It complements sausage and chorizo well, which is the only meat we can afford for sandwiches. It also melts well and reminds us of the good, toasty sandwiches from home.

Like the above quote tells us, this brebis comes from Corsica, "l'Ile de Beauté" (or, "the island of beauty") where I wish to someday visit. It is made from pasturized sheep milk and arrives all over the mainland of France in the form of a soft cylinder covered with a white skin. It looks pretty and when cut into, it has a pale, yellow center.

Recently, when at a picnic with a group of artists from Rueil Malmaison (near Paris) we tried a cake that was made with brebis from Corsica. It is their version of cheesecake and it was delicious. It's simple and has more of a fluffy, cake texture than American cheesecake, with lemon peel all throughout. Dave and I each had our own big piece and probably would've had more if there had been enough. I wanted to ask for the recipe, but I chickened out. I searched the internet a bit and found an image that is very close to the cake we ate, so here is the recipe (sorry it's in metric) :

For 6 people:

-- 500 g of fresh ricotta (preferably fresh Corsican Brebis)
-- 4 eggs
-- 4 tablespoons semolina (wheat or regular flour should work)
-- 8 to 12 tablespoons of sugar (adjust to taste)
-- 2 tablespoons of candied lemon peel, broken up (not sure exactly what this means)
-- Zest of a lemon, grated
-- 4 tablespoons of Corinth grapes (not necessary in the cake I had!)
-- 1 / 2 teaspoon cinnamon
-- 2 tablespoons of alcohol (Italian grappa, Armagnac, cognac ... )
-- Zest of another lemon and / or a bit of lemon curd (for the final touch)

1. Mix the semolina, raisins and preserved lemon peel and soak in 100ml of water, then add the 2 tablespoons of alcohol. Preheat oven to 150 ° C.

2. Separate the yellow yolks from the egg whites. Working the yolks and the sugar with an electric whisk, add the lemon zest and cinnamon. Add the ricotta and beat a few seconds to mix everything.

3. Add the semolina mixture, raisins and preserved peel.

4. Beat the egg whites to a snow peak with a pinch of salt and gently incorporate this into the above preparation.

5. Pour the dough in a buttered cake pan that is 20 cm in diameter (no greater or the result will be very flat). Bake 45 to 50 minutes. The top must be light brown and the edges a little darker. Cool to room temperature and then put in the refrigerator for 2 hours before you take it out of the mould. Before serving, spread top of cake with lemon curd and / or decorate it with lemon peel that's cut into thin strips.

You can make this recipe as a "true" cheesecake, with any type of crust.

I also found a different recipe, but I'm not sure if it's closer to the cake I enjoyed a couple weekends ago. It's definitely more simple.

-- 350 g bruccio (fresh Corsican Brebis)
-- 4 eggs
-- 200 g leveled Ligne (I haven't been able to figure this out- I assume they mean flour)
-- Zest of 1 / 2 lemon
-- 1 pinch of salt

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

1. Preheat oven (160 ° C). Butter the pie pan edges quite high.

2. Break the eggs, separating the yolks from the whites. Beat egg yolks with Line in order to obtain a pale yellow mixture.

3. Incorporate the cheese in small pieces and then add the grated lemon peel. Mix well.

4. Beat the egg whites to a snow peak with a pinch of salt and incorporate them gently to the earlier mixture.

5. Pour the mixture into the pan and cook about 45 minutes watching the top of the cake. Take it out when the top is light brown.

I'm not sure how difficult this would be to make in the US or if it's possible to find this cheese there, but I think a substitution of ricotta might work. To be honest, I'm not sure that the Corsican brebis I've tried here is even the correct type. It may not be soft enough. I guess I'll give it a shot when I get home. I'm always scared of making desserts here because my pathetic, broken oven always ruins them.