Before describing what you can do with your cheese, we firstly have to look at whether the cheese is, in fact, edible. This largely depends on how old the cheese is, as well as how it has been cut and stored.
Brie and Camembert are two very similar cheeses. They are very alike in their taste and consistency, so it’s not surprising to learn that they are also aged in a similar manner. An edible Brie or Camembert should be smooth and slightly sponge-like in consistency, with a firm, but not hard, rind. An under-ripe Brie or Camembert will not only have a hard rind, but the supposedly ‘soft’ cheese inside will also be hard. Whereas an overripe Brie and Camembert will smell quite ‘funky’, and have a sticky and runny consistency. This is caused by excessive amounts of ammonia that are used as part of the normal ripening process.
It’s also worth noting that if you purchase Brie or Camembert whilst it’s still hard and under-ripe, once you take it home it will most likely stop ripening, and will retain a hard consistency. Likewise, a slice of Brie or Camembert will also stop ripening once it’s cut.
As most people purchase smaller portions of Brie rather than a wheel of Brie, portions of Brie and Camembert should be eaten within a few days of their purchase and aren’t really suitable for storing for any longer than this. However, if the rind goes hard, you can always remove it to access the softer cheese inside, although this might be regarded as a social faux pas! If you opt to purchase a wheel of Brie, it can be stored for around 2 weeks before it’s past is best.
If your Brie and Camembert haven’t been stored too long, as with other soft cheeses, they’re great for melting and baking with. Traditionally, Brie and Camembert are often paired with walnuts, cranberries or tomatoes. But why not try melting a small amount into a puff pastry soufflé or into a savoury tart, or perhaps over croutons in soup. Or why not wrap up in Filo parcels, along with some chopped walnuts, lemon zest, a pinch of cinnamon and a tiny sprinkle of sugar.
You can also use Brie or Camembert as a replacement for mozzarella – try them on pizzas and on top of burgers for a new twist. Or how about coating bite-sized pieces of the soft part of the cheese in breadcrumbs and deep-fried for deliciously naughty appetisers? The choice is yours!