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Camembert Part Deux

May 9, 2010

At the close of my first post regarding Camembert, I mentioned that I was looking forward to making some adjustments and trying again.  You can read my first post here.  Although I was happy with the overall flavor, there were 2 specific areas that I wanted to address:  overall rind development and salt content.

My rind was a bit thick and started to pull away from the interior paste of the cheese which was very runny at room temp.  The rind with this particular style needs to be thin and adhere to where it is part of the cheese and does not pull away.  If the rind is too thick and dry, this is definitely undesirable and is known in the cheese making world as “toad skin”.  Definitely not something you want associated with cheese of any kind…  The cheese was also lacking in salt, making it a bit bland.  I sprinkled some sea salt on it before eating which tasted good, but again…not what I wanted.  I needed to add more salt while developing a thin rind that remained a part of the cheese.

The first improvement I needed to address was salt.  The recipe I followed the first time only incorporates one pinch of salt at the end.  I didn’t think that would be enough at the time, but wanted to follow the recipe verbatim for a first attempt.  In looking for an alternative, one cheese maker adds a larger amount of salt to the curds and whey before draining, which thoroughly incorporates the salt throughout.  This technique made more sense to me so I gave it a try.

Rind development is linked directly to aging humidity and temperature.  If the relative humidity is too low while aging, the rind can thicken as the outer layer is dehydrating at a quicker pace.  If the temperature is too high, the cheese will ripen before the full flavor has a chance to develop.  An overly ripe cheese will become runny and liquefy too soon, pulling away from the rind.  To counter this, I put a wet paper towel in my aging box to increase the humidity, and kept it on the bottom shelf in my refrigerator for the entire process.  My thinking was that this would encourage the rind that I am looking for and allow it to ripen at a slower pace.  After making these 2 adjustments, I waited for approximately 6 weeks to see if my changes were successful.

Already I could tell that my rind was a vast improvement over the first.  It wasn’t nearly as dry and I could tell that it was quite a bit thinner.  It didn’t feel like a thick skin, but a thin layer without any separation.  The interior felt nice and soft through the rind to where I didn’t feel any pockets of air like I did the first time.  Even though the mold development was uniform, there was more character to this as there were some darker areas rather than a field of stark white.  It was dry to the touch without feeling rough or desiccated.  There wasn’t a hint of ammonia coming off this time.  The nose was clean and fresh.  So far so good!  I was anxious to cut it open, but the big test would be the flavor and texture after it came up to room temperature.  Fast forward 1 hour…

After an hour on my board at room temp, I cut into the center to find a creamy and wonderfully fragrant cheese.  The rind adhered closely to the paste without a hint of separation from the creamy interior.  It worked!  The lower temperature plus higher relative humidity eradicated toad skin!  Excellent!  Ok…how about the flavor?  As I ate my first piece, it tasted of fresh milk and a hint of lemon with a perfect balance of salt.  It was exactly what I was hoping for.  It was creamy and moist without running all over the board, with the perfect amount of salt for my taste.  I sat back and looked at Chris as we went in for another piece.  I think that this is the best cheese (of any style) that I have made to date.  So much fun…  I need to make more.  I love doing this…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2010 4:10 pm

    Great job – I wish we had teleporting technology so I could take a bite out of this cheese!!

    P.S. I’m still working on the wrapping video for you. Getting the cheese tomorrow. What shapes, sizes, etc are you having a hard time with so I can tailor my vid to your trouble areas?

    Karen

    • May 10, 2010 5:56 pm

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate it! I think that the small and odd shaped pieces (a quarter or third of a brie) is what gives me the most problems. Wedges from larger wheels don’t seem to be as much of a problem. Thanks!

  2. May 13, 2010 2:26 pm

    Wow. Just wow. And that last shot, can we say centerfold in Culture?

    This is the first I’ve ever heard of “toad skin” and now I’m going to try to use it in casual conversation sometime this week. 🙂

    • May 13, 2010 3:25 pm

      Thanks Lauren! “Toad Skin” does give a pretty specific image doesn’t it?

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