Rumored to have been popularized by Tallyrand at a diplomatic dinner, this opulent French delicacy has long been known as the “Queen of Cheeses.”
But what is it, and why is it such a favorite?
Below we've taken a deep dive into the world of brie cheese. If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to leave a note at the bottom of the page.
What is Brie Cheese, and What does Brie Cheese Taste Like?
Brie is a soft-ripened farmhouse cow’s milk cheese that hails originally from the province of Seine-et-Marne in France.
A velvety white blanket of the mold Penicillium candidum coats the edible leathery rind. Inside is a layer of partially liquified curd called the “creamline” surrounds a buttery central paste.
Its gooey texture heavily coats your tongue so that the nutty flavor lingers long after you swallow.
How is Brie Cheese Made?
To make Brie, cheesemakers first acidify milk with lactic acid bacteria, then they use rennet to coagulate the milk. Next, curds are cut into large squares before the gentle transfer to a mold.
During the five to ten weeks of aging, cheesemakers encourage the development of a fuzzy rind and partial liquification of the interior curd. Molds growing on the rind release enzymes that break down the cheese’s interior, creating the characteristic “creamline.”
How to Eat Brie Cheese
How to choose your Brie
Give your Brie a gentle poke. Under-ripe Brie will feel stiff, indicating that it has not aged long enough for the mold enzymes to break down the interior curd.
When you cut open this cheese, you will find a tough and chewy inner core surrounded by a thin ring of liquified curd. On the other hand, Brie that has aged too long will feel overly dense and will not recover its shape when touched.
Upon cutting, heavily liquified curd will spill onto your cheese tray.
Instead, choose a Brie that partially springs back at the touch and feels dense when you pick it up but does not sag or lose its shape.
How Brie should be eaten (Can you eat the rind?)
All parts of Brie cheese are edible! The rind has the leathery texture of a fruit roll-up and the earthy taste of raw mushrooms. While many people enjoy eating it, other people prefer to simply scrape the soft curd from the inside of the rind, leaving the tougher exterior behind.
How to serve Brie on a Cheeseboard and How to cut Brie
Traditionally, Brie is cut in triangular wedges served on their side (like a slice of cake). Allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
Do not remove the rind when serving Brie on a cheese plate; the rind is attractive, edible, and helps the cheese maintain its shape.
However, because the rind is slightly thick, always serve Brie with a knife.
Another popular option is to serve an entire wheel of baked Brie. In this case, place the Brie in a ceramic pan and use a sharp knife to make several slashes across the top of the cheese.
The inside will become soft as it warms, while the rind will remain tough; slashing through it allows your guests to access the melty interior safely.
Bake your Brie at 350°F until the interior begins to ooze out, and the exterior slightly starts to brown.
Different Kinds of Brie Cheese
Brie de Meaux
A French Brie of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) designation, this style, made with raw milk, has been produced in the small town of Meaux since the Roman times.
Brie de Melun
Also a raw-milk cheese, this AOC-designated style is produced in small wheels (roughly half the size of Brie de Meux) and ages more quickly, resulting in a sharper-tasting cheese.
A long-aged style of Brie that may spend up to two years ripening, its curd becomes dark and crumbly, and it takes on a nutty flavor. This style is rarely found outside Seine-et-Marne, where local tradition is to dunk it in coffee.
Non-AOC or International Bries
Outside the AOC-protected region of Seine-et-Marne, many other areas produce a style of cheese they call Brie. From Wisconsin to Brazil, dairies far from France have become famous for their versions of Brie.
Double- or Triple-Cream Brie
Brie made in this style has additional cream added before the milk is solidified to curd. A higher-fat cheese (60-75% for double-cream and over 75% for triple-cream) results in a luscious texture.
Brie Cheese Pairings
Brie is commonly paired with sweet and tart partners that stand up to its rich character. Some tried-and-true favorites are green apples, honey, figs, and strawberry jam.
Fatty meats complement this buttery cheese well, so try it with Jamon serrano or prosciutto.
Most jammy, structured reds wines like Merlot or Pinot Noir are excellent drink pairings.
However, some people enjoy a Prosecco or Champagne pairing so that the bubbles can refresh the palette from this heavy cheese.
How to Store Brie Cheese, and How Long Does it Last?
Store a wheel of Brie in its original packaging material until you are ready to use it. Otherwise, wrap it loosely in parchment paper, then keep it refrigerated. It will last several weeks.
Pre-sliced wedges of Brie have a much shorter shelf life. Cover them in plastic wrap to help prevent leakage of the soft interior curd, and use them within a few days.
Camembert vs. Brie Cheese
Although both varieties are similar in that they are soft-ripened cow’s milk cheeses with a rind formed of Penicillium candidum, there are some subtle differences.
Camembert is a higher-moisture cheese because its curds are not cut before being spooned into the mold. It is also made in smaller wheels, and is traditionally served as a whole wheel rather than a wedge.
In addition, Camembert has a higher rind-to-paste ratio, and it uses a stronger bacterial culture, so it tends to age more quickly than Brie. As a result, you can expect a more pungent flavor and a softer internal texture from Camembert.
Brie Cheese Substitutes
Although it is stronger tasting and softer than Brie, this cheese will fill the same spot in a recipe or on a cheese board.
Other soft-ripened, bloomy-rind cheeses
Still, the Next curds result is a cheese that has many of the same characteristics. Look for any cheese that has a fuzzy, white rind and a soft interior, and you will be happy with the substitution!
Where to Buy Brie Cheese
Because of the popularity of this style, grocery stores in most large cities stock some version of Brie. If yours does not, many excellent online retailers offer a variety of Brie styles; try www.amazon.com, www.igourmet.com, www.saxelbycheese.com, or www.formaggiokitchen.com.
Beware of any retailer that offers to ship Brie de Meaux or Brie de Melun to the United States! Because both are made with unpasteurized milk and aged for less time than United States law requires of raw milk cheeses, neither of these cheeses can be legally sold in the United States.
How to Make Brie Cheese
Brie is a challenging cheese to make at home. However, New England Cheesemaking Supply has an excellent guide and recipe if you have the equipment and skills.
One of the world’s oldest cheeses, Brie has long been considered a delicacy by royalty and commoners alike. Try the Queen’s Cheese on your next cheese tray for a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!