Continuing on my deeper explanation of cheese types from my previous blog post, Mapping the Perfect Cheese Plate, I am going to give you further insight into Soft-Ripened Cheese.
The phrase “beauty is more than skin deep” is certainly true about this cheese type as the cheese ripens from the outside in. A soft-ripened cheese develops a firm outer skin or rind and becomes soft and yummy and creamy on the inside. I like these cheeses best at room temperature when the inside is runny and has to be spooned up onto the perfect piece of bread for the most incredible cheesy experience.
Soft-ripened cheeses come into being by having a special mold, called penicillium candidum, applied to the surface of the cheese. This produces the “bloomy” (white and snowy) rind and causes the cheeses to ripen inside to produce the lush gooey center. They aren’t aged for very long – typically 6 to 10 weeks – and the longer the amount of time the more intense the flavor.
So just what is going on in there? An enzymatic process breaks down proteins and creates the creamy ridge just under the rind. The layer between the rind and the center of the cheese, called the proteolysis, thickens as the cheese ages, creating an amazingly rich flavor and texture of the cheese through various stages of maturity. Young cheeses feel a bit firm when gently pressing the center. The bloom (the fluffy white surface that surrounds the rind) and the rind will be very white. Ripe cheeses will give a little when gently pressing the center. There will be a slight darkening of the rind. Mature cheeses will be softer to the touch, with a rind that is starting to marble.
The most famous soft-ripened cheeses are Brie and Camembert. One of my all time favorites is an American made cheese called Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove. Combine one or more of these with carrier, sweet, and crunch components (see my previous blog) for the perfect plate!
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