Brie is a soft, creamy off-white or yellow cheese with an edible rind. It is one of several soft-ripened kinds of cheese that is made from cow's milk and is usually sold in small rounds. The cheese is often served at room temperature on a plate with crackers or baguette, and it is added to sandwiches and salads.
The round can be baked in the oven with or without a pastry. Brie is considered to be one of the world's great cheeses. It is simple and versatile, and it goes well with champagne, nuts, and fruit.
The white, soft rind is a mold growth, a form of penicillin, to be exact. The rind, alone, in some circles, is considered a delicacy. Sweet and pillowy soft, it complements the cheese well. Some consider discarding the rind as a form of blasphemy. In fact, it is this rind that is giving the cheese all the ooey-gooey goodness. This live rind breaks down the fats and proteins of a cheese, causing an increasingly creamy-to-runny texture over time.
French Brie Outside of the U.S.
True French brie is a soft farmhouse cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk. True French brie cannot be imported to the United States because cheeses made with raw milk must be aged at least 60 days to qualify for U.S. importation, which would render the Brie overripe for consumption. The flavor of French brie is rich and fruity and has a creamy texture.
France exports a stabilized Brie that is available in the U.S. It is an excellent cheese, but to truly enjoy the famous French original, you will have to travel outside the U.S. to get it.
Domestic and Pasteurized Brie
Brie is made in many countries. In the U.S., domestic and international versions of Brie and versions that are made of pasteurized whole and skim milk are readily available. Bries made of pasteurized milk are somewhat milder in flavor that true French brie. They are available plain or with herbs.
Brie develops a natural, white mold (usually Penicillium candidum), which gives these cheeses their characteristic bloomy rind on the exterior of the rounds. The white moldy rind is edible and delicious, and it is usually eaten.
Bries made of pasteurized milk are inoculated to grow the mold. The cheese takes anywhere from one to three months to ripen, depending on the size of the flat discs. When properly ripened, the center of the cheese is soft and oozes as if warmed.
Eating and Storing Brie at Home
Refrigerate brie in its original packaging until you are ready to eat it. Then take it from the refrigerator and allow about an hour for the cheese to come to room temperature for the best flavor and texture.
Before eating, inspect it. Its rind should look fresh and white, and the disc should feel plump in its container or box. Look out for wet, slimy, or brown spots.
After you cut into a round of brie, it begins to lose quality immediately. Plan to eat it within five days. When cutting, use a long, thin blade. You can serve the entire brie on a plate or cheese board or cut just a few narrow slices for a sandwich or salad.