Wednesday, April 1, 2020

What do a Priest, Napoleon, and Salvador Dali have in common?

Camembert cheese is a creamy, originally unpasteurized, cow's milk cheese made in the Normandy region of France. At the time of the French Revolution (1789-1799), the Harel family gave refuge to a priest from the Brie region. The priest repayed the Harel's for their kindness by teaching Marie Harel, the farmer's wife, how to make cheese. In 1855, one of Marie Harel's daughters presented Napoleon with one of the cheeses and told him that it was from Camembert, thus the name. With the expansion of the railroads and the invention of the iconic wooden cheeseboxes, created by engineer M. Ridel in 1890, Camembert has become one of the most popular French cheeses in the world! It is rumored that French troops were issued Camembert in their rationings during WW1, but I could not verify that. In addition, Salvador Dali's famous melting clocks painting, "The Persistence of Memory," was inspired by Camembert melting in the sun! Who knew? With it's voluptuous texture and mushroom aroma it is one of my favorite cheeses!

Renowned chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli, began his career in his home town of Arras, Northern France. Who better than a true Frenchman to create this amazing recipe for "Whole Baked Camembert?" Imagine freshly baked bread with an entire wheel of marinated Camembert baked inside! Fantastic! The first time I made this, I called my neighborhood friends as I removed it from the oven. While we tried to allow it to cool, gazing at it in excitement, we finally gave in and devoured it in less than 10 minutes flat! It's that good! This recipe may appear to be complicated, but it really is quite easy. The Camembert should be marinated overnight, so allow for that. In addition, this recipe is for two Whole Baked Camemberts, but I usually make one Camembert and use the remainder of the dough to make a second loaf without the Camembert for another day. As this is a European recipe, you will need a kitchen scale, and a spray bottle.

Whole Baked Camembert

Makes two loaves.  *This recipe takes me about 3 hours or so, start to finish, however; my oven has a "proof" function which aides in rising.

For the marinated Camembert
2 wheels Camembert (preferably unpasteurized, if possible)
Sun blushed tomatoes (optional, I don't use)
Olives/tapenade (optional, I don't use)
Fresh thyme and a bay leaf
Cracked garlic, skins removed (I use about 3 cloves)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the bread dough
1 lb strong bread flour
2 teaspoons salt (I use Kosher.)
1 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons active bread yeast
Up to 2 cups warm water
1 pinch sugar

For the marinated Camembert
Prepare the cheese by piercing the top and bottom rind with a fork. In a small bowl just large enough to hold the cheese, add the tomatoes (if using), olives or tapenade (if using), some fresh thyme and one bay leaf, a few cloves of crushed garlic, season with salt and pepper, then fill to cover with the olive oil. Marinate refrigerated overnight.

For the bread dough
In a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together the flour, salt, butter, yeast, and sugar. Add enough water to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. If the dough becomes too wet and will not come together, add extra flour a little at a time, until soft and slightly sticky. Knead the dough for 5 minutes in the electric mixer, or turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes by hand. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large floured bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place until doubled in size. Remove the marinated cheese from the refrigerator.

Once doubled, turn out onto a floured surface and gently press out the excess gas from the dough. Knead a couple of times to smooth out the dough. Divide into two. Roll each piece out one times bigger than the cheese. Place the cheese in the center of the dough, adding some of the ingredients from the marinade and wrap the dough over and around the cheese to seal.

Turn over onto a parchment lined baking sheet so the folded dough is on the base. Brush the top with some of the olive oil from the marinade and finish with sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf, and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

Allow the dough to double in size before baking in a 450 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown...not dark brown. Using a spray bottle, spray the inside of the hot oven just after placing the bread inside. Spray a second time 5 minutes before the end of cooking. (This helps make a nice crust.)

When done, remove the bread to a large serving board and allow at least 10 minutes before serving.

(You know you want that!!! Mmmmmm!)

1 comment:

  1. This is the best thing I've ever made. I made for a cocktail party and everyone couldn't believe I made it. It was very elegant and definitely special. Thank you for the recipe and the helpful pictures.