I can’t decide what’s more compelling about Crémeux de Bourgogne, it’s fuzzy-and-pliable-on-the-outside, oozing-and-buttery-on-the-inside consistency or it’s versatility in how it can be eaten.
But before I get into that, some background: There is not much history to share, as Crémeux is a relatively new cheese. Since 1975, Burgundy, France has been producing this decadent, creamy cheese. The production regulations of Crémeux are a happy medium between those of the last two cheeses I profiled, Montasio and Gouda. While it is only produced by cows who live and feed on Burgundy pastures, Crémeux is a Protected Designation of Origin food, which means it does not need to be entirely manufactured in Burgundy.
Crémeux is a triple cream cheese which means that extra cream was added to the vat of milk before enzymes were mixed in to prompt the formation of curds. The result? An indulgently creamy texture. To be considered a triple cream, a cheese must have a fat content of at least 75%. It’s less caloric than it sounds however. Fat content only applies to the solid part of a cheese and in the case of Crémeux and all soft cheeses, approximately half of the cheese is solid and the other half is liquid, therefore the fat content is a lot less than three-quarters.
Cheese shops in the United States will only sell you Crémeux made with pasteurized cow’s milk. This is because Crémeux, and all triple-cream cheeses for that matter, is ripe at such a young age that the FDA prohibits it to be made with raw-milk. The regulation regarding raw-milk cheeses states that any cheese aged under 60 days must be made with milk that has been pasteurized. If you want to try a Crémeux de Bourgogne with more diversity in flavor, you’ll have to go to Burgundy to purchase a raw-milk version. And while you there, pick one up for me as well; I’ll pay you a delivery fee.
The rind of Crémeux is also velvety but in a different way than its paste. The Crémeux’s bloomy rind is fuzzy. In fact, the French call it poil de chat or “cat fur.” This fuzz appears because affineurs, people who oversee the aging of cheese, coat the cheese in specific molds. These molds yield spores which eventually bloom, hence the term bloomy rind. Stored in a cave at a specific temperature and humidity, bloomy rinds are patted down by their affineurs who maintain an even fuzz growth around the cheese until they are ready to be eaten.
Don’t let the rind intimidate you! Most rinds can be eaten and they often add a dimension of texture and taste to the cheese.
Procuring and Tasting:
I bought my Crémeux de Bourgogne at Wegmans. It was sold by the piece for $9.99. When you break it down, that’s approximately $23/lb. One reason why this cheese is so expensive is because it is made with cow’s milk from Burgundy. Getting this cheese from France to the Wegman’s cheese cave in Rochester, NY involves a lot of middle men which jacks up the cost. Unfortunately, unless your supermarket is having a sale, high-quality, imported cheeses will usually be more expensive than their domestic counterparts. If you’re hankering for some triple cream cheese but don’t want to spend ten bucks on a wheel of it, you could try looking for U.S. produced cheeses that may be cheaper or you could try paying a visit to a cheese shop that will cut you half or a quarter of a wheel.
Crémeux is a rich and tangy cheese, maybe too much so for some (my mom, who tasted it with me, described it as tasting like “detergent”). As you may have guessed from all the talk about Crémeux’s creamy texture, it spreads like butter. The directions say to let the cheese stand for one hour before serving, but I found it to be just as flavorful and less melted if I let it sit for half that time. The fuzzy, elastic rind with the pillowy paste join together to create a textural wonderland that can be enjoyed with, or as, any meal from breakfast to dessert.
Cooking with Crémeux:
Because Crémeux is so soft and moist, it’s not a cheese that cooks well. However, it pairs well with a number of foods and drinks. When I first tasted Crémeux, I wasn’t sure how I should eat it, so I just followed the tradition of my Parisian host family (and of most French people for that matter) and enjoyed it on slices of baguette after a meal.
The classic pairing was fine, but I enjoyed the cheese much more with dark, almond chocolate. I loved the combination of sweet and tangy. The almond paste gave the chocolate a grainy texture that was perfect against the smooth cheese. The pairing was almost like a variation of cookies and cream: an excellent dessert.
Unfortunately, after indulging in generous portions of the Crémeux and sharing it with family and friends, I didn’t have any left over to couple it with some beverages that I thought would pair well with the cheese. The next time I have some Crémeux on me, I’d like to try pairing it with some sweet wines, like Champagne and Chardonnay. I’m curious to try Chardonnay specifically from Burgundy because the rule of thumb when pairing wine with cheese is that, for the most part, no two items better complement each other than those that are from the same region.
As a digestif, a dessert or even a breakfast spread across some toast, I recommend giving Crémeux de Bourgogne a taste.