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  • Camembert vs brie: what is the difference?

Camembert vs brie: what is the difference?

What’s the difference between camembert and brie cheese? It’s the question a lot of customers ask when ordering their share platter. With similar colours, textures and flavour profiles, it’s not difficult to understand why. The two popular cheeses are both made with cow’s milk from northern France, have a similar method of production and hold that all-too-familiar gooey centre encased in a snow-white, mild rind.

So, here is what you need to know about camembert and brie and where they work best on your venues menus.

What is camembert cheese?

Well-known for its snow-white, thin greyish rind, camembert is a surface-ripened cheese with lots of character. With origins dating back to 1877 in Normandy, France, this sweet, earthy, buttery cheese makes it a great all-rounder for either baked dishes or as a much-loved accompaniment on cheese platters or even on-top of pizzas. Quentin Beare, hospitality teacher for Commercial Cookery at Victoria’s South West Tafe says “its lower fat content makes it a good option for lighter meals like salads and vegetables soups.” Camembert has a rounded and tangy aftertaste with a pleasant and soft finish.

What is brie?

Named after the region from which it originates – the Brie region of Ile-de-France - it was first created about three hours east of Normandy, where its famous cousin camembert came from. Quentin says “it’s the classic cheese of opulence; rich and fatty and perfect for tarts, in pasta sauces or simply paired with a lush, acidic chardonnay.” It’s believed this creamy cow’s milk cheese was first enjoyed as early as the eighth century. It’s soothing, gentle and has a slight nutty flavour profile, with a creamy and smooth finish.

So, what makes them different?

Region:

As a cheese variant, it’s believed brie has been around a lot longer than camembert, which was only really recorded as having been produced in 1877. Brie was first produced in the eighth century, making it around 1,000 years older than camembert.

Age:

“Probably the catalyst in the resulting flavours of both brie and camembert is that brie is aged, giving it maturity of flavour,” Quentin explains. Camembert tends to age faster, so is generally eaten a lot earlier than brie.

Production:

Both brie and camembert are both cow’s milk cheese but their manufacturing processes differ. Cream is added to brie during the production, so it has a much higher fat content, resulting in a much creamier finish. Brie’s creaminess is most evident in their triple-cream versions, which are perhaps the most decadent cheese options available.

Inner appearance:

As a result of brie’s higher cream content, it has a milder yellow centre, while camembert has a deeper yellow centre. Camembert starts off very firm but as the penicillium works its magic over time, the inside of the cheese tends to break down and become oozy. Similarly, to camembert, at peak ripeness brie oozes a pale-yellow cheese once it’s cut into. If it’s overripened, it will be too watery. If it’s too young, it will be very firm to the touch.

Size:

Until you make a conscious effort to compare the two side by side, the difference in size between brie and camembert is not something you’ll notice straight away. Brie, which is usually much larger in surface area than camembert, can be anywhere between 23 and 43 centimetres in diameter and is sold as a slice or a large wheel. Camembert is much smaller at just 12 centimetres in diameter, so is most often sold as the wheel itself.

Flavour:

Brie can be very earthy and fungal in taste whereas camembert can have a more cauliflower or cabbage flavour to it. Brie is milder with a creamier or buttery flavour profile and salty finish, while camembert has a more earthy, intense umami flavour that can often come across as being funky or pungent.

How can they be used across menus?

"As a teacher, I've used and taught recipes for students that use both brie and camembert in the same recipe,” Quentin explains. “By doing this, the students are able to identify the results of both dishes and they're always amazed at the different flavours each cheese produces.”

Aside from the never-fail cheese platter and antipasto board, your options are endless when it comes to new and unique ways of introducing camembert and brie on your menu. But, these two popular cheese variants should not be confused with each other; they offer very different flavour compounds that work well in some dishes and not so well in others.

Baked camembert:

Camembert works really well in baked dishes. In recent years, it’s been experimented by chefs around the world by baking it whole and often serving it with fresh bread, honey and toasted cashews.

Pizzas:

Because of its lower fat content, camembert holds its shape well when topped on a pizza base. You may find brie cheese becomes too runny when exposed to extreme heat, so it tends not to work as well on pizzas. Another alternative is to apply fresh brie or camembert to the top of the pizza once it comes out of the oven. If sliced thinly enough, the cheese will start to melt once it hits the surface of the warm pizza. Pair either with sweet caramelised onion, fresh figs and Kalamata olives for a total flavour explosion!

Sandwiches:

And no, we’re not talking about eight different spreads, a bun the size of a football and a tub of mayonnaise. Do as the French do and keep it simple! Source some crunchy baguettes, slice and place thin wedges of brie or camembert evenly across the length and pair with some good quality pancetta or prosciutto. You might be surprised how much flavour can come from a combination of a few simple ingredients.

Salads:

Think beyond crumbled goat’s cheese or Persian fetta. We’re talking chargrilled figs, fresh baby cos lettuce, toasted pine nuts and ripened pears. A simple, French-inspired salad is sophisticated and elegant and if prepared properly, can be the perfect accompaniment to almost every meal or as a refreshing starter.

Potatoes:

Who doesn’t love a creamy potato gratin as a side dish for oven-roasted lamb shoulder or spatchcock? If you run an American barbecue restaurant or gastro pub, chances are your guests aren’t visiting your venue to keep up with their new year’s resolutions. Brie and camembert represent total decadence. Fry up some bacon, parboil and thinly slice Desiree potatoes with a mandoline and alternate layers in an oven-safe dish of finely sliced brie or camembert and potatoes. Cheesy potato gratin is a thing of real beauty; if you’re offering it on the menu, go the full mile.

Want to know more about our selection of brie and camembert cheese and which one to select for your meal options? Speak to someone from Superior Food Services; we provide a multitude of different cheese varieties to suit any and every meal idea.