A few years ago, at a New Year’s Eve family gathering in Sydney, my nephew Joseph Yap served some Camembert cheese as appetizer. Smooth and creamy, Camembert is a spreadable French cheese made from cow’s milk. It’s said to have been named by Napoleon after the French village in Normandy where he first tasted it.
Camembert tastes superb when smeared on breadsticks, crackers and thin slices of baguette. Like Brie cheese, it’s covered in a soft white rind that’s edible. Camembert, however, has a more intense flavor and aroma than Brie. Brie is also sometimes sold in wedges, while Camembert comes in small wheels.
This holiday season, let the allure of baked Camembert be the highlight of your gatherings—a culinary masterpiece that transforms an evening into a memorable feast.
That evening, Joseph went one step further and baked the Camembert before serving it. This gave the cheese a meltingly soft, gooey texture that made it even richer and creamier. Among all the other appetizers on the table that evening, the Camembert was the first to disappear.
Recently I replicated his recipe and baked some Camembert cheese for my guests. To enhance its flavor, I studded the cheese with some garlic cloves and drizzled it with good quality extra-virgin olive oil then baked it in a 350ºF (180ºC) oven. The result was a softer texture and an earthier flavor. My guests must have liked it because the next thing I knew, the cheese was almost all gone.
This holiday season, surprise your guests with this cheese appetizer. It needs just a few ingredients and requires only a little effort — but the results are temptingly delicious. For a more festive look serve it on a cheese board; surround the cheese with assorted types of bread (sliced baguette, crackers and bread sticks) and arrange some fruits on the side.
- 1 125-gram wheel of Camembert cheese
- 2 - 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly into slivers
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Thyme or rosemary sprigs (optional)
- Assorted crackers
- Toasted baguette or Melba toast
- Fruits such as grapes and apples and/or dried figs, apricots and cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Remove the cheese from the case and transfer it to a round, oven-proof dish. Do not remove the white rind. With a thin, sharp knife, make shallow incisions across the surface of the cheese in a diamond pattern. Insert the garlic cloves into the cheese at regular intervals.
Drizzle olive oil over the cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is soft, with an almost melted texture (you can test by inserting a toothpick or cake tester in the center of the cheese). Remove the cheese from the oven and if desired, garnish it with sprigs of thyme or rosemary.
Serve as a spread or dip for crackers, breadsticks, and/or a thinly sliced, toasted baguette. If desired, arrange some fruits on the side.