Friday, November 9, 2007

Cheese Toppings

The cheese counter at Wegman's (western New York's upscale grocery chain) carries an interesting selection of toppings to serve on soft-ripened cheeses.

The Caramel Pecan Topping (pictured at left) is by far the tastiest one they make. Its ingredients include butterscotch caramel sauce, pecans, dried apples, and a few dried cranberries. It is really wonderful. The flavor of the topping is so strong that it can easily drown out the flavor of the cheese it is served on. But since most Brie-style cheeses served in America are pretty tasteless, you won't really be missing out on much.

The Cherry Balsamic Topping was my second favorite. It is made from cherry preserves, dried cherries and balsamic vinegar. In contrast to the almost overwhelmingly sweet caramel topping, this one is a bit tart. Wegman's also carries a Craisin, Currant and Walnut Topping, made from red raspberry jam, walnuts, craisins (i.e., dried cranberries), and currants.

Each topping should be served over Brie with some kind of bread. I recommend serving it over a mild-tasting Brie such as Cathedral de Meaux. I tried the toppings with both an intense, earthy Brie and a mild Brie. And I definitely think the mild one worked better.

Because few cheese counters carry cute, little cheese rounds like the one pictured above, your best bet is to pile a generous helping of the topping on top of a wedge of Brie and have your guests cut into it themselves. Encourage them to spread the mixture onto a piece of bread. It won't be the easiest thing for your guests to cut into, but the striking visual presentation it makes should more than compensate for that.

If you don't live near a Wegman's, ask your local cheese merchant to recommend some toppings or try to create some of your own.


Anonymous said...

How long will an unopened brie wedge and the wegmans craisin walnut topping stay fresh in the fridge? I have some unused from Thanksgiving.

James Beebe said...

That's a good question, Anonymous. I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

If I want to serve warm, should I bake the brie with or without the Wegmans topping? Keep the rind or slice it off the top?

James Beebe said...

You should bake the brie without the topping, and you should keep the rind on.