Decadent Baked Vacherin CheeseHome >> Recipes
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Uber decadent personal baked Vacherin Mont d'Or, gorgeous creaminess topped with toasted walnuts, dried fruits soaked in sweet wine and apples sautéed in butter and honey.
Loyal readers of FXcuisine might remember that I ventured once into gourmet Baked Mont d'Or Vacherin with little success. LINK. Well, at the request of a Japanese TV crew in search of novel Swiss cheese recipes, I developped a much more convincing recipe using sweet ingredients to complement the Vacherin's natural creaminess.
Vacherin Mont d'Or is the most famous of the Sanglé cheese family, those soft, often runny cheeses wrapped in a piece of fresh spruce wood. Mont d'Or adds a bottom and a cover that makes it a little box like a Camembert.
When baking it, people in my parts usually just pierce it with a nice, drizzle with some local white wine and put in a rather hot oven until the core is melting. Then they eat it with bread or potatoes. That does little to improve on the cheese itself, but it is so good that it makes for very high quality, fast confort food.
But can you not improve on this I asked myself. Let's see what Francois cooked up and you will judge for yourself.
First order of business is to add crunchiness to this dish - walnuts, toasted to increase their taste. You need to watch walnuts with the same care as milk as they will burn in no time. Try something like 190C and 10 minutes and do not leave the oven. Walnuts might take 9 minutes to go from normal to pale brown, and 1 minute from there to burnt! This is due to the darker color absorbing infrared heat much faster. You can try to dress in black in the summer and see how long you last before you feel like a dry walnut.
Before and after toasting - the difference in taste is incomparable.
I soak dried cherries and cranberries in a glass of a most excellent Swiss sweet wine, from almost dried grapes harvested from the Bishop's own vineyards on the hill of Tourbillon in march. Sweetness goes amazingly well with cheese and in the winter time we need conforting food rich in all things that make life beautiful.
Increase the heat to melt the butter and start sautéeing the apples gently...
... then add a tablespoon of honey and toss so that the apples are coated in butter and honey. Do not cook too much, some crunchiness is desirable here.
The usual way people bake Vacherin Mont d'Or in Switzerland is 20 minutes in a 210C oven. Now this will work but the laws of thermodynamics apply even to blissfully ignorant cooks and you may very well end up with a cheese that has split on top and is still lukewarm inside. So you could instead use a more scientific method and place it 30 minutes in a 65C oven. I reckon that most vacherin have a melting temperature of around 65C (150F) at most. Vacherin makers' recipes usually recommend to make holes in the vacherin and drizzle dry white wine on top, which makes little sense to me as most wine escapes through the sides. I prefer to drizzle whatever sweet wine is left from the soaking, and only when the cheese comes from the oven. The new FX bravely confronts Swiss tradition as you can see!
Whichever baking method you choose, make sure the cheese is both melted through and warm enough even in the center, by stabbing it with a metal skewer in the cheese from time to time and rub it on the exterior of your upper lip, that part of your body most sensitive to heat. Or least among those body parts usually involved in cooking! When the skewer comes out lukewarm to warm, as you prefer, and with melted cheese attached to it, you can bring the cheese out of the oven and summon the guests around the table.
As it is decadence we are after, we melt yet another piece of butter...
... and pan fry bread slice instead of toasting them.
You could sprinkle some crushed spice on the bread to make it more interesting, such as mahlab (prunus mahaleb pits) for instance.
Depending on how old your Vacherin is, you may prefer to scrape and discard the top rind. After a week or so in the fridge, the lactic bacterias constant defecation may give off an ammonia smell that the heat will increase. But many people here eat a young vacherin's crust. If using the traditional, hot-oven technique the ammonia will have evaporated.
Spoon the apples on top until the cheese is covered by a continuous layer...
...then add the dark cherries...
...and start placing the toasted walnuts one by one.
Top with the cranberries or other dried fruit you chose.
Spoon this over the toasted bread. This is like a simple and yet gastronomic fondue you can make very easily as soon as you get your hands on one of the prized cheeses.
This is far from the usual, boring, vacherin au four that people eat in my parts, with a lot more crunchiness, surprise and color to complement the oozing richness of the melted cheese. In the middle of winter, those ingredients hailing from warmer climates bring a little sunshine into my heart.