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Decadent Baked Vacherin Cheese

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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.

Peel an apple, dice it and put in a pan with as much butter as your conscience allows.

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.

Voilà!

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.


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34 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Clement
Wow !!! This looks so good. If only I could eat at your table !!!
  • FX's answer→ But you can transport my virtual table to your kitchen by buying the ingredients and cooking this for yourself!

  • #3
  • Comment by don siranni
Francois,This has some rememberances of the swans stalebread,apple etc No trouble for me to recall since I make them all winter long. Maine has long winter. This reipe reminds me of fondu.Have you ever posted your version of alpine style fondu? If not could you add it to the "to-do" list? I will be able to get the cheeses,even here in Maine.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Don, glad to hear my stale bread "fit for a prince" has flourished over yonder in Maine! I have one article with a fondue but this is not a dish I cook at home, in my parts fondue is what people do when they have guests and do not want to cook...

  • #5
  • Comment by MAB
Dear FX,

THRILLED you're back. And so excited to see not one but TWO new postings already!

Please join Twitter so we can spread the fxcuisine love!

MAB
  • FX's answer→ Thanks! Ah but I am on Twitter but never used it (@FXcuisine) not sure how I should go about it.

  • #7
  • Comment by lina
Oh my goodness, you're back! Not dead after all! So thrilled!
  • FX's answer→ I've never been less dead than this!

  • #9
  • Comment by cynthia
The Vacherin recipe sounds heavenly.  I will try it and I will follow your blog!!!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks and good luck Cynthia!

  • #11
  • Comment by Chiffonade
So happy you're back!  So many schlocky blogs by people who do not know good food and fancy themselves as writers. I want to be a permanent part of this list. Do NOT go away again!!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Chiffonade, the one trick pony! Indeed it is not really worth publishing anything these days unless you are commites to both quality and originality.

  • #13
  • Comment by LB
So pleased you're back FX.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks!

Very, very happy that you are back. And will try this for sure (when I will find the proper cheese).
  • FX's answer→ Maybe some romanian cheese might work too, I saw some interesting examples at the Slow Food Fair in Torino

Please don't leave us again! Thank you for coming back.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks I have tons of stuff to show and tell this time!

  • #19
  • Comment by Angenita
So excited that you've returned!! Welcome  back and please don't leave us again :-)
  • FX's answer→ Until death does us part!

  • #21
  • Comment by Angenita
Now i have to look into whether vacherin is available in New Zealand! (And start saving my pennies as it is bound to be horrendously expensive!)
  • FX's answer→ Angenita I think there are lots of talented cheesemakers in New Zealand, and beautiful milk too. Maybe you could try with a camembert?

  • #23
  • Comment by Kyle
Welcome back to the interwebs, FX!

It is just me, or does pairing this (sans Walnuts) with a slice of smoked ham sound good?  Ham and cheese, indeed!
  • FX's answer→ Ah yes smoked ham goes with everything as far as I am concerned, so why not?

welcome back FX; recipes are wonderful, love vacherin, the search begins here in A.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Titania, I love herbs too!

  • #27
  • Comment by Richard Hadsell
The vacherin recipe is my introduction to your blog and I'm hooked. Please keep me on your email list. Your construction of the recipe with detailed explanation of technique and images is really outstanding.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Richard! It is very nice of you to say exactly why you liked the article, actually I've been doing this kind of step by step approach for a few years now, so no need to wait you have over 250 articles in the same vein right there on you screen on FXcuisine! And you can also follow me on Twitter if you like. Have fun in the kitchen!

  • #29
  • Comment by kurzhaar
Hallo François, so very relieved to find that you are well and posting once more...I see from the many comments that I have not been alone in feeling deprived of your recipes and photos and musings on food and life.  Welcome back!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot!

  • #31
  • Comment by Kate
You're here!!! And posting amazingness once more.  Fabulous. I love baked soft cheese but haven't tried it with additions as you have done above. Thank you for being inspiring.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Kate, you'll see that after adding dried fruits and walnuts you'll never go back!

I do love seeing your gorgeous cheeses-I've been inspired to seek many out in your absence. Tell me, do you still shoot with a Nikon D300?
  • FX's answer→ Yes still with the D300 but planning to invest in the D500 as soon as it is out, mine is really worn out and I miss out on wifi, gps, video and high ISO




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